Online Degrees In Social Science

Social science, at its core, focuses on how social factors affect people. Social sciences fields study changes in the world and society at large, working to understand how individuals and groups influence one another and their surroundings.

The common thread underlying the diverse disciplines within the social sciences can be said to be the study of human behavior. Human behavior can be studied within the framework of a number of degree programs such as anthropology, history, communications, political science, sociology, psychology, economics and comparative human development.

Working professionals and those who have family commitments may find the flexible format of online degree programs in social science to be a convenient way to earn their degree in this field.

It is worth noting that famous people with social science degrees include Ronald Reagan, Michelle Obama, and the Rev. Martin Luther King — all of whom sought (or continues to seek, in the case of Michelle Obama) to make their mark on the world while working toward a deeper understanding of humanity and culture.

Experts for the “Why Social Science?” project of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) listed a few reasons behind the importance of this field, which included the following:

  • It produces essential data for our democracy
  • It fosters robust and trustworthy knowledge
  • It is central in guiding efforts to foster success in STEM in our children and youth
  • Social and behavioral research improves health and quality of life
  • Social science informs effective, efficient, and equitable education policies

Wendy Naus, Executive Director of COSSA sums up the importance of a social science degree in a blog on stating, “Chances are you have never stopped to fully consider all of the ways social science is impacting your life at this very moment, from the device you are using to read this (and the cybersecurity keeping it secure), to the food choices you make when heading out for lunch, to the decisions investors are making for your retirement accounts.”

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Online associate degree programs in social sciences may be a good fit for students who would prefer to enter the job market after a shorter period of learning and have the option of continuing their education at a later time. Students should receive a foundational understanding of human interactions in fields like diversity, culture and ethics with applied methods of research and statistics.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

General coursework: May include general education courses like composition, natural sciences and math along with coursework from your chosen field of social sciences. Some topics you may see are:

  • Moral and ethical reasoning
  • Social and political philosophy
  • Introduction to international relations
  • World history
  • Principles of microeconomics
  • Introduction to psychology
  • Sociology of medicine
  • Gender and society

Possible Electives: A wide variety of electives are available depending on a school’s offerings.

What can I do after earning an online associate degree?

Online social science degree programs can open up a wide variety of career paths due to the diverse knowledge you’re likely to gain from your studies. You may qualify for entry-level roles in city, state or federal government agencies, in education, healthcare or even law enforcement. Potential occupations include:

  • Survey researcher
  • Life, physical and social science technician
  • Forest and conservationist technician

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree?

Students at the undergraduate level can hone their critical thinking abilities, gain a global perspective on the world around them, learn to research and cite sources, and improve their ability to communicate.

Typical duration: Approximately four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, associate degree

Typical coursework: A bachelor’s degree program in social sciences includes the coursework usually covered in an associate degree program and builds on it to go more in-depth into the various topics. Common topics may include:

  • Research methods
  • Introductory psychology
  • Psychology as a science and profession
  • Anthropological theory
  • Intercultural communication
  • Human health and global environmental change
  • Global socioeconomic perspectives
  • Natural resources and conservation

Possible Electives: The variety of electives may depend on the breadth of a school’s offerings.

You may also be required to complete an internship or a capstone project.

What can I do after earning a bachelor’s degree?

An online bachelor of social science degree program is often the minimum degree required for many careers in both public and private sectors. Some potential occupations are:

  • Geoscientists
  • Biological scientists
  • Social science research assistant
  • Social scientists
  • Life scientists

Watch This Success Story: Online degree in social sciences helps IndyCar racing team

“Michael Ribas, 48, was a mechanic with an IndyCar racing team in North Carolina, which to most people would seem like an exciting career. But as he got older, while Ribas wanted to stay in racing, he wanted to move on to another position within the team. His interest was in public relations and for that career move, he would need a bachelor’s degree.Find out why one race car mechanic earned an online degree to move up with his Indy team. Get his take on the benefits and challenges of earning a degree online.”     — Michael Ribas

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree?

At the graduate level, students customize and further develop their skills in a specialization. Graduates of social science often have a research focus, and work with existing and emerging critical theory.

Typical duration: One to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree

Typical coursework: Coursework in a social science degree program might focus on a particular region, a political movement, a social phenomenon or a theoretical problem within the social sciences. Courses can include:

  • Civic education
  • Research methods in social science
  • Public budgeting and finance
  • Public policy analysis

You may also be required to complete a capstone project or supervised work experience.

Master’s Thesis: Research-based master’s degree programs in social sciences may require you to write a thesis consisting of original research that makes a contribution towards knowledge in the chosen field of social sciences with the aid of a supervisor.

What can I do after earning a master’s degree?

A master’s degree may qualify you to work for advanced positions in a variety of fields including academics and public services. Some potential occupations are:

  • Teacher
  • Anthropologist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Historian
  • Sociologist
  • Economists
  • Survey researchers

Doctoral students’ typically focus on adding new pieces to existing research and theory by working closely with professors. Additionally, these students often teach undergraduate students. Doctoral programs can prepare you for leadership roles and for pursuing high-level occupations in research, education and policy.


Accreditation is a voluntary process that educational institutes go through to demonstrate the quality of their educational programs. The accreditation received may be from a regional or national body and can be applicable to the entire institution or to a single educational program.

Accreditation is important for a number of reasons:

  • It serves to demonstrate that the education you are receiving is up-to-date and serves high-quality standards required by employers
  • It may also allow you to transfer your credits from one educational program to another.
  • Many scholarships and financial aid programs require candidates to enroll in accredited institutes or programs as an eligibility factor.

Top-paying industries, states and metropolitan areas

Life, Physical and Social Science Occupations

Industries with highest concentration of employment
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
  • Chemical Manufacturing (3251, 3252, 3253, and 3259 only)
  • Federal Executive Branch
  • Chemical Manufacturing (3255 and 3256 only)
States with highest employment level
  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Boulder, CO
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Trenton, NJ

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Here are a few financial aid options specific to a social science degree:

Other resources for social science students


  • Associate of Arts with a Concentration in Social Sciences, Shawnee State University,, accessed July 2018
  • Bachelor of Arts in Social Science, Ashford University,, accessed July 2018
  • Bachelor of Science in Integrated Social Sciences, Penn State World Campus,,accessed July 2018
  • Bachelor’s in Social Science Online, Southern New Hampshire University,, accessed July 2018
  • Because It Adds Value, Even When You Don’t See It, Why Social Science,
  • Data for Occupations Not Covered in Detail, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, accessed September 2018
  • Economists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Martin Luther King,Jr., Encyclopedia Britannica,, accessed September 2018
  • Master of Public Administration, Stayer University,, accessed July 2018
  • Michelle Obama, Encyclopedia Britannica,, accessed September 2018
  • Public Relations Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Ronald Reagan, Encyclopedia Britannica,, accessed September 2018
  • Social and Community Services Specialization, Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services, Capella University,, accessed July 2018
  • Social Justice Course Catalog, Harvard University Extension,, accessed July 2018
  • Social Science, Troy University,,accessed July 2018
  • Social Sciences, Associate of Science, Tidewater Community College,, accessed July 2018
  • Social studies education: Online master’s degree, Mizzou Online, University of Missouri,, accessed July 2018
  • What Kind of Jobs Can I Get With an Associate Degree in Social Sciences? Houston Chronicle,
  • Why Social Science, Blog,, accessed July 2018
Methodologies and Sources