close

Search

Social Sciences and Humanities Majors and Potential Jobs

Bookmark

by and

Why do people act, dress, live like they do? From the cultures that comprise the world today to the ancient civilizations we can't seem to learn enough about, the social sciences and humanities allow you to explore all that separates humans from the other primates . . .

Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of humans: their beginnings, varied physical and cultural characteristics, distribution, customs, and social relationships. Important areas of concern within the discipline include the evolution of human beings, the development of early cultures, and the diversity of cultural development among peoples, as well as their political systems, religious practices, and value systems. Anthropology as offered in four-year undergraduate programs is often divided into subspecialties such as physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, or linguistics. Otherwise, anthropology may be coupled with area studies majors such as African-American or Asian studies.

Education

The plan of study begins with introductory courses in the sophomore year, followed by intensive technical study that incorporates each of the principal subdivisions mentioned above. Students opt for a specialty in one of those areas through the junior and senior years, ending with field experiences, seminars in topics of current importance, and supervised independent research. Students interested in physical anthropology will take a more archaeological approach in their majors, while students interested in social anthropology will go more in the direction of sociology. It will be important to choose one direction or the other in the course of study. Classes include cultural development, biological anthropology, forensic anthropology, primate behavior, cultural ecology, religion (including indigenous faiths), medical anthropology, and field excursions to on-site “digs.”

Possible careers

  • archaeologist
  • college professor
  • consultant
  • cultural anthropologist
  • editor/writer
  • geologist
  • historian
  • linguistic anthropologist
  • museum curator
  • park interpreter
  • physical anthropologist
  • oceanographer
  • statistician
  • travel agent/guide

Archaeology

Archaeology is most directly concerned with understanding and explaining extinct cultures and living societies through the excavation, analysis, and interpretation of their material remains. By reconstructing the past, a picture is formed of how and why human cultures have developed. Data gathering and interpretation lie at the heart of this field. The archaeologist uses physical science technology such as dating methods, cartography, and geology.

Education

The program of study is sometimes included as a concentration within an anthropology major with a program in art or art history. A core curriculum of courses in classical archaeology, archaeological methods and observation techniques leads to courses in advanced methods, seminars on current topics, and directed research. Classes include archaeology of classical civilizations, archaeological field methods, statistics, computer science for the archaeologist, forensic archaeology, and Paleolithic cultures.

Possible careers

  • anthropologist
  • archaeologist
  • archivist
  • biologist
  • college professor
  • cultural resource management
  • editor
  • lawyer
  • museum curator
  • paleontologist
  • park ranger
  • research scientist
  • teacher
  • technical writer

Art History

This major consists of the study of art history in all its various forms, from earliest times to the present day. It emphasizes the development of art throughout human history. Students study the relationship of artistic expression to the historical period within which it was produced, as well as contemporary assessments of the artwork.

Education

The plan of study begins with a strong foundation in liberal arts, including courses in art appreciation and history. At the upper-division level, the student is encouraged to focus on one world region for more intensive study. Students have the option to study more than one geographical region or historical period to achieve more breadth of expertise. An occasional program may offer a concentration in art appraisal, requiring courses such as methodology of appraisal and other related subjects. Generally, art history major programs do not require courses in the visual arts, but many students choose to take some courses in that area, out of personal preference. Students focusing on one geographic area are well advised to be at least conversant in the language of the region and to consider study abroad programs.

Possible careers

  • art appraiser
  • art critic
  • art historian
  • art restorer
  • artist
  • cartoonist
  • college professor
  • commercial artist
  • gallery owner
  • museum curator
  • sales representative
  • teacher

Geography

Geography is the interdisciplinary study of the topographic, climatic, and geological features of the landmasses of the earth and how people interact with them. Given current concerns about exploitation of natural resources and climatic development, geography has great relevance in several areas today, including oil exploration and environmental and pollution control.

Education

The plan of study is career-oriented. Course work is available in regional geography, geographic methods and techniques, or systematic geography. This major has expanded its focus to accommodate the needs of regional, state, and federal governments and private and public organizations that conduct global research. Colleges offering geography as a pure major often have dual major programs, such as geography/economics, geography/regional science, or geography/regional/urban planning. Field work can be an expected. Classes include meteorology, applied mathematics, statistics, basic cartography, transportation systems, and urban models.

Possible careers

  • cartographer
  • city manager
  • college professor
  • community planner
  • economic geographer
  • economist
  • environmental manager
  • forestry technician
  • general geographer
  • hydrologist
  • lawyer
  • outdoor guide
  • park ranger
  • physical geographer
  • planning engineer
  • political geographer
  • political scientist
  • site selection analyst
  • sociologist
  • soil conservation
  • systems analyst
  • weather forecaster

History

Through the use of secondary and primary documents and other artifacts, students gain an active appreciation of the past in order to better understand present events and conditions. In studying history, the student develops the ability to think critically, evaluate evidence objectively, and express knowledge clearly and forcefully to others. The career possibilities for history majors are not especially plentiful for those students interested in teaching on the college level, but there are many other avenues that a history major may explore, making it among the most popular college major programs.

