While psychology and sociology are rather similar, when you decide to pursue one over the other, you will likely develop different skills. These two areas of study also lead to different career prospects.
Both fields will have quite a bit to do with the understanding of human behavior. You will learn the necessary skills to go into many different careers with either one, as well.
However, you will likely choose one over the other based on your curiosity and career goals. You might find psychology to be more interesting than sociology, or the other way around.
Before you choose between psychology and sociology, it’s important to understand both. Let’s look at what they are and the main differences.
What is Psychology?
Psychology is the study of mental and behavioral processes. By using scientific principles, a psychologist will study how the brain works when it comes to producing emotional and behavioral outcomes after processing information. Some psychologists will also study interpersonal relationships, personality, intelligence, motivation, and attention.
Some of the things you may study as a psychologist include:
- Trauma and Resilience
- Animal Behavior
- Sensation and Perception
- Psychosocial Development
- Human Behavior
- Subjective Experience
There are many different areas you can go into, as a psychologist.
What is Sociology?
Sociology, according to Indeed.com, is the study of human social behavior. This will also include the study of how social groups interact, change, and even form. Scientific methods are used to better understand social groups including the behaviors of individuals in larger groups, such as the healthcare industry, economy, government, criminal justice system, or military.
Some of the fields found within sociology include:
- Human Ecology
- Communications and Technology
- Family, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- Criminal Justice
- Health, Aging, and Disability Studies
You can go into a career in any of these areas if you get a degree in sociology.
Psychology vs Sociology: The Key Differences
While there are certainly overlaps with psychology and sociology, they are also quite different. Let’s look at a few of the key differences below.
Your Actual Career
There are certain careers you can go into with a degree in psychology or sociology. However, there are also some specialties in each area that are rather different. In many cases, you will need a master’s or doctorate degree to go into a more specialized career in either of these areas of study.
Some of the most common career options for psychologists include:
- Career counselor
- Childcare worker
- Social worker
- Health coach
- Forensic psychologist
- Licensed mental health counselor
- Industrial and organizational psychologist
- Correctional officer
- Family and marriage counselor
- Art therapist
- Psychology researcher
Some of the most common career options for sociologists include:
- Professor of sociology
- Market research analyst
- Healthcare inspector
- Health statistician
- Social worker
- Guidance counselor
- Social service administrator
- Policy or program analyst
- Public education coordinator
- Public relations specialist
As you can see, with a degree in psychology or sociology, you can become a social worker. However, many of the other career options are a bit more specific to one degree or another.
When you go into psychology or sociology, you will notice a difference in the actual focus of your study. Sociology tends to look at larger social groups, while psychology looks at the individual level or a smaller group.
While both psychologists and sociologists may both study the family, they do it differently. A psychologist will look at the dynamics of a single-family unit, while a sociologist will look at the typical family structure from one culture to another.
Psychologists and sociologists also study corporations in a different way. If you become an industrial psychologist, you may look at the policies of a company and how they impact employee productivity. On the other hand, an industrial sociologist will study the history of corporations and how the culture of the modern workplace has come about.
If you go into psychology or sociology, you will likely earn a decent salary. However, the salary will differ in each area, depending on your actual career. Both can lead to a career as a social worker, which comes with an average salary of about $55K.
If you want to earn a higher salary, you can become a therapist, which has an average salary of around $73K per year. Go on to get a degree and become a psychiatrist and you can earn an average salary of around $230K per year.
It’s hard to see the difference in salary between psychology and sociology. The biggest difference will be seen when you go on to an advanced degree and take on a specialized career option.
Choosing Between Psychology vs Sociology
When you want to make the right decision for your career path, you should look at several different factors. What you’re most interested in is rather important, but so are the skills you already have.
If you want to study psychology, you will likely need to be:
- A great listener
- Very trustworthy and honest
- Have excellent knowledge of human behavior
- Have an interest in how the brain works
- If you want to study sociology, you will likely need to be:
- Curious about how and why things are the way they are in today’s world
- Enjoy learning more about human activities within society
- Have an understanding of how new information may impact different cultures
- Enjoy developing materials to teach others
With the right skills and curiosity, studying psychology may be better than sociology, or vice versa.
It’s not easy to choose between psychology and sociology, for some students. It really comes down to what you prefer to study. With psychology, you will study the mind of an individual, while sociology looks more at the society and not as much as the individual.
Of course, if the career you prefer requires a degree from one area or the other, the decision will easily be made for you. You may be able to get a bachelor’s degree in one and a master’s in the other, as well. Make sure you do plenty of research to choose the right option between psychology and sociology.