Psychology vs Sociology: What’s the Difference?

Image of glasses with the title across the lenses.

Students drawn to the social sciences have a wide range of options when considering their particular field of study. Psychology and sociology are two such areas. Although these disciplines often attract students of similar mindsets and inclinations, the subjects are often confused with one another.

Psychology and sociology both involve the scientific study of people. Both fields provide researchers with insight into inherent human attributes such as emotions, relationships and behaviors. Each requires similar skills, such as verbal and written communication, interpersonal relations, research, listening and observation. And both areas have the same ultimate goal: to improve people’s lives and work toward the betterment of society.

Beyond these similarities, however, lies a world of difference. Students seeking to make informed decisions about their career path must understand the nature of each subject in order to make the proper choice about their course of study.

Psychology vs Sociology: Summarizing the Differences

Below are a few notable differences between psychology and sociology:


  • Is the study of the mind, as well as the behavior of individuals or small groups
  • Encompasses and explores areas related to emotion and behavior such as intelligence, stress, memory, grief, mental health, addiction and trauma
  • Tends to focus on one individual at a time
  • Can be applied to both research jobs and positions that work with specific individuals in order to help them improve their lives


  • Studies societies and social systems as a whole
  • Encompasses and explores broad topic areas such as economics and consumerism, education, inequities and stratification, or social change
  • Asks questions about comprehensive issues, such as “How will ‘x’ affect the continued development or wellness of the community?”
  • Tends to be applied to jobs that encompass a large scope of recipients

To make the best choice, it is often helpful for students to compare the characteristics of the field they are considering with their own goals and interests.

Education and Careers in Psychology

Psychology majors may be required to take classes in areas such as cognitive, developmental and abnormal psychology, research methods and counseling. The American Psychological Association explains that those who study psychology can use their degrees for a myriad of purposes, such as:

  • Conducting research
  • Studying social development
  • Teaching and providing services to students
  • Promoting physical and mental health
  • Supporting community and individual well-being

For those seeking a career in clinical psychology, a master’s degree or higher is generally required. However, psychology is a flexible field that is almost universally applicable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a few include:

School Counselor

Degree required: Master’s degree
Annual salary: $53,660

Clinical Psychologist

Degree required: Doctorate, in most cases
Annual salary: $72,580

Social and Community Service Manager

Degree required: Bachelor’s degree
Annual salary: $63,530

Human Resources Specialist

Degree required: Bachelor’s degree
Annual salary: $58,350

Education and Careers in Sociology

Sociology undergraduates may be required to study topics such as methods of social research, diversity and inequality, globalization, social constructs, workplace systems or health care.

According to a survey done by the American Sociological Association, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of employees that earned a sociology major had jobs related to their career after graduation. Common career titles may include:

Management Analyst

Degree required: Bachelor’s degree
Annual salary: $81,320

Survey Researcher

Degree required: Master’s degree
Annual salary: $53,920

Urban Planner

Degree required: Master’s degree
Annual salary: $68,220

Using this short guide, students may hopefully navigate toward the course of study that best fits the career they wish to pursue.

A Social Sciences Future

Deciding on a major can be a difficult choice. For those considering psychology, however, the decision is made easier with the availability of the online BA in Psychology from Brescia University. This relevant and challenging program was rated a Best Online Psychology Degree for 2016-2017 by Affordable Colleges Online, while Brescia University was named one of the Best Online Colleges.