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Explore the social sciences with online courses and programs

Social science explores societies and the relationships between people within them. By studying the cultural relevance of individual interactions, we can better understand the human experience. Explore social science classes delivered through edX.

What is social science?

Social science is a broad category of academic disciplines involving the study of human society and social relationships. These topics include cultural anthropology, economics, political science, sociology, criminology, social psychology, comparative law, and comparative religion.Footnote 1

Within each social science, professionals examine human behaviors through both macro and micro perspectives. This can include the study of how individual behaviors can impact larger society, and vice versa. Professionals in this field are fueled by curiosity and a desire to help drive innovations that benefit society.

Becoming well-versed in one or more of the social sciences can lead to personal and professional growth. Understanding your contribution to your relationships with others and your community can help you be a better citizen. And earning a degree in a social science discipline can lead to a rewarding career in everything from social welfare to counseling.

Applied social science is the driving force behind fields such as mental health, behavioral analysis, education, economics, political science, and program management. These topics explore how people govern themselves, how economies develop, issues of inequality, and other socio-cultural and economic dynamics across the world.Footnote 2

Social Science | Introduction Image Description

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Online social science course curriculum

Taking a social science course can help you excel in an existing career, supplement your current education, or set you on the path to acquiring your first job. In addition to the topic-specific hard skills you’ll gain, you can also gain soft skills necessary to succeed in any of the social sciences. For example, many courses may require you to collaborate with others, enhancing your interpersonal abilities.

Taking introductory social science courses online can provide you with foundational knowledge that you can build on with more advanced classes or programs. Your complete coursework will depend on your previous education and professional experience, as well as your topic of study and goals. Course curricula may cover topics such as:

  • Economics: study why markets fail, how banking systems work, and basic tools of analysis used in the field.

  • Social work: explore basic values held within the field, concepts of social justice, and real-world case studies.

  • Psychology: study mental disorders, the underlying role of stress, and the human condition.

  • Sociology: examine social theories, poverty and inequality, and the differences between primary and secondary groups.

  • Political science: learn about various forms of government, how public opinion shapes elections, and the driving forces of international politics.

Courses will vary in length and intensity, depending on the learning objectives. Some may require learners to gain experience through field work where they can practice interacting with subjects. Others may have a stronger focus on data analysis.

Jobs that use the social sciences

From science-minded professions to community-oriented roles, jobs that use social science skills can be found in many sectors. Common work settings for social scientists include schools, offices of health practitioners, public sector offices, law offices, and more. Below are some examples of careers individuals who study specific social sciences can pursue:Footnote 3

  • Teacher 

  • Historian

  • Politician

  • Sociologist

  • Anthropologist

  • Archeologist

  • Social worker

  • Economist

  • Regional or urban planner

  • Psychologist

  • Historian

  • Geographer

Because the social sciences are so broad and encompass a range of fields, it is important to remember that each of these roles may have different requirements to practice. For example some may require a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. How to become a social worker will differ from how to become a psychologist. 

Before setting down an educational pathway, research the professional role you hope to obtain in order to tailor your learning to the skills you need to qualify for jobs. edX offers a wide range of online courses across the social sciences, for learners of all levels. Build lasting, valuable skills in a flexible format that works for you.