What Are the Differences Between a Sociology and a Social Work Degree?

Although the fields of sociology and social work are similar, the differences between a sociology and a social work degree and subsequent career paths are notable. Sociology is a social science that examines human social norms within the contexts of religious, cultural, economic, political and institutional frameworks. Because sociology is a science, its practitioners use rigorous research methods to determine the causes and effects of human behavior within various groups of people. Alternately, the field of social work empowers people to identify and solve social problems that prevent them from experiencing a high quality of life. Social workers often use the results of sociologists’ research on human behavior to help clients identify the root causes of their social issues. Understanding human behavior allows social workers to provide their clients with the right resources and tools to perform effective and lasting problem solving. Here are some distinct differences that sociology and social work majors will encounter during their academic and professional careers.

Typical Course Work

Some of the typical course topics that are taught within undergraduate sociology degree programs are social psychology, probability and statistics and social research methods. These courses prepare sociology majors to determine the causes of human behavior based upon critical thinking and sound, scientific research. Undergraduate social work degree programs expose students to course topics like social work with individuals and groups, social welfare and ethnicity, policy analysis and human behavior. These courses prepare social workers to help community groups and individuals of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds to improve their situations.

Education Levels, Certifications and Licenses

Professional sociologists often have doctorate degrees in their field, but sociology graduates who have undergraduate or graduate degrees in the subject still have a number of other job options available to them. Although certification is not necessary for professional sociologists who hold doctorate degrees, those with lower level degrees often benefit from gaining professional certifications like the Certified Sociological Practitioner that is administered through the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. Many states require that all practicing social workers have a state license. Other states only require licenses for social workers who want to work in clinical capacities. Clinical social workers nearly always have advanced degrees in their field, but all other social workers can usually satisfy job requirements with undergraduate degrees in social work.

Career Paths

The skills honed during sociology degree programs can be used for careers in human services, education, human resources, research, policy making and even marketing. Also, some professional sociologists want to use their human behavior knowledge to counsel clients in clinical settings, and they can find jobs as clinical sociologists. The typical career paths of social workers are narrower; these social leaders usually work in human service agency settings like homeless shelters, public clinics and counseling centers.

The fields of sociology and social work have the ultimate aim of helping to improve the human condition. Sociologists seeks to contribute to that aim through extensive scientific study and research that can influence governmental law and policy making. Social workers often address the needs of individuals and community groups directly. The types of course work and resulting career paths offer the best descriptions of the differences between a sociology and a social work degree.

For additional information on obtaining a degree in sociology, please see: Best Top 10 Online Sociology Degree Programs.