Social Science Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Social Science Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Social scientists rely on research-based facts to help society make a more informed decision as to matters of group behavior. A good example of this is when the U.K. government decided to pause social distancing protocols in March 2020–when the pandemic was just clawing its way to disrupting societies worldwide–due to its anecdotal definition of ‘behavioral fatigue’ (Hahn et al., 2020).

Behavioral scientists protested, asking for factual data for the basis of the government’s ‘social fatigue’ reference. While for the lay a ‘social fatigue’ may be how we feel collectively, to social scientists this anecdote can only be true when interpreted with data, a proof to help us make a better decision. Social science impacts our everyday life, whether in policymaking, marketing, economics, warfare, and more.

Social science careers primarily deal with the interaction between human behavior and organizational systems. Fields of study in the social sciences include anthropology, economics, education, history, law, political science, psychology, and sociology. By conducting research, social scientists study the institutions and the way that human society functions, including the interpersonal relationships between individuals as members of society.

Earning a degree in social science may be through a two-year associate or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Graduate study is also available, in which completers are awarded the title social scientists. In studying individuals and groups, the social sciences employ both qualitative and quantitative research. The different disciplines of the social sciences teach critical thinking, analytical thinking, numeracy, project management, statistical ability, and most importantly, communication skills.

Graduate certificates in the field of social sciences are also offered, with courses that focus on international relations and political economy, organizational design and development, terrorism studies, policymaking, and negotiation and conflict resolution.

This career guide will provide helpful information on why the social sciences is an exciting field to be in the era of machine learning. Also included are details on the different career paths the industry outlook for careers in social science, as well as the ways to advance one’s career in the field.

Social Science Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in social science?
  2. Social Science Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for Social Science Professionals
  4. How to Start Your Career in Social Science
  5. How can I advance my career in social science?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Social Science Professionals

Why pursue a career in social science?

Political scientists, anthropologists, social workers, psychologists, and economists are just some of the roles that social science majors take on with their ability to understand the processes of change in society. Social science majors can formulate, present and argue logical debates effectively and they have the ability to research, analyze and critically evaluate data.

Social science careers permeate every aspect of society. The political scientist provides us with an analysis of political trends, the anthropologist gives insights on how differences in culture affect our behavior, the social worker helps us cope with life’s circumstances, the psychologist helps us understand our actions, and the economist explains how market activities affect our personal finances. Social science professionals help individuals and groups thrive. Social scientists help us understand why we are organized the way we are as a people and as individuals.

Pew Research reported in 2020 that employment is rising most rapidly in jobs most in need of social, fundamental, and analytical skills, which is the turf of social scientists (Kochhar, 2020). The core skills of the social science professional include the ability to analyze and evaluate problems and issues, the ability to collect and interpret statistical data, and awareness and sensitivity to the needs and values of others. Social science professionals are also able to communicate and develop logical arguments and work with teams.

Careers in social science may be in the government, non-profit organizations, education, and research. Social science career paths encompass the fields of anthropology, economics, political science, history, psychology, sociology, education, and law. Coping with the pandemic, checking the validity of information, facilitating collective behavior change, dismantling of racism and stereotyping, and the practice of leading with evidence—these are just some of the contributions of the social sciences to our society. A career in social science can be very fulfilling as it involves helping people and societies cope and make sense of what is happening within and around them.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Social Science Career Outlook

The COVID-19 pandemic gave birth to different research topics that social scientists are investigating right now. Social scientists see disasters as invaluable lenses through which they are able to study the different facets and dimensions of social order. The social and economic fault lines revealed by the pandemic enriched the different disciplines of social science. As countries and global organizations continue to rely on data, the role of the social scientist becomes more important.

From government agencies that analyze socio-economic trends to businesses that evaluate their target demographics, social scientists hold an indispensable position across a variety of industries. In the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the role of those with an understanding of social network analysis is becoming more valued.

