Career Prospects: What to do with your degree in Social Science
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Career Prospects: What to do with your degree in Social Science

Of all the academic disciplines, social science is perhaps the hardest to define. At its simplest, it is the study of human society and social relationships. From there the definitions get more complex, but none really reflect the wealth of study and employment options social science offers undergraduate and postgraduate students.

What is sure is that a degree in social science ticks a lot of the boxes for prospective students making the final decision on their academic future. Varied and exciting career opportunities: check. Excellent employment rate for graduates: check. International career opportunities: check.

What do Social Science Graduates Do?, a 2013 report published by the Campaign for Social Science, sheds light on what students can expect after they graduate. Researchers found that 84 percent of social science graduates were in employment, compared with 78 percent for graduates of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and 79 percent for graduates of the arts and humanities.

Campaign Chair, James Wilsdon, told Times Higher Education that the results indicate that “employers in the public and private sectors are queueing up to hire social science graduates. They have the skills of analysis, interpretation and communication that our economy and society needs.”

The report also found that, as well as being more likely to be in employment, social science graduates are also more likely to snag the top jobs. Graduates from STEM subjects filled 3.6 percent of the positions classified as “managers and senior officials”, while graduates from the arts and humanities accounted for 6.2 percent. Snapping up the most high-level jobs were social science graduates, at 7.6 percent.

From working on development projects in the far flung corners of the world to working at local level making a real difference to the lives of real people, graduates of social science progress to some of the most enviable jobs out there.

Here are a few of the most popular fields of study within the social sciences that can open doors to fulfilling careers all across the world:

International Development

International Development represents a broad social science programme that addresses the challenges and opportunities for the development of sustainable and improved living standards for people across the globe.

Some of the most pressing challenges facing the modern world include poverty, climate change and conflict, and students of international development will develop the transferrable skills necessary to find practical solutions to these issues. Graduates often go on to work for governmental and international agencies, NGOs, and development consultancies.

Juliet Parker, an Emergency Response Officer at Christian Aid, and graduate of International Development says: “A job came up in the Asia team as a field support officer, which involved supporting three officers in the Philippines, Bangladesh and India. I got my first overseas travel in that job.

“In this sector you need to prove yourself as competent and reliable. Don’t be in a hurry. If you believe in what you’re doing and are committed to that work, then do your time. If you prove yourself, things will come your way.”

International Relations

This is one of the broadest areas of the social sciences, leading to potential employment in a wide range of sectors.  A degree in International Relations allows students to tackle grasp topics such as global development, ideologies and international history. Degrees are tailored towards those interested in contemporary world issues of power, decision-making, democracy and inequality.

Like International Development, International Relations is a popular choice for those keen to get out in the field. While it is a degree programme that does not prepare you for a specific career, but boosts your practical and analytical skills that are transferrable to an incredibly broad range of opportunities. Graduates may find work in government and intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, media outlets, or even banking and accounting companies.

Graduate Prospects for Politics and International Relations


58.9% of graduates in Politics and International Relations found employment after university

Via Prospects.

Julia Bale, an International Relations student at the University of Wales told The Independent: “My course covers very contemporary subject matters, giving you an understanding of world politics, foreign affairs and international security. Also, the various theories of international relations allow you to explore different views throughout history and give you a means of comparison…

“After that, I’m not definitely sure what I’ll go on to do- but I would be interested in working within the area of human rights, possibly for an international aid agency or political body.


Psychology is primarily the study of the mind. While it is tricky to study something so complex, psychologists across the globe have uncovered methods that enable them to study and measure how the human mind works, often in fascinating ways.

While many graduates go on to directly related fields such as clinical, educational and forensic psychology, the transferrable skills offered by a psychology degree are what make it such a popular choice. Many go on to work in human resources, counselling, teaching, research, government, and so much more.

According to Graduate Prospect’s Careers Adviser, Margaret Holbrough, the scientific and research elements of a psychology course make market research, academia and careers such as accountancy plausible and realistic goals for graduates.

