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What Are Social and Behavioral Sciences?
Social and behavioral sciences address a range of human issues. Behavioral science refers to the investigation of human and animal behavior through observation and experimentation, while social sciences explore the structure and impact of groups. Social and behavioral scientists examine phenomena from social, cultural, political, technological and biological perspectives.
Social and behavioral sciences encompass the following fields of study:
- Anthropology – the study of human diversity from a cultural, biological, and historical lens
- Sociology – the study of human social activity
- Ethnic studies – the study of race and ethnicity
- Psychology – the study of the human mind and behavior
- Social work – an interdisciplinary field of study blending psychology, sociology, ethnic studies and public policy
- Law – the study of the societal rules that govern behavior
- Global studies – an interdisciplinary field studying social, political and cultural relationships across the world
- Political science – the study of political entities and processes
- Women’s and gender studies – an interdisciplinary field examining history, politics, and society from the perspective of women and gender minorities
- Communications – the study of the process of exchanging information
- Journalism – the written or verbal reporting of events to a wide audience
- Public policy – the study of systems of law addressing a given topic
Who Should Study Social and Behavioral Sciences?
If you plan on studying one of the social or behavioral sciences, you should ideally answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Do I truly enjoy learning about different human processes?
- Am I curious about people?
- Do I enjoy listening to people?
- Could I spend all day reading about, listening to, or writing other peoples’ life stories?
- Do I want to make a difference in the world by doing work that “gives back”?
- Also, you should ideally answer “no” to the following questions: Do people bore me?
- Do I have a low tolerance for socializing?
- Am I drawn to working alone, and being in minimal contact with others?
Sample Social and Behavioral Science Classes
Social and behavioral science classes differ depending upon whether they are being offered at the undergraduate or graduate level. That said, here is a list of various social and behavioral science fields and some sample classes you could expect to encounter in your course of study:
- Anthropology – Migration, Old World Prehistory, New World Prehistory, Culture and Social Relations
- Sociology – Social Problems, Race and Ethnic Relations, Sociology of Gender, Sociology of Violence
- Ethnic studies – Population Histories of the United States, Immigration and the Transformation of America, Race and Social Change, Environmental Racism
- Psychology – History of Psychology, Statistics, Experimental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology
- Social work – Human Behavior, Policy, Research Methods, Family Systems Theory
- Law – Criminal Law, Environmental Law, Legal Theory and History, Estates and Trusts
- Global studies – Political Economy, Theories of Cultural Studies, Nationalism and Violence, Postcolonial Theory and Literature
- Political science – International Relations, Comparative Politics, American Politics, Ethics and Society
- Women’s and gender studies – Global Women’s Issues, Women and Crime, Society and Sexuality, Gender and Communication
- Communications – Origins of Language, Principles of Oral Communication, Small Group Processes, Communication Theory
- Journalism – News Writing, Censorship and Literature, Mass Media and Society, Editing
- Public policy – Wealth and Poverty, Race and Public Policy, Budgeting, Public Policy and Terrorism
Types of Social and Behavioral Science Careers
There are many fields of study within the social and behavioral sciences, so there are many career paths from which to choose. Those holding social and behavioral science degrees may find work in:
- Law firms
- Non-governmental organizations
- Private industry
- Broadcast television
- Think tanks
- Charitable foundations