What is the Difference between a degree in Psychology and Sociology?

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The most apparent difference is that psychology deals with the individual, whereas sociology involves a collection of individuals, otherwise known as society.

The word sociology has both Greek and Latin origins. Socius in the latter language means companion, partner, ally, and comrade. Logos in Greek means word or knowledge.

The word psychology has a Greek origin, as psyche means breath, spirit, or soul. Psychology or the study of the mind evolved from the study of philosophy, notably from ancient Greece by names as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. However, the oldest known reference to disorders of the mind is the Ebers Papyrus, dated to circa 1550 BC. The scroll contained about 700 formulas and remedies written in a cursive form of hieroglyphics. The papyrus referred to depression and dementia, in addition to other mental disorders.

The two disciplines appear to differ in popularity. The current data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that psychology ranks fourth in the number of conferred degrees in 2015-16. Unfortunately, there is no data listed for sociology. It could be lumped in with the category of Public Administration and Social Services.

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Generally, the sociology coursework may cover the interdependency of global cultures, social institutions, family dynamics, social behavior, research methods, social structures, and social policy.

The following are examples of randomly selected undergraduate courses in sociology:

Introduction to Sociology: The class explores social change, societal stratification, institutions, social change, and social behavior. Therefore, a range of topics provides students with several components and issues in society.

Social Problems: A study of historical and current problems that affect individuals collectively. Examples are racism, age, gender, class, poverty, ethnic relations, and cultural differences.

Sociology of Substance Abuse: This course examines the effect of drug and alcohol addiction on society. You may learn how to deal with the proliferation of addiction on communities and families.

Juvenile Delinquency and Justice: Students gain an understanding of how the judicial system confronts criminal behavior in the younger members of society. You may address correctional treatment, prevention, and community programs to stem the rise in delinquency.

The long list of possible courses includes family dysfunction, sociology of aging, legal issues, and sociology of gender. All of the coursework has a consistent theme of topics related to society. Some programs may include world geography, global civilizations, prehistory, and religions of the world. All of these have the intent of expanding your knowledge of different cultures. It is diversity that comprises the American populace.

As mentioned above, psychology concerns the observation, analysis, and treatment of an individual’s behavior and emotions.

These are examples of courses you can expect in an undergraduate program in psychology:

General Psychology: The class provides an overview of the discipline by learning about motivation, emotion, perception, intelligence, development, and learning.

Personality Psychology: You may explore trait development, cognition, behavioral theories, and causes of human behavior.

Abnormal Psychology: The subject matter studies the origin of deviant behavior and unusual patterns in behavior. You may learn how to recognize neurotic and psychotic behavior and the appropriate methods of treatment.


One of the similarities in the two degrees is the choice of areas for specialization.

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University-Northbridge offers three concentrations in their Bachelor of Arts in Sociology:

  1. Social Welfare and Social Justice
  2. Inequality and Diversity
  3. Social Movements and Political Sociology

Liberty University’s Bachelor’s degree in Psychology has eight choices for specialization. A short list includes Addictions and Recovery, Criminal Psychology, Crisis Counseling, Life Coaching, and Developmental Psychology.

Students not in favor of concentrating in a particular area of sociology may find comfort in the advice from the American Sociological Association (ASA). They recommend a variety in your courses that affords an understanding of different societal problems. For example, if you decide to choose Inequality and Diversity, the ASA suggests taking courses associated with inequality, such as criminology. Therefore, you still have related topics that offer a different perspective.

Specialization in psychology may be beneficial for those intending on advancing to a graduate degree. If developmental psychology interests you, then a foundation in this concentration should enhance your master’s degree in this field. Some graduate programs may require a working knowledge in your master’s degree specialty. If so, a jump-start at the undergraduate level is advantageous.


Is there a difference in job prospects? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychology is the better degree concerning job growth. The BLS predicts that job changes will be 14% over ten years (2016-26) or a turnover of 23,000 positions. The job growth is flat for sociologists over the same period. The BLS reports zero job changes. A master’s degree will suffice in sociology, whereas psychology requires a master’s or a doctorate. You cannot practice psychology without a state license and a doctoral degree.

Additional Resources: 

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

What Government Jobs are there with a Degree in Psychology?

Top 50 Degrees for Changing the World

Top 10 Highest Paying Social Science Jobs