Humans are complex — not only as a whole, but individually, too. Our different experiences, perspectives, and attitudes shape and evolve our society over time. Today, we’re more connected than ever — with the internet, social media, and many new technologies. As a result, our behaviors have changed. As a result, it’s important to understand how these factors influence our interactions with one another.
Sociology and psychology both study human behavior, but in different areas. Students who are interested in this study may wonder which program is right for them. How are they similar? How are they different? What are my options after I graduate? How do I choose?
If you’re wondering whether to major in sociology or psychology, we can help. Let’s begin by reviewing each field and understanding the similarities and differences between the two. Then, we’ll provide a few career paths within each area.
What is Sociology?
Sociology is the study of social groups, change, and causes that influence behavior. Sociologists study religions, cultures, organizations, institutions, and more. They analyze how social influences, inequalities, technologies, and new policies affect the actions and decisions a group makes.
What is Psychology?
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior — how we think, how we’re influenced, and how our actions vary. It explores our mental processes and its complex relationship with behavior.
Within psychology, you can choose from many different branches: clinical, cognitive, developmental, evolutionary, forensic, social, and occupational, to name a few.
Similarities and Differences Between Sociology and Psychology
Sociology and psychology are similar because they both study human behavior, but on different scales. They require similar skills, such as research and analysis, communication, and critical thinking. Additionally, they can lead to the same or comparable jobs — you’ll see some positions appear in both areas below.
However, these disciplines are also very different. Sociology focuses on the factors that drive human behavior within groups, such as poverty, healthcare availability, gender and racial inequality, etc., whereas psychology focuses on elements that impact individual behavior, such as mental illness, substance abuse, and relationships.
Navigating Your Career Options
Now that you know how these fields are similar and different, let’s review career outlooks.
Sociology Career Outlook
As sociologists study human behavior in groups, the industry opportunities are endless — human beings live, work, and interact with one another everywhere.
However, top-paying salaries for sociologists typically work in:
- Scientific research and development services
- State government, excluding schools and hospitals
- Higher education: colleges, universities, and professional schools
- Local government
As of May 2020, sociologists earn a median annual wage of $86,110. However, a sociologist’s salary varies by industry, position, geography, and experience. For example, sociologists in research and development in social sciences earn a median annual wage of $96,620. Those in state, local, and private education services earn $65,830 annually.
Projections expect job growth for sociologists to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030 with approximately 300 openings each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Sociology Job Titles
Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers recruit, interview, and hire new employees, as well as develop policies and procedures for organizations. They also conduct ongoing training and work with staff through interpersonal and position challenges.
Human resources managers must demonstrate thorough knowledge of business and people. Sociology majors establish the groundwork towards understanding how people behave within a particular community. As a human resources manager, you’ll work towards understanding human behavior in a business setting, along with the factors that influence different decisions.
On average, human resource managers earn $121,220 annually. Top industries for human resources professionals include professional, scientific, and technical services, business management, manufacturing, government, and healthcare/social assistance.
Interested in learning more? Here’s how to get started in a human resources career.
With a background in sociology, you can explore careers in law, government, and criminal justice. Successful lawyers must demonstrate superior analytical, research, interpersonal, and communication skills in their work — skills you will develop throughout your education and career.
If you choose a career in law, you can choose from a wide landscape of specialities: immigration law, family law, criminal defense, employment and labor, personal injury, estate planning, and more.
Lawyers earn an average annual wage of $126,930, depending on the speciality, industry, and location.
Areas grow and evolve over time — physical structures change, community demographics shift, and resident needs vary. Urban planners identify challenges and opportunities within communities and create programs to restore, revitalize, and reengage different areas. A sociological background is imperative in this work — both on a macro and micro level.
Urban planners gather and analyze data from market research, censuses, and environmental studies as they develop their plans and programs. They meet frequently with public officials, community members, and organizations, among others to identify challenges and objectives.
Urban planners earn a median annual wage of $75,950 — projections expect a 7% growth in the field between 2020 and 2030.
If you’re passionate about human behavior, problem-solving, and critical thinking, a career as a detective may interest you.
Detectives gather information and evidence related to criminal activity. They conduct interviews, interrogate and monitor suspects, and analyze data. It’s critical for detectives to understand people. Typically, detectives specialize in a particular type of crime, such as homicide, fraud, or missing persons.
On average, detectives and criminal investigators earn $86,940 annually.
Statisticians who study sociology analyze data related to different aspects of society, such as social groups, communities, and cultures — an important role as we’re living in the era of data and analytics.
Statisticians employed in federal, state, and local governments may collect and interpret data from polls, experiments, and surveys they’ve designed to understand the effectiveness of previous decisions and improve future ones.
