Masters degrees in Social Sciences
A guide to postgraduate study in the social sciences. Includes masters in social work, education, librarianship & information management, sociology & anthropology.
Social Sciences are thus called because they use quantitative (i.e. scientific) as well as qualitative methods to study societies and the issues that affect them, not because physics, chemistry and biology are anti-social sciences, as you may have assumed. This discipline is a broad church that includes sociology, anthropology, social work, education, librarianship and information management, politics and international relations and social policy and administration. Anthropology is the study of human beings and social anthropology the study of modern human group behaviour; sociology is the study of human societies; social work is the professional practice of (usually) looking after vulnerable people in society; politics and international relations is the study of the development of political systems and how they interact and affect people around the globe; social policy are the laws and initiatives that government and public bodies make to cater for their people’s needs; librarianship and information management includes ordering, storing and retrieving data for libraries, public bodies and private companies and last but most certainly not least, education is where you can train to be a teacher in a British school or to teach English abroad.
Many of the Social Science postgraduate courses train you to work in the public sector, serving your community as a librarian, teacher, social worker, local government policy officer, politician and more. But if you want to follow a different career path there is also plenty of scope for that: the social sciences confer many transferable skills, and studying people and how they fit together in societies will give you a deeper understanding of the dynamics of all sorts of group situations, from workplaces to supranational statutory bodies. Concerned with the social function of humanity as it is, perhaps this discipline should be called the Sociable Sciences after all.
These are practical, vocational qualifications for existing practitioners and students looking to further their understanding and skills in caring professions, such as healthcare, social work, childcare, education and community social welfare. Most require not only a relevant first degree, but also practical experience working in the sector the course relates to. Many of the courses are part time so that they can be combined with work, and require students to apply what they are learning to their day-to-day professional experience.
Attainable qualifications include taught MAs, MScs, PGCerts and PGDips in such areas as Public Health, Early Years Education, Mental Health Care and Psychological Therapies, Refugee Studies and Social Work. There are also a few MRes and MPhil research-based degrees available evaluating social care theory and practice. Possible future careers include working as a public health practitioner or manager in the NHS or for the World Health Organisation, managing a voluntary or community organisation or working as a social worker.
This subject area is definitely where the money is. You’ll be studying it, you’ll be working with it and ultimately you’ll be earning loads of it. That’s why the number of debt-laden university graduates applying to work in the financial sector has been rising sharply of late. Of course you don’t have to opt for one of the hundreds of MAs in Accounting, Banking or Finance. Courses such as the MA in Development Economics or the MSc in Economics and Public Policy will educate you about micro-financing in developing countries or equip you with skills you can use for the public good as an economist for local or national government.
Several MBAs are available, or you could complete an MA, MSc, MRes and various postgraduate certificates and diplomas, either taught or by research. A first degree in mathematics, economics, management or business would probably be a good start but is often not a necessary requirement. Career paths from here include becoming an auditor, accountant, venture capitalist, civil servant working for HM Treasury, investment banker, stockbroker, economist and many other very well paid professions.
The most popular postgraduate qualification in education is of course the PGCE, which enables you to work as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) in British state schools. PGCE programmes are taught with regard to a specific subject (e.g. Maths, Geography) at secondary level, or to a specific age group (e.g. Early Years) at primary level. There are also hundreds of other postgraduate education qualifications and courses available, for the professional development of already qualified teachers, as well as short TESOL and TEFL courses for teaching English to those who do not speak it as their first language.
Taught and research-based courses lead to a welter of qualifications including the postgraduate certificates in education (PGCE), postgraduate diploma in education (PGDE), a masters in education (Med) as well as the usual MAs, MScs, MRes and MLitt. As well as having an undergraduate degree you will need to submit to a criminal record check if you want a place on a course that involves in-classroom training, as all PGCEs do. The obvious career path from here is to become a teacher (of children or adults). If your aim is not to become a teacher, there are plenty of sideways steps you can take, including working in the education departments of museums, art galleries, councils and NGOs.
Geography is a multi-faceted subject covering both the physical world and the cultures and civilisations of the people that live in it. This is reflected in the breadth of courses on offer, which range from Migration and Social Cohesion, Risk Analysis and Geopolitics, Territory and Security, through Environmental Management, Glaciology and Climate Change to Urban History, Landscape and Culture or a research degree in Geographies of Gender. You can even do an MA in Activism and Social Change.