According to a report by the Campaign for Social Science, nearly 4 out of 10 students in the U.K. graduate with a social science degree. The report highlighted that having number and data skills gives graduates more work choices (Lenihan and Witherspoon, 2018).

Employment in social science occupations is projected to grow at 5% through 2029. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for occupations related to social science is $69,760. Most practitioners in the field have advanced degrees and the median social science salary varies per specialization.

Based on a study by Radford and Joseph (2020) entitled “Theory In, Theory Out, The Uses of Social Theory in Machine Learning for Social Science,” it was observed that in the development of machine learning, there is a limit to technical solutions. Radford and Joseph (2020) concluded that “at this limit, we must instead turn to social theory. Social theory can be used to answer basic methodological and interpretive questions that technical solutions cannot when building machine learning models, and when assessing, comparing, and using those models. In both cases, we draw on related existing critiques, provide examples of how social theory has already been used constructively in existing work, and discuss where other existing work may have benefited from the use of specific social theories.” Published in Frontiers in Big Data, the work of Radford and Joseph (2020) sheds a very positive outlook for social science practitioners as they are going to have a significant role in the future of big data.

RoleSalaryDemand
Legal Assistant$52,92010%
Museum Archivist$56,79011%
Credit Analyst84,9308%
Sociologist$86,1104%
Psychologist$82,1803%
Political Scientist$125,3506%
Historians$63,1003%
Economist$108,35014%
Anthropologist$66,1305%

Required Skills for Social Science Professionals

The field of social sciences is consistently engaged with investigation and research on individuals, groups, cultures, and societies. Whether in studying market behavior or human behavior, social science practitioners use different lenses in dissecting occurrences at every level of the social strata. To identify, interpret, and predict are the usual objectives of ongoing investigations, which require specific skills to be able to produce valuable insights.

Essential Skills for Social Science Professionals

Research – social science professionals are experts in quantitative and qualitative research. In the social sciences, research is a fundamental skill for gathering data that will provide authentic information as supported by scientific evidence. In finding solutions to different social problems, social science professionals are disciplined in conducting research.

Writing – one of the most important skills in the social sciences is writing, because the discipline entails documentation processes to establish scientific evidence. The psychologist, the sociologist, the political scientist, and even the economist, document all their observations and investigations to formulate key concepts.

Active Listening and Observation – being able to observe is the basis of communicating well. Social science professionals are able to adjust interaction dynamics by observing and listening well. Observation provides direct access to the social phenomena under consideration and is not contaminated by self-interpretation of events, which happens when you ask people.

General Skills

Reading Comprehension – the ability to understand content is crucial in analyzing policies. In the different disciplines of social sciences, superior reading comprehension skills are important to ensure that research and studies are coherently informed by other scientific studies, which are largely based on the comprehension of the researcher.

Analytical Thinking – social science professionals need analytical thinking skills to observe and detect patterns in social phenomena. This skill is also crucial in interpreting data and also in making decisions based on a variety of factors.

Communication – one mainstay in the life of a social science professional is the presentation of ongoing research usually to a group of stakeholders. Social science professionals should have the ability to communicate effectively and convey important ideas and concepts.

no. of social science degrees conferred 2017

How to Start Your Career in Social Science

Starting a career in social science requires earning at least an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science in Social Science degree. A significant number of students enroll in an associate’s degree program to gain a broad academic background in history, psychology, geography, public relations, and communication before moving on to a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Depending on your career objective for social science, the associate’s and bachelor’s programs both provide the fundamental knowledge required to perform research.

Entry-level jobs for social science associate’s degree graduates can be in administration, government services, behavioral services, education and training, and other functioning agencies of society. Since the education of social science students encompass a unique mix of disciplines, associate’s and bachelor’s degree holders can find employment in different sectors and industries.

What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in Social Science?

Community Health Worker

The community health worker implements wellness strategies by identifying health-related issues, collecting data, and discussing health concerns with specific members of the community. The community health worker usually works with health education specialists in communities.