She says: “With their understanding of people and how they behave in different situations, psychology graduates could viably pursue careers in human resources, psychotherapy and counselling, advertising, marketing and retail management.


Data from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit and Graduate Prospects

Via The Guardian.


While criminology has been studied for thousands of years, it has only recently been recognised as a scientific field in its own right. Today’s criminology students analyse every thinkable factor of deviant behaviour, including the impact of crime on victims and their families, society at large and even the criminals themselves.

A degree in Criminology could lead to a career in a number of fields, including community development; prisons and policing; social work; and youth work.

Ron Melchers, a Criminology Professor at Canada’s University of Ottawa uses the university’s research facilities to conduct research with Government departments. On their website, the University states that: “Studying criminology at the University of Ottawa gives you the opportunity to learn from experts in the field like Professor Melchers who study, critique and help shape the Canadian criminal policy process.

“Our overall objective is to provide students with the concepts, theories and methods they need to have a better understanding of the realities of crime control, and with the practical skills that will allow them to participate in the criminal justice process and make a difference in these areas.


Sociology is the study of human social relationships and institutions. It is a subject that deals with global issues such as the environment and migration, as well as globalisation itself. Sociologists look at the world in a different way, and this is why it has remained a pioneering subject after hundreds of years.

People with a sociology degree can move into a wide variety of jobs. They gain relevant and valuable skills applicable to an organisational or community context.

The career opportunities are many and varied, often offering the opportunity to embark on hands-on projects that make a real difference for real people. Many graduates enter areas such as aid and development, education, social work and research.


Birmingham City University

Stephen Harrison-Mirfield, former sociology student and Student’s Union President at Birmingham City University is an example of a sociology graduate who has not let international boundaries stand in the way of his career development.

He says: “My interest in working abroad came when I was at Codemasters and, towards the end of my time there, I had to go to India for some due diligence work.

“I loved my experience of travelling and sampling a completely different culture, and decided I would like to travel and work abroad some more.”

These are just a few of the disciplines available to students of the social sciences. If opportunities like these interest you, check out these top-class Universities offering quality social science programmes:


Located in the UK’s second largest city, Birmingham City University (BCU) offers students high quality courses, state-of-the-art facilities, and experienced and professionally qualified staff. BCU’s Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences has earned a reputation for consistently achieving academic excellence. It provides internationally recognised academics, including the UK’s leading criminologist, with specialisms in society, health and criminal psychology. Its dedicated Centres of Research also boast excellence in the fields of criminology, psychology and sociology. Read the full profile…


The University of Bath is ranked among the top ten universities in the UK, and has an international reputation for research and teaching excellence. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Bath is at the leading edge of developments in Social Sciences. Research across all six departments has been recognised as the highest quality and of international importance. The University’s research informs its teaching, and ensures its students experience teaching excellence and make the most out of their time in the beautiful city of Bath. Read the full profile…


The University of Ottawa (uOttawa) is ranked among the top 2% universities worldwide, and among the top 10 most research-intensive universities in Canada. The Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) offers students a variety of services to help them navigate university life and achieve academic success. Choosing to study the Social Sciences at uOttawa is an especially sound decision. Given that the campus is just blocks from Parliament, embassies and the central offices of public and not-for-profit organizations, interacting with politicians, policy makers and society’s key influencers is commonplace. Read the full profile…


NUS offers a global and Asian experience that is broad, deep and rigorous. An NUS education is recognised as among the best in Asia, and the world. Not only is the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences one of the largest in the University, FASS has a rich history and a strong international reputation for educational and research excellence. With 17 departments, 20 major subjects, a host of minor programmes, NUS offers the most comprehensive education in the humanities, social sciences and Asian studies in that part of the world.


The University of Melbourne is a public-spirited institution that makes distinctive contributions to society in research, learning and teaching and engagement. The University’s School of Social and Political Sciences is at the forefront of teaching and research in the social sciences in Australia. It boasts a team of dedicated academic and professional staff in the disciplines of Political Science, Criminology, Anthropology and Sociology, as well as allied research centres providing a dynamic and rewarding environment to further your studies.