Both research and taught masters are available as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas and a few MBAs. Some courses will require a geography-related or physical sciences degree, for others a social science degree will be more appropriate. The range of careers you can move into is as broad as the subject area. How about working for an international development NGO, a climate change scientist, an urban planner or a policy advisor in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Going way beyond putting books on shelves and telling people to be quiet all the time, librarianship and information management is actually an intellectually satisfying, vital and potentially lucrative area of study. The people who issue you books at your public or university library are merely the public face of the profession, librarians, archivists and information managers also play an essential role cataloguing, storing and retrieving information for use in local and national government and business. Knowledge is power, remember, and librarians hold the key to it.
As well as straightforward librarianship, archivism and information management qualifications, courses here include Digital Asset Management, Museum Studies and Publishing. Both research and taught masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. If you want to work as a librarian, you must make sure the course is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Potential career paths from here include working as a librarian in the civil service; working as an archivist or research assistant in Britain’s National Archives in London; or supplying the employees of a large company like Morgan Stanley with the research data they need to make megabucks.
If you are looking to develop a career in national or even global politics, these courses offer a chance to look in depth at the most pressing political issues facing the world today. The hundreds of masters on offer cover a very wide range of specialisms, for example: Intelligence and Security Studies; International Business; Global Health Policy; War Studies; Peace Studies; and Human Rights – to name but a very few. Others have a more philosophical examination of the history and evolution of political thought, for example MAs in Social and Political Thought or Political Philosophy.
Both research and taught masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. European and international career paths from here include international diplomacy, working for a supranational organisation like the United Nations, International Court of Justice, World Bank or World Health Organisation. If you want to stay in Britain you could work as a researcher for an MP, a lobbyist, civil servant or in the policy team of a development NGO like Oxfam. Or you could go for broke and aim for Prime Minister.
Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and how it controls behaviour. Psychiatry is the diagnosis and therapeutic treatment of mental and emotional disorders by medically qualified doctors. The hundreds of courses on offer here include qualifications in a wide range of psychotherapies from Dance, Art, Play, Music and Family therapy to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Many other courses are dedicated to subjects like Child Psychology, Neuroscience, Forensic Psychology, clinical Psychology and Cognitive Science.
Both research and taught masters are offered, as well as a number of postgraduate certificates and diplomas. As well as requiring a first degree in psychology or medicine, some courses also ask for professional experience and are aimed at practitioners already working in the field of mental health. Potential career paths from here include becoming an educational psychologist employed by a school or college; a clinical neuroscientist or perhaps a business psychologist. Rock bands like Metallica have even been known to hire therapists to help them get through dry creative spells, so who knows how strange and glamorous things could get?
If you are the sort of person who feels a vocation to help others, you will find much in this subject area that appeals to you. MAs in Public Administration are concerned with public services, public policy and the pressures on and performance of the public sector. Masters in Social Policy include a variety of courses examining the many different contexts of social policy, such as domestic health services, environmental concerns or Europe-wide legislation. Postgraduate Social work qualifications are aimed at people who want to become social workers or who are already and wish to specialise or sharpen their skills.
Both research and taught masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. Some courses are aimed at people already employed as Social Workers and require professional experience. Other courses will accept professional experience in lieu of a degree. Career paths from here might include any number of management posts in the public sector, a senior social worker, or working for a social welfare charity like The Children’s Society, Kids Company or The Prince’s Trust.
If you are fascinated by what makes people behave as they do, and how societies develop in such different ways, anthropology and sociology are the subjects for you. Anthropology is the study of human beings and how the human race has developed. Sociology is the study of human societies. Social Anthropology covers much of the same ground as sociology but uses different methodologies, and often focuses on in-depth studies of small groups rather than whole societies. Courses in this subject area cover a whole raft of fascinating topics, from Criminology to Community Development and Religion and Society to Biological Anthropology.
Both research and taught masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. A postgraduate qualification in sociology or anthropology might set you on the career path to all sorts of things, as so many of the skills you will acquire are transferable. Or it could provide the gateway to an academic career researching something really fascinating.