← Back

Social Scientists

Social science is the province of researchers who look into the natural behavior of humans in a social setting, and use theory—and sometimes more than one academic discipline—to guide their methodology and frame their explanatory argument. It is rare to get a degree exclusive to the field, as most social scientists are rewarded in a degree from a specific discipline, one that fits within the larger field of the scientists of society. Each discipline covers a specific topic and matter directly relatable to the behavioral choices.

They key is the behavior much be observable. What unites social scientists is the same set of research parameters that look at people’s behaviors. There must not only be direct evidence, there must be some kind of training to forecast the behavior, recognize it, then use some kind of methodology to study it and analyze the evidence. This context of academic training takes place in all of the social science fields. How each field is organized depends on each field’s epistemological view of society, as well as the utilitarian outcome of the research. What will the field use the data for?

Fields of study
The branches of social studies are numerous. Topically the major fields of study can be labeled as anthropology, communication, economics, education, human geography, history, law, linguistics, political science, psychology, and sociology—and that is just the major branches. Each of these disciplines can be applied in either public or private sector professions.
Depending on the job, social scientists will apply the tools of their academic toolbox to analyze people’s complex social habits within a particular defined societal milieu. There are expected outcomes that the social scientists look to identify, and there are behavioral patterns that can be categorized with numerical data and analyzed with social theories. Without an intellectual framework, the human behavior is not evidence to support any thesis, and nothing can be applied to the operation and understanding of human society.

Tools of the trade
Every field or discipline within social studies has sets of tools to use for the study of people in society. There are two main designs they can use to organize and study behavioral evidence, quantitative and qualitative studies, where evidence is collected as numerical data that is analyzed with statistics, and/or summarized with direct observation and communication with people or texts. In either case (or both) analyzation is expected to take place. It is hard to say which branch exclusively uses either study method, as they are encouraged to use as much data as possible. But some social science disciplines are more prone to use number-driven data, while some do analysis of the textual response by the subject.

All choices for the creation of study, and how it will be explained, is driven by theory, where social scientists choose to frame their study and engage their debate. Most recognize that all research, and the collection of evidence, is subjective in nature. The social theories can range in nature from feminism to Marxism, to post-colonialism to post-structuralism. It is not uncommon to use more than one theory, however they can be mutually exclusive of one another. However, the more ways that a social scientist can explain human behavior, the better.

Education and Training
For undergraduates the degrees conferred on a scholar in social studies can be the obliquely labeled Bachelor of Social Science. The Bachelor of Arts is given to a student in a specific field of the social sciences. This is either handled through the traditional liberal arts, or the behavioral sciences, though it is much more common to see social science alongside the humanities nowadays. Most programs will encourage an internship with some field activity that relates to the chosen field of study. This is a chance to apply and prove their social theory, and practice the skills they need in the profession.

Income and Job Market
The median salary for the majority of jobs in the social sciences can be explained by the wide disparity in fields and disciplines under the umbrella of the social sciences. 10% receive salaries around $115,700, which inversely means that 90% receive $43,400. While there is a fair amount of room for salary negotiations, the statistics can be broken down into the top paying social science jobs. This is directly relatable to job opportunities, as the skills that employers want beg the big incomes to draw in the most talented social scientists, and more importantly, their chosen field of study. So any career with the responsibility of managing and overseeing social behaviors—psychologists or urban planners—will make more money than the soft sciences of sociology, economics or anthropology. This all depends in the application of the social science field. Fluidity of income depends on the skill subsets—methodology and theory—that each field brings to their employer. So too does the direction of the job market count.

Fields of Employment
Employers look for skills that are applicable to market-driven demands, some of which are directly translatable to a dollar sign, and some which cannot be immediately commodified, and are a service with a benefit relatable to a short and long term outcome. The social sciences in a very large way are about the planning of society, and whatever job helps society plan better, taking into account the behaviors of people, has greater opportunity for hiring. Most companies, as well as local and state governments, require a division of their company that is exclusively dedicated to the social sciences. Predicting future trends of society, or to discover why people make the choices they do, is a major priority of any company or public sector service.

Social scientists who pick a particular field, focus on interdisciplinary studies, use different methodologies and theories, and relate them to field-proven experience have the best change of employment. They do as much as they can because they need a well-rounded intellectual experience.

Additional Resources

Social Science Research Council

Social Science Virtual Library

More choices of jobs with a degree in the social sciences.

Social Science Statistics Blog- the most recent summaries, analyses, and applications of data from social science research collected from the field by Harvard University.

Polyarchy- Arguments against Social Science as a field of study, questioning its validity in a post-structuralist world where knowledge does not obey professional, nor academic, boundaries.

The Myth of Social Science