According to the BLS, statisticians employed by the federal government earn a median annual wage of $116,410 as of May 2020.
If you’re also passionate about data and research, you could develop your career as a researcher. You may become a survey researcher, where you design, conduct, and analyze survey data for research firms, nonprofits, and corporations. You may consider becoming a market researcher, where you create competitive analyses on market offerings, trends, and consumer insights. It’s important to understand the discipline and industry you’re passionate about — then, you can investigate research opportunities from there.
Psychology Career Outlook
Much like sociology, there are a multitude of industries for those who study psychology. At the end of the day, understanding how people think and behave can benefit everyone — not only in our professions, but in our personal lives as well.
According to the BLS, psychologists may work in education, government, healthcare, hospitals, or be self-employed. However, a psychology degree opens doors to many, if not all, industries — you could become a clinical psychologist, or you can apply your skills and knowledge towards a career in marketing, sales, human resources, fundraising, law, or social services.
Psychologists earn $82,120 annually on average.
Projections expect job growth for psychologists to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030 with approximately 13,400 openings each year, according to the BLS.
However, both salary and job growth depends on how you choose to apply your degree — it varies depending on whether you pursue a career in clinical psychology or another discipline, like human resources or politics.
Psychology Job Titles
Organizational psychologists, also referred to as industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists, apply psychology principles to understand human behavior in the workplace. They address organizational challenges and develop policies and procedures to create a positive work environment.
To become an organizational psychologist, a bachelor’s degree in psychology provides you with a foundation for understanding how people think and the factors that influence why we behave the way we do. However, many organizations require organizational psychologists to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree — keep this in mind as you explore this career path.
Organizational psychologists earn between $86,000-$150,000 according to the BLS, with an 8% projected growth in the field from 2020 to 2030.
Sales representatives serve as the primary contact between the customer and the business. They identify new markets and prospects, understand needs, pitch business products, and nurture relationships over time. Communication, relationship-building, and customer service are a few of the top skills a sales representative must bring — another potential match for psychology majors.
Sales representatives work in many industries — insurance, travel, wholesale and manufacturing, advertising, and more. Typically, sales reps earn an annual base pay, along with additional earning opportunities in the form of bonuses, commissions, and/or profit sharing.
Advertising and Marketing Manager
When you think about the advertising industry, maybe the show “Mad Men” comes to mind. Although the industry has certainly changed since then (1960-1970), the importance of branding, creative, and consumer connection has not — whether professionals were advertising in magazines, newspapers, and television then, to the internet, mobile apps, and social media today.
Advertising informs and promotes products and services to consumers. Advertising professionals must understand their consumers — how they think, what they need, what challenges they face, and how their product or service can solve a consumer problem. Without an understanding of how consumers think, behave, and react, advertisers may turn potential audiences away or disengage their current customers. Surely, you can think of one (or a few) advertisements you’ve seen that were cringy or ultimately bad — potentially an indication of poor consumer and market research.
Many advertising and marketing managers work in advertising and public relations agencies, but they may also work within organizations in a marketing or advertising department. Some are also self-employed — either as small business owners or freelancers.
Advertising, marketing, and promotions managers earn a median annual wage of $133,460. Demand projections expect the field to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030.
If you’re also passionate about writing and intrigued by the world of advertising, you may choose to apply your psychology degree towards a copywriting career. Copywriters, also referred to as creative copywriters, develop text, or copy, for written, video, and audio advertisements, websites, and other marketing materials. They also spend a lot of time researching.
Successful copywriters understand how to motivate and influence consumers through the written and/or spoken word. Copywriters utilize many techniques in their work to connect with consumers, such as empathy, storytelling, emotion, action, and problem-product solutions.
According to Glassdoor, copywriters earn, on average, $70,565 annually in the United States.
Human Resources Manager
In our sociology careers section above, those with a bachelor’s in psychology may also pursue a career in human resources. Understanding the way we, as human beings, think and behave is essential to this position.
Sociology vs. Psychology: Which Major is Right for You?
With this information, we hope you feel more comfortable understanding the similarities, differences, and career opportunities for each discipline.
Ultimately, choosing a major in sociology and psychology depends on your passions and your career goals. Either major can prepare you for some of the same careers, including human resources, law, and research.
To help you decide which major you’d like to pursue, consider exploring the complete course information for each program. A particular set of courses in a program may stand out to you and help you choose.
If you’re interested in pursuing your psychology degree, take a look at Johnson & Wales University’s bachelor’s degree in psychology — you’ll find program objectives, highlights, and complete course information. If you have additional questions, our Admissions Associate can help you decide which program aligns to your interests. Complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email us at [email protected].