Education

The plan of study begins with a firm grounding in written English skills and courses in the humanities and the social sciences, such as anthropology, political science, psychology, and sociology. At the upper-division level, students may specialize in the history of an area (e.g., America, Europe, or Asia) or in a period of history (e.g., the Greco-Roman era, the American Revolution, or sixteenth-century Japan). Extensive independent research is required, often culminating with a long senior project of the student’s choosing. Classes include historical analysis, political science, anthropology, and sociology.

Possible careers

  • archivist
  • college professor
  • editor
  • historian
  • intelligence analyst
  • journalist
  • lawyer
  • librarian
  • museum curator
  • political scientist
  • reporter
  • research historian
  • secondary school teacher

International Relations

International relations is the study of the interactions of nations with one another and the use of political power and diplomacy to accomplish national goals. The study is an interdisciplinary one, examining legal systems, political structures, the effects of geography and population size, access to minerals and raw materials for production, and economic forces that affect the way nations behave toward one another. The major can lead to an academic career, or one in government or business.

Education

The plan of study offers students a choice of concentrations within the major. Colleges offering this study as a true major may include courses in comparative politics, international economics, international affairs, diplomacy, and diplomatic history. The study also may be offered as a minor in conjunction with such programs as area studies, economics, or political science. Students in this program of study should acquire a mastery of at least one foreign language. Study abroad is not required, but is highly recommended. Classes include comparative politics, international law, legal systems of East and West, diplomatic history, natural resources, and politics.

Possible careers

  • CIA analyst
  • college professor
  • congressional committee staff work
  • editor
  • foreign service officer
  • freelance writer
  • intelligence analyst
  • international diplomat
  • international lawyer
  • language translator
  • management consultant
  • military officer
  • political analyst
  • political scientist

Liberal arts

Liberal arts is a field of study intended to provide the student with a broad general educational background, rather than a specialized program or some form of vocational training. The major is a useful preparation for graduate or professional study in law, education, the sciences, or medicine. This is also an appropriate major for students who are “undecided” or want to use their undergraduate years to improve their academic skills. Students should check college catalogs carefully, especially if interested in attending a liberal arts college, because many of them do not offer this general major.

Education

The plan of study includes requirements in a variety of departments, starting with English and including mathematics, history, non-laboratory science, language study, and the fine and visual arts. Students will specialize in one area as they move through major requirements. More than most majors, students will want to work closely with faculty advisor to tailor programs to meet their goals, as there is a fair amount of flexibility.

Possible careers

  • accountant
  • clergy
  • college professor
  • entertainer
  • entrepreneur
  • freelance writer
  • government worker
  • lawyer
  • military officer
  • print or media journalist
  • teacher

Library Science

Library science is the skill of organizing libraries so their contents may be fully utilized. Whether small one-person sites or large fully staffed urban, university, or specialized libraries, they are universally organized according to one of three prevailing systems. The use of computers for all aspects of library management is common place; therefore, the aspiring librarian must have strong computer skills.

Education

Relatively few colleges offer library science as an undergraduate major. The plan of study consists of a liberal arts core, including psychology, history, mathematics, and science at the upper-division level; the major program involves in-depth study of each of the three organizational systems, as well as library management, public relations, finance and budgeting, and management. Library science is more often pursues as a graduate study leading to the master of library science (M.L.S.) degree. Classes include psychology, library organization and management, book and periodical cataloguing, storytelling, and specialized libraries

Possible careers

  • acquisition librarian
  • bibliographer
  • college professor
  • encyclopedia researcher
  • information scientist
  • media specialist
  • museum curator
  • proofreader
  • public librarian
  • research analyst
  • school librarian
  • technical writer

Linguistics

Linguistics is a systematic study that seeks to discover and provide explanations for general properties of linguistic form, meaning, and usage. More than the study of the acquisition of language, linguistics analyzes structure, sound patterns, emergence of language, evolution of language, and the effects of a linguistic system upon culture. Some linguistics departments are dedicated to preserving endangered languages, such as some Native American tongues. Usually pursued as a graduate study, it is sometimes offered as a dual major with psychology, anthropology, speech, or specific foreign languages.

Education

The plan of study consists of course work in areas including syntax, semantics, analysis of particular language groupings such as Romance languages or Asian languages, and historical development of one or more of these groups. It culminates in field studies and independent research. Classes include phonology, comparative linguistics, writing systems, language and culture, and sign language.

Possible careers

  • archivist
  • college professor
  • cryptanalyst
  • document examiner
  • editor
  • lawyer
  • librarian
  • linguistics specialist
  • philologist
  • radio/TV announcer
  • research scientist
  • technical writer

Philosophy

The study of philosophy includes systematic analysis of the principles underlying human conduct, thought, and knowledge and the nature of the universe. These “large” issues are examined, first, in the light of what prior philosophers have construed to be the answers and, second, by analyzing what contemporary philosophical thinkers propose as their solutions. Job prospects in academic philosophy are not numerous, but the major is an excellent preparation for many graduate programs because of the discipline of thinking that the major demands.

