Psychology and Sociology Majors: What’s the Difference & Similarities?

difference between sociology and psychology

The study of human behavior is a common theme in the sciences of sociology and psychology, which are closely related. 

While these two fields share certain parallels, they also create big disparities. It’s crucial to comprehend how such distinctions could affect your courses if you intend to pursue a degree in either discipline and how they might affect your job and future.

Any graduate or undergraduate student must make a significant decision when deciding which one to choose between sociology and psychology, but this article will guide you through the process. 

What Is Psychology?

The American Psychological Association defines psychology as the scientific study of a specific person’s mind and behavior. Psychologists work to comprehend the thought processes that underlie people’s or groups’ actions.

They investigate the mind’s functioning and relationship to behavior. Psychologists concentrate on social and emotional elements like stress, anxiety, sadness, and anger.

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What Do You Study in Psychology?

Psychologists study people’s thought and feeling processes to understand how they affect their behavior.

In psychology courses, you will cover human development, psychopathology, statistics, mental illness, and personality.

Psychologists research cognition, attention, emotion, brain function, motivation, and perception.

Students may focus on behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, quantitative psychology, or abnormal psychology, among other specialized areas.

What are the Career Paths in Psychology?

Similarly, someone with a psychology degree has a wide range of professional options at their disposal.

psychologists can operate in outpatient facilities or offices as sole practitioners in a private practice or as a group practice.

They may also work as organizational psychologists for large organizations or in hospitals, health clinics, universities, sports teams, and rehabilitation facilities.

While many psychologists work in therapeutic capacities, such as providing psychotherapy in clinical, counseling, or educational settings, other psychologists engage in academic research on mental functions and behavior.

What Is Sociology?

Sociology is a social science that focuses on examining social structures and human relationships. Sociology examines groups of people, such as families, nations, businesses, communities, etc., putting aside individual distinctions.

Sociologists work to comprehend how social and cultural systems affect and are affected by human behavior and consciousness.

Social causes and effects of love, race and gender identity, family conflict, aging, poverty, crime, and religious belief are only some examples of sociology’s topics. Other topics include population expansion and migration, war and peace, and economic development.

As a young discipline, some competing social structure theories are still widely held. Here is a quick rundown of the most well-liked ones:

Functionalism: This is the notion that all facets of society—government, the legal system, and religious institutions—are comparable to an organism’s organs. They are necessary for society to run well and depend on one another.

Conflict theory: This method stresses social status distinctions and other societal issues and conflicts, theorizing that these are why societies end up being formed the way they are. The basic gist of this is that society is set up the way it is because the wealthy and powerful gain from it.

Interactionism with symbols: In other ways, this concept is more well-known. Its underlying idea is that society is a construct created via numerous small-scale social interactions. Because of this, it is always evolving and is based on people’s interactions and collective symbols.

Utilitarianism: According to supporters of this theory, each person only acts in their best interests. Every person considers a circumstance and decides what will work best for them in it.

What Do You Study in Sociology?

Sociologists work to understand how various groups interact with one another and to provide answers to questions regarding contemporary social challenges.

Globalization, race and ethnicity, diversity and inequality, research methodologies, and social issues may be the topic of sociology courses.

Sociologists use a variety of research techniques, such as large-scale surveys, document interpretation, census data analysis, videotaped interaction analysis, participant interviews, and laboratory studies.

Students gain the ability to analyze human social interaction critically and to explain social dynamics to others.

What are the Career Paths in Sociology?

Sociology offers ‌endless career options. Sociologists can work for research organizations, criminal justice systems, nonprofits dedicated to public health and welfare, private companies, legal firms, international organizations, hospitals, schools, and more.

They frequently have positions in administration, casework, paralegal, public relations, social research, community organizing, data analysis, and administration.

A quarter of those with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, either as counselors or psychologists, work in social services, according to the American Sociological Association.

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Both sociology and psychology are classified as social sciences, which are fields of study that focus on either individual or group behavior. 

As we’ll see throughout this piece, the distinction between sociology and psychology is the individual vs. the group. 

Other examples of social sciences include political science, the study of politics and the government; anthropology, the study of how societies and cultures develop; and economics, which is the study of wealth creation, consumption, and distribution.

How Does Sociology Differ from Psychology?

Psychology and sociology investigate human behavior but do it on different scales. In contrast to sociology, which, as its name says concentrates on social groups, communities, and cultures, psychology is concerned with understanding the individual.

Research, analysis, and management of the variables that influence or influence individual behavior, such as mental illness, mood disorders, substance abuse, or familial and romantic relationships, will be your primary focus as a psychologist.

Large-scale societal challenges, including globalization, poverty, racial injustice, gender inequality, workplace dynamics, or public health issues, will be your primary emphasis as a sociologist.

While sociology is more like macroeconomics, “zooming out” to deal with entire economic systems, psychology is more like microeconomics, which “zooms in” to look at individuals, households, or enterprises.

Sociologists are more interested in social structures and policies than psychologists, who study how people interact with one another and their environments. The compared differences include the following;

  • Sociologists go beyond the individual to analyze society’s organizations and groups of individuals, whereas psychologists explore a person’s emotions and behavior.
  • In contrast to sociologists, psychologists often have licensure requirements that include passing an exam.
  • Sociologists cannot diagnose or treat mental health illnesses. Psychologists can.
  • While sociologists must have a solid grasp of social theory and public policy, psychologists must comprehend fundamental medical science, such as the biological functions of the brain.
  • While psychologists are typically more qualified to work in human resources, health clinics, or counseling, sociologists frequently work in social work, social justice, and social services.

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Social Psychology vs. Sociology

Psychology has many subfields, including forensic, and social. Clinical and school psychology. But how is “social” psychology distinct from sociology if psychology is concerned with individual behavior?