Median salary: $42,000

Police Officer

Police officers enforce the law,  conduct regular patrol, and respond to emergency and non-emergency calls. Police officers are tasked to maintain order and safety by monitoring people and communities.

Median salary: $67,290

Museum Technician

The museum technician may take on different roles, such as preparator (readying items for display and storage), as registrar (acquiring, insuring, and loaning museum collections), or as a collection specialist (keeps detailed records of conditions and locations of museum collection). This role also assists the museum curator and other outside scholars.

Median salary: $45,710

Credit Analyst

The primary responsibility of a credit analyst is to determine the creditworthiness of a business, or an individual. This is usually done by checking the credit history. Loan approval often depends on the findings of the credit analyst.

Median salary: $52,548

ratio of social science graduates vs. total graduates in the U.S.

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science?

Librarian

The duties and responsibilities of the librarian depend on the type of library that one is employed—academic, public, administrative, or school. There are also special librarians in corporate, law, and medical settings. Creating a database and organizing library materials is one of the main responsibilities of the librarian.

Median salary: $60,820

Business Reporter

Business reporters may work for television, radio, newspaper, or websites. The main responsibility of business reporters is to inform people on the latest developments in industries and markets, as well as in the financial sector.

Median salary: $49,300

Survey Researcher

Public opinion, market preferences, and candidate preferences are just some of the surveys conducted by the survey researcher. The research design, as well as the questionnaires, are also prepared by the survey researcher.

Median salary: $59,870

Social Worker

The social worker provides assistance to people in different sectors of society, such as child and family, school, healthcare, and mental health and substance abuse patients. The main role of the social worker is to protect the vulnerable groups of society and provide assistance.

Median salary: $51,760

Can you get a social science job with just a certificate?

Certificate programs in social science are offered by colleges and universities. Among these are one-year or two-year programs that can land you an entry-level job in office administration, research support, community outreach work, basic counseling, and community services. However, since most roles entail rigorous research practice, organizations prefer hiring someone with a solid foundation in social sciences, which can be earned through the associate’s or bachelor’s programs.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How can I advance my career in Social Science?

Social science degree holders are designated as social scientists once they have completed a master’s or doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Social scientists are anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, economists,  political scientists, and historians that work together in our society.

The ongoing pandemic has underscored the role of social scientists in explaining the behavior of groups and individuals. They are the professionals who analyze data and provide insights to administrators and government officials in order to effectively manage the ongoing crisis. Social scientists are also proficient in using different types of tools and applications that are associated with the social science professions.

What can I do with a Master’s in Social Science?

Sociologist

Sociologists employ qualitative and quantitative research in studying the activities of social, religious, political, and economic organizations, and their effect on the behavior of individuals and groups. The results of the research are used to inform public policy and address society’s problems.

Median salary: $86,110

Economist

The Economist is an expert in analyzing the production and distribution of resources and their effect on the overall life quality of individuals, families, and societies. Economists analyze historical trends and make forecasts in areas such as employment trends, inflation, business cycles, exchange rates, interest rates, and taxes.

Median salary: $108,350

Portfolio Manager

The portfolio manager is an advisor who works with individuals and organizations to manage investments and assets towards maximum profitability. The role may also include managing financial products.

Median salary: $88,035

Historian

The historian studies historical documents and resources to determine authenticity and significance. Historians also lead the archiving and preservation of artifacts to shed light on future research endeavors.

Median salary: $63,100

no. of social science research assistants in the U.S. 2020

What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in Social Science?

Corporate Lawyer

The corporate lawyer is responsible for all legal processes related to the establishment of a corporation, such as a limited liability company, a partnership, or an alliance. The corporate lawyer oversees the preparation and submission of pertinent documents to comply with the relevant state, federal, and local regulations.

Median salary: $110,714

Clinical Psychologist

The clinical psychologist is responsible for designing behavior modification programs in treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. In some states, the clinical psychologist may prescribe medications to patients.

