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Psychology vs. Sociology Major Degrees

by Ashley Miller

If you love working with others and are passionate about figuring out what makes people tick, majoring in either sociology or psychology could be the right choice for you. Although there is overlap between the two disciplines, some noteworthy differences between psychology and sociology may affect your choice of major and ultimately your career path.

Becoming a Psychologist

Psychologists are doctorate-level mental health professionals who provide evaluation, assessment, testing and treatment of psychological disorders such as depression or anxiety. They mainly work with individuals, couples and families. If you want to become a psychologist, you'll need to earn a doctoral degree and obtain a state license. The first step in the process entails earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, which can help confirm if this is the right path for you. The first two years of a psychology major usually involve taking introductory coursework in general psychology, research and statistics, while the last two years focus on different topics in psychology, such as learning, behavior and emotion, and subject-related electives.

Becoming a Sociologist

Sociologists study group behaviors and interactions. They examine why people act the way they do, why they make certain choices and the factors that affect the development of societies. A major in sociology may help you determine if you'd like to pursue graduate study in sociology and provides a solid background in sociological analysis and research methods. It can also be useful for obtaining entry-level professional positions in different fields such as business or human services. The sociology major involves core coursework in introductory sociology, social problems, statistics and research, specialized coursework in areas like the sociology of gender or industrial sociology, and subject-related electives.

Evaluate the Similarities

Both psychology and sociology involve studying and understanding the behaviors and interactions of people. Both programs lead to bachelor's degrees, which are useful for either directly entering the workforce or pursuing graduate study. Both sociology and psychology degree programs teach you a range of transferable skills, such as communication and social skills, that may be useful in a wide variety of entry-level jobs in human services, social work or business. And both majors place a great deal of emphasis on statistics, research and analysis, which can be useful for graduate study in many areas besides sociology and psychology, such as social work, business, medicine or law.

Consider the Differences

Sociologists focus on the macro -- or group and society -- level, while psychologists study interactions and behaviors on the micro -- or individual -- level. When conducting research, psychologists use experiments while sociologists often use surveys, according to NYU sociology professor Caroline Hodges Persell. If you are interested in studying and researching the ways groups and societies develop and organize, then the sociology major might be the right choice for you. But if you want to focus on helping people on an individual level, then the psychology major may be the right educational path to follow.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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