Sociology examines how entire groups work within society, whereas social psychology focuses on how individuals relate to and attempt to function within a broader society.

What Are Some Similarities Between Sociology and Psychology?

Although sociology and psychology approach the study of behavior from different angles, both fields need the same set of abilities, including the capacity for critical thought and reasoning, performing and evaluating both quantitative and qualitative research, and communicating both orally and in writing. 

Importantly, from a financial standpoint, the job prognosis and growth rates for psychology and sociology are comparable.

The 2019 median pay for psychologists was $80,370 per year, or roughly $38.60 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), In contrast, sociologists had a median pay hourly rate of $83,420 and $40.10, respectively.

Psychologists made slightly more money on average than sociologists, but they closely followed them. Both professions made more money on average than the median annual wage for all U.S. workers, which the BLS claimed to be around $40,000. 

The BLS also reported comparable job outlooks for each profession, forecasting growth of 3% for psychologists and 4% for sociologists from 2019 to 2029, respectively. The similarities further include the following;

  • Both sociology and psychology are social disciplines investigating how people think and act.
  • The goal of both areas is to make society and individual lives better.
  • Communication, interpersonal, analytical, research, listening, observational, and problem-solving abilities are used in both occupations.
  • Both degrees in sociology and psychology are adaptable and can lead to various job opportunities.

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What Careers Can You Pursue with a Degree in Sociology or Psychology?

Psychologists and sociologists can find work in academia, the government, or the commercial sector, depending on the individual’s interests. Psychologists frequently work in fields like counseling, public administration, market research, and criminal justice.

Comparatively, sociologists typically work in industries like human resources, social services, and public services.

As you can see from both lists, a degree in psychology or sociology can open the door to a wide variety of interesting and rewarding occupations, some of which may surprise you. With a psychology degree, you could work in the following fields:

  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Health Educator
  • Human Factors Specialist
  • Therapist
  • Victim’s Advocate
  • Vocational Career Counselor

Examples of careers you could pursue with a sociology degree include:

  • Census Researcher
  • Policy Analyst
  • Public Health Supervisor
  • Social Services Consultant
  • Urban Planner

They can enter some of these jobs with a bachelor’s degree, while others require an additional degree, such as a master’s or doctoral degree. 

For instance, you’ll typically need a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Ph.D. in psychology if you want to work as a research psychologist who uses scientific methods to study thought and behavior; a clinical psychologist, who, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “assesses and treats mental, emotional and behavioral disorders”; or if you want to get certified as a counselor and run your private practice.

If you still need to reach that point in your academic career, don’t let it depress or overwhelm you.

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Should I Take Psychology or Sociology Courses?

Your interests will determine your response to this question. The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology may be a better choice for you if you want to pursue a profession in individual treatment or counseling. 

However, if you find yourself drawn to the study of gender, race, religion, class, or other social and cultural concerns, a bachelor’s degree in sociology is a better choice.

At National University, key sociology courses like Sociology of Deviance (SOC 443), Classical Social Theory (SOC 365), Power and Social Change (SOC 540), and Cultural Pluralism in the USA (SOC 500) are just a few examples. 

Comparatively, a psychology major will finish classes like Human Sexuality (PSY 469), Psychology of Bereavement (PSY 455), Psychological Testing (PSY 431), and Counseling Techniques I (PSY 340A).

The Bachelor of Arts in Sport Psychology and the Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Psychology, which emphasize creativity, self-reflection, and other subjective experiences, are two additional programs offered by NU’s College of Letters and Sciences in addition to its psychology program.

The Undergraduate Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling is another option for undergraduate students interested in addiction treatment.

Graduate students can choose from various paths, including the Master of Arts in Human Behavior, the Master of Arts in Sports and Performance Psychology, and the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, for established professionals who want to advance in their employment.

Additionally, students may want to combine one of the more than 75 exciting majors NU offers with a minor in sociology or psychology.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can a Sociologist Become a Therapist? 

This is one of the most commonly asked questions for students who are considering entering either field. The short answer is that ‌you’ll need to obtain additional education in areas like social work or psychology — and then meet rigorous licensing and testing requirements, such as passing the National Counselor Examination (NCE) — to provide therapy services.

What distinguishes a major in sociology from a psychology major?

 In your sociology study, you will cover the principles of diversity, social responsibility, human rights, and respect for others. In contrast, psychology uses observation, measurement, and analysis to look at the specific causes of human behavior.

Can you earn a degree in psychology and sociology?

For an interesting degree that examines society and the individuals who shape it, combine sociology and psychology. You’ll discover the internal and external influences that determine human behavior. The external forces that shape civilization. Your research and data analysis skills will advance in both topics.

Is psychology simpler or sociology?

It is not simpler to study sociology than psychology.
They are both fundamental branches of science that investigate human behavior. Psychology focuses on the mind and conduct of the individual. Still, sociology has a broader focus on collectivist tendencies, such as the formation of societies and the impact these societies have on their inhabitants.

What does one do with a sociology degree?

Sociologists employ scientific approaches to uncover practical solutions to challenging social questions while studying social life, social change, various communities, and their relationships. Your capacity for creativity, originality, critical analysis, analytical problem-solving, and communication can all be enhanced by studying sociology.


Although studying people and comprehending human behavior is central to both sociology and psychology, there are several key distinctions between the two disciplines.

Sociology goes beyond individuals and analyzes societies as a whole to comprehend contemporary concerns. In contrast, psychology investigates the mind of the individual to understand human behavior and social and emotional reactions.

Psychologists concentrate on emotional and social reactions, whereas sociologists focus on providing support to maintain families and communities. Both psychologists and sociologists aim to enhance people’s lives and society.



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