Psychology or Sociology: Which is right for me?

Students at RGU in a group discussion

MSc International Marketing student Swetha Akshita interviewed Sarah Henderson, the Course Leader and Admissions Tutor of the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course at RGU. Sarah talks about psychology and sociology and how to decide which subject suits you best.

What is the difference between psychology and sociology?

Psychology and sociology are often looking at the same kind of ideas just from slightly different perspectives.

Sarah Henderson, Course Leader and Admissions Tutor of the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course at RGU

Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behaviour. It looks at individuals and the relationships that they have with other people, and also how we understand other people and ourselves. The subject would look at what would affect our behaviour, what would make us act or respond in a certain way and under certain situations. It is understanding the world around us from our point of view.

Sociology looks at the same kind of ideas but from a society perspective. It looks at how we respond to culture, the time we are living in, their interactions with society and it affects our own behaviour.

Let’s say someone that is just out of school or college is considering psychology and sociology. How do you think the course at RGU can help them?

With the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course offered at RGU has aspects of psychology and sociology. Students can explore both subjects in their first 2 years of the the course. In addition to this, we also offer a wide range of social sciences subjects that include philosophy, anthropology, politics and more.

In terms of the course, what we often find is that people are keen on either one of these subjects. Sometimes, people complete the whole course and then go on to doing something that they are interested in. Others have come in interested in psychology, but have slowly moved to sociology and vice versa. So the course is all about helping people learn the foundation, move on to specialisations and equip them with people skills.

After Year 2 you will have the option to specialise in Psychology or Sociology, or you can continue studying a mixture of both through the Applied Social Sciences route.

If someone is considering these subjects, what sort of background would they need?

The only requirements that we are looking for are quite simple. We are looking for students to have done some form of writing. This could be English or any other subject where they have demonstrated essay writing skills and have shown that they can communicate information effectively.

Sarah Henderson, the Course Leader and Admissions Tutor of the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course at RGU

Many of our applicants have done psychology or sociology at their A levels or Higher levels, but that is not a compulsory requirement for the course. It is not necessary to have a science or math background either. The course is structured in such a way that we have assumed that students are new to these subjects. So we start with introductory classes in all modules.

How is the BA (Hons) Applied Social Science course structured?

In the first and second year, students will have the opportunity to explore introductory social science theories and applications including elements of psychology, sociology, research methods and politics. In the third and fourth year, students will be given the option to specilaise in one of two new routes available. Students can choose to go down the path of Psychology or Sociology and your learning will be directed towards that topic. These years will allow you to tailor your degree by choosing to study specialist modules of interest. There will be one core module that must be taken, and the other seven modules can be chosen from a range of psychology, sociology or politics modules.

Although the degree achieved will be BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences, every student will have taken a different pathway. They can demonstrate this knowledge in interviews or future career options.

Sarah Henderson, the Course Leader and Admissions Tutor of the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course at RGU

Within the course as a whole, several pathways can be taken. Health, psychology, sociology and so on. For instance, let’s say that a student is interested in criminology. In the first two years, they will cover aspects of why crime happens, what are the typical behaviours and why it develops. And in the next couple of years, they have the option to study that in detail.

Why is the combination of psychology and sociology so powerful?

Students get the best of both worlds through this course. It will help give them the overall picture rather than focusing on one particular aspect.

Sarah Henderson, the Course Leader and Admissions Tutor of the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course at RGU

The course looks at topics and issues that play a key role or have an impact in today’s world. Things like prejudice, poverty, class and society. It helps the students learn to look from two perspectives: individual’s responses to society and society’s perspective influencing individuals.

What are the career options like for graduates of this course?

Through the course of this degree, students will obtain all sorts of transferable and employability skills.

They will gain skills in time management, problem-solving writing, communication, autonomy and how to be disciplined and motivated.

Sarah Henderson, the Course Leader and Admissions Tutor of the BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences course at RGU

Since this course gives students an in-depth understanding of people and how they interact with the world, there is a wide range of jobs available to them. In the past, we have had students that have gone into journalism, human resources, the police, politics and criminal justice. Many of our students have also moved on to do a Master’s or PhD.

What is a piece of advice that you would give to students considering this course?

If you are someone that is curious and has an interest in people and the world, then this course is for you. It will give you a starting point – a foundation and let you expand your interests and specialisations.

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