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Sociology vs Psychology


tgf123

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I have been fixed on Psych for a long time, but have recently decided to explore Sociology. My main problem with Psych is that as it studies such narrow processes, it may be hard to get a holistic view of the human person. I am also very interested in society and culture, in relation to the individual. I'm still an undergrad though, and I still have a lot of time to think it over, and will read a lot more about both areas, and try to find research opportunities in both.

More concretely, and prematurely I must admit, I was wondering how the graduate school situation compares between the two disciplines. Is there a lot of overlap in sociology and social psych in academia? What about from the admissions standpoint? Which is more competitive?

Thanks! :)

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I have been fixed on Psych for a long time, but have recently decided to explore Sociology. My main problem with Psych is that as it studies such narrow processes, it may be hard to get a holistic view of the human person. I am also very interested in society and culture, in relation to the individual. I'm still an undergrad though, and I still have a lot of time to think it over, and will read a lot more about both areas, and try to find research opportunities in both.

More concretely, and prematurely I must admit, I was wondering how the graduate school situation compares between the two disciplines. Is there a lot of overlap in sociology and social psych in academia? What about from the admissions standpoint? Which is more competitive?

Thanks! :)

I don't know a whole lot about the admission process in Psychology, but I'm guessing it is just as competitive as Sociology... i mean, graduate school admissions is a competitive process regardless of the discipline, especially if you want to go to a good program.

in terms of academia, I think the discipline you pick is going to give you very different career paths. The only places where I know of that sociologists and psychologies work together in the same department are in departments that are neither sociology or psychology (education, human development, organizations). I don't know of any sociologist working in a psychology department or vice versa. Both sociologists and psychologist will be able to find jobs in departments other than their own.

For now, I can recommend the following:

1. take classes that might overlap. As an undergrad I had a class called "Individuals and Society" in the soc department and it was pretty much Social Psych from a sociological point of view. I also took Social Psych in the Psych department and that was very different, even thought we studies very similar things.

2. talk to your professors, even if you don't take classes with them. If you are in a school with a graduate program, talk to grad students.

3. Spend some time at the library reading journal articles from both disciplines. You don't need to read everything on both sides... but picking up a copy of Social Psychology Quarterly, AJS and ASR (all sociology journals) and reading a couple articles, and then reading abstracts and the methodology sections will give you an idea of what sociologists do. Then do the same with psychology journals.

4. Journals are a better indicator of what a discipline is and does than textbooks. So really, you should do #3.

5. think about what you want to do. think about how you want to do it. and think about where you would want to do it.

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If you are coming from Psychology into Sociology, strong quantitative skills may help your application stand out. If you do choose Sociology, you can take part of what you wrote in this forum as a very early beginning for your statement of purpose. =)

Edited by suerte
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I went from psychology (BA and MS) to a sociology PhD program. I had previously taken one intro to sociology class but I took a lot of cultural psych and communication classes that encompassed aspects of many disciplines (comm/psych/soc). My MS is in I/O psych -- it was a very very applied/practical program so my biggest adjustment has been transitioning to a program that is very theory focused (not that the other program didn't include theory, but the soc program I'm in is very theory intensive).

One thing I've found -- there's social psychology in both psychology and sociology. I'm not a social psych person but from what I've heard the two sides don't get along too well. I'm not sure if that's just what people in my department have experienced or if it's actually true more generally, but something to think about.

You've gotten a lot of good advice. As they've mentioned, I'd read journals for sure. If you have a general idea of the topics you might want to study, seek out professors in psych and soc and talk to them about how you'd go about studying those topics from the perspective of psych or soc. Also, many grad students have online profiles on schools' websites -- you could try reaching out to students working in areas you think look interesting as well.

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I did my undergrad work in both Sociology and Psychology but was mainly focused on Psychology. I worked in a lab, did tons of research, was a TA for a psych methods course, etc. I realized that I wanted to be working on larger social issues and understanding the role of the social structure in the processes that I was studying.

I'm currently in a Soc PhD program and the transition was difficult. I'll echo what others have said here, the biggest difference is the highly theoretical nature of soc as compared to psych. Yes, there is theory in psych, but sociology is based around grand themes and theories (a la Marx, Weber, Durkheim). The style of writing is very different (the criticisms that I received for my first paper were that I didn't use enough quotes and that my writing was too succinct!).

Reading journals in Soc and in Psych will give you a sense of what kind of work is done in these fields. Think about the kind of work that you want to do and see where it would best fit.

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