Median salary; $82,072

Political Scientist

Political scientists typically conduct research on political organizations and international relations. Using political theories, the political scientist conducts research on political subjects, gathers data, and tests the effect of policies and laws on governments.

Median salary: $125,350

Senior Economist

The senior economist typically works in the financial industry and is responsible for economic research projects. Economic data interpretation to inform policy and financial decisions is one of the primary tasks of the senior economist.

Median salary: $122,605

Which certification is best for social science?

Graduate certificate programs in social science are offered to supplement a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Getting a certificate means you are expanding your training by understanding relevant social theories and processes. The graduate certificate allows you to acquire expertise in identifying nuances in the data being studied and provides a competitive edge in the field of consulting, political campaigns, policy analysis, government agencies, public opinion firms, and local communities, or for more advanced studies. Listed below are some of the postgraduate certificate programs in social science:

  • Graduate Certificate in Organization Design and Development
  • Expert in Policies in Management of Migration and Asylum
  • Graduate Certificate in Youth Program Management and Evaluation
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Policy Making
  • Graduate Certificate in Retirement Residence Management
  • Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies

Postgraduate certificates in the field of social science provide the practitioner with a deeper knowledge and an increased focus on specific fields of study.

no. of anthropologists in the U.S. 2020

Alternative Career Options for Social Science Professionals

Social science majors are present in almost every industry or business sector. The skills and qualifications of a social science professional are what employers look for when looking for candidates to fill in job openings in almost every industry.

What else can a Social Science Professional Do?

Growth Hacker – the growth hacker is basically a marketer that uses quantitative skills to help organizations get customers for their products. The job is a combination of marketing and coding. Most growth hackers are experts in generating insights through studying data on consumer behavior.

Private Investigator – social science majors are experts in information search and being a private investigator means that they can apply their core skills to the job. Private investigators collect evidence through interviews and surveillance, which is in line with the work of social science majors.

Brand Evangelist – a brand evangelist is known as the most loyal customer, but the truth is, they are employed by major brands to promote their brand. With a solid background in human behavior studies, the brand evangelist can be effective in crafting messages that appeal to different market segments.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Be More Than Social: Engage in the Scientific Study of  Relationships

It’s an exciting time to be involved in the social sciences. While medical research matters in responding to the current pandemic, social scientists are monitoring a much larger territory—the enormous and varied impact of COVID-19 in almost every corner of our personal and social lives.

Using the latest technology in research, social scientists are employing social theories in interpreting large amounts of data. This only shows that in a technology-driven era, fundamental skills such as creativity, empathy, critical thinking, and the ability to adapt and find solutions still reign supreme in occupations. The tools used in research may have significantly changed, but the core principles rooted in social science remain. If your goal is to be a part of something larger than yourself, then a career in social science could start your journey towards self-fulfillment.

 

References:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/
  2. Hahn, U., Chater, N., Lagnado, D., Osman, M. and Raihani, N. (2020), Why a Group of Behavioural Scientists Penned an Open Letter to the U.K. Government Questioning Its Coronavirus Response, https://behavioralscientist.org/why-a-group-of-behavioural-scientists-penned-an-open-letter-to-the-uk-government-questioning-its-coronavirus-response-covid-19-social-distancing/
  3. Kochhar, R. (2020), Employment is rising most rapidly in jobs most in need of social, fundamental and analytical skills, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/01/30/employment-is-rising-most-rapidly-in-jobs-most-in-need-of-social-fundamental-and-analytical-skills/
  4. Lenihan, A. and Witherspoon, S. (2018), Positive Prospects: Careers for Social Science Graduates and Why Number and Data Skills Matter, https://campaignforsocialscience.org.uk/publications/positiveprospects/
  5. Radford, J. and Joseph, K. (2020), Theory In, Theory Out: The Uses of Social Theory in Machine Learning for Social Science, Frontiers in Big Data, https://doi.org/10.3389/fdata.2020.00018
  6. The Social Science Research Council, https://www.ssrc.org/

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