To understand the differences between the two disciplines from an academic perspective, you need a brief explanation of each.

What is Sociology?

It is the study of human behavior and relationships in a social setting. These settings could involve small groups, institutions, religions, organizations, different cultures, and more. Sociologists analyze how consequences and events in society affect individuals in the collective sense. For example, how does crime, poverty, discrimination, family violence, aging, and religion influence society?

Sociologists observe, interview, examine, and conduct surveys to determine how the above elements in society shape human lives. Researchers in this field require writing and communication skills, critical thinking, analytical skills, and creativity.


What is Social Work?

Social work deals with many of the same factors as sociology that affect human behavior. Crime, poverty, aging, domestic violence, substance abuse, and racial inequality are all components that can adversely affect individuals. A social worker assesses the impact of these circumstances to help people cope with daily life.

Social workers may counsel with one person and many in their hands-on approach. These professionals help people deal with emotional and behavioral issues. In this endeavor, there are specialties, such as child and family, public health, mental health, substance abuse, and aging or geriatrics.


For sociology, you can begin with either a Bachelor of Arts or Science. One of the differences in the two options is that the B.S. degree aims at students considering a graduate program. An Arts program provides a foundation into the organization of societies and sociological fundamentals. The B.A. may suit students who use their degree in other areas than sociology.

Generally, there are commonalities in the coursework of the B.A. and B.S. in sociology. Some of the standard topics in both are statistics, race and ethnicity, gender sociology, poverty, and social class. Depending on the curriculum, there may be less mathematics in the Arts program. Math, and in particular statistics, is imperative because quantification is an essential aspect of sociology. A course in research methods explores the collection, integration, analyzation, and reporting of data.

The curriculum may differ concerning the subject of math in a bachelor’s degree in social work. Except for the possibility of a math course in the school’s General Requirements, you can avoid additional math classes. The Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) at the University of Pittsburgh has no math courses.

Similarly, a Bachelor of Science in Social Work entails no mathematics. The exception found in one program refers to a math prerequisite before enrolling in the Research Methods class at Bowling Green State University’s College of Health and Human Services. Therefore, you should carefully review the coursework of schools on your preferred list.

Another difference in a sociology major is the choice of taking a Bachelor of Arts and Science. The College of Professional Studies at Dallas Baptist University offers this degree. Some of the classes in their General Studies 39 to 49 credits include natural science, religion, kinesiology, social science, English, mathematics, and Fine Art.


A significant difference between the two disciplines is the selection of a social work program that leads to professional licensure. Each state has its regulatory board, which you can find at the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). To become a Licensed Bachelor of Social Work (LBSW), you need an undergraduate degree in social work and pass the ASWB examination.

Licensure raises another difference. For social work, you should attend a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE sets standards for social work education, which includes over 750 bachelors and master’s degrees in the United States. As you advance your degree, there are various requirements and licenses. For example, a Clinical Social Worker must have a Master’s (MSW) in most states. In contrast, there is no licensure for sociology.


There are many similarities in employment opportunities for both sociology and social work graduates with a baccalaureate. Education, government and public administration, public policy, family issues, race relations, and criminal justice are potential areas.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that sociologists will experience a 9% growth rate through 2028. However, this equates to only a change in 3,000 jobs for the ten-year period of 2018-28. The BLS reports the median income as of May 2018 at $82,050.

The BLS numbers see a big difference in the number of job changes over the same ten years. Employment openings for social workers is predicted to be 707,400 or an 11% growth rate (2018-28). More jobs but less money. The BLS has its median wage at $49,470 (May 2018).

Both salaries based on a master’s degree.

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