Education

The plan of study involves courses such as psychology, history, anthropology, epistemology, logic, ethics, the history of some philosophers, and courses in contemporary issues such as nuclear war, abortion, apartheid, chemical warfare, and white collar crime. Classes may include introduction to ethics, deductive and/or symbolic logic, political philosophy, law and morality, and the teachings of Aristotle, Kant, and Marx.

Possible careers

  • clergy
  • college professor
  • diplomat
  • education consultant
  • freelance writer
  • lawyer
  • management consultant
  • military officer
  • philosopher
  • physician
  • scientist
  • social worker

Political Science

Broadly defined, this is the study of the origin, historical development, and the functions of government and political power. As an undergraduate major, political science teaches students to differentiate among the various kinds of political structures that presently exist, assess power struggles and conflicts within governments, and explore relationships among nations. This major provides a good background for such careers as law, diplomacy, politics, international business, and related areas.

Education

The plan of study begins with a concentration on the humanities, especially social sciences such as psychology and sociology. At the upper-division level, emphasis is on the structure of governments, theories of politics, comparative political systems, and utopian theories. Some colleges utilize a historical perspective in presenting this major; others stress cultural factors impacting upon political decisions or emphasize the “practical” approach to decision making. Classes may include psychology, political philosophy, international politics, public policy, sociology, anthropology, and statistics.

Possible careers

  • college professor
  • corporate lawyer
  • diplomat
  • elected official
  • embassy attaché
  • freelance writer
  • government lobbyist
  • historian
  • international lawyer
  • lecturer
  • management consultant
  • political analyst
  • political consultant
  • political editor
  • political scientist
  • pollster

Pre-law

Pre-law is not a true major area of study, but it enjoys such popularity among students. Most colleges that offer this program explain that it is intended to be a guided program of liberal arts courses, taken with the close assistance of a pre-law adviser, a faculty member assigned to help students follow a plan of study that will likely lead to admission to a graduate school of law. Pre-law is a pre-professional endeavor and will not lead to qualification to practice law. One must graduate from law school and pass the state bar examination to become a practicing lawyer.

Education

Law schools, unlike medical, dental, and veterinary schools, do not prescribe what undergraduate courses should be taken for graduate admission. However, students are well advised to take courses that train them to think and write in a rigorous, analytical manner. Therefore, the plan of study should include a major that will prepare the student in this way. Law school admission is competitive, so it is important that the student maintain a strong grade point average in college. The LSAT is an important part of the law school admission program, and students should prepare themselves to do well on this standardized examination. This entire program must be closely advised.

Possible careers

  • business management
  • civil lawyer
  • civil servant
  • clergy
  • corporate lawyer
  • criminal lawyer
  • diplomat
  • foreign service officer
  • government/regulatory official
  • lawyer
  • paralegal
  • social worker
  • teacher

Social Science, General

The general major in the social sciences is a survey of the many fields within the discipline. The purpose of the major is to understand more clearly the attributes and difficulties of human beings in cultural, intercultural, personal, and interpersonal contexts. Students examine the psycho-social forces operating in contemporary life and evaluate these forces historically.

Education

The plan of study includes introductory courses in a variety of social science fields such as economics, history, political science, sociology, and psychology. In addition, methodology and research tools are taught for use in scholarly analysis of local, national, and international topics of current concern. Some schools coordinate this major with teacher education, leading to certification in social studies. Classes include introductory and advanced history, sociology, economics, government, statistics, and research methodology.

Possible careers

  • anthropologist
  • college professor
  • counselor/clergy
  • editor/writer
  • education consultant
  • government civil servant
  • lawyer
  • management consultant
  • secondary school teacher
  • social scientist
  • social worker

Social Work

Social work is the study of the techniques, skills, and processes that help people to manage their personal and family relationships and to learn how to cope with community issues that they encounter. The major prepares for a career as a counselor, working with individuals or family units to overcome problems or concerns and find solutions. Issues include the treatment of mental disturbance, marital problems, sexual dysfunction, and alcohol/drug abuse. Gerontology is a common area of specialization.

Education

The plan of study at the undergraduate level is an intensive one. General psychology and social work electives supplement a general education core curriculum for the first two years. Human behavior courses, abnormal psychology, and social work techniques are emphasized later, together with extensive supervised clinical experience in a treatment setting. The B.S. or B.S.W. (Bachelor of Social Work) degree is the final outcome; the latter is usually the route to graduate study and professional licensure. So many colleges offer the social work program that students must examine offerings carefully to find the most satisfactory curriculum, especially if they have an area of specialization in mind. Classes include social welfare, psychology, sociology, policy, and social research.

Possible careers

  • clergy
  • clinical social worker
  • consultant
  • gerontologist
  • marriage counselor
  • psychologist
  • rehabilitation counselor
  • sex therapist
  • social caseworker
  • substance abuse counselor
  • veterans counselor

Adapted from Major Decisions: A Guide to College Majors, by Terry Ward. Used with permission from Wintergreen Orchard House, 2012. For the full breakdown of these majors, check out the book, available in paperback and for the Kindle!

Comments