Studying Social Science- the US or the UK?

Social science as a field of study has increased in popularity and uptake in recent years. Today’s students, and employers for that matter, are recognising more and more the transferability of skills a social science degree imparts. From social workers to accountants and government officials; social science graduates are certainly making their mark across a diverse range of careers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – a graduate who possesses the critical thinking, research and analytical skills that are developed when studying social science would surely be an asset to any workforce. In fact, according to the Higher Education Statistics Authority, social science graduates are not only more likely to find employment than their peers who studied arts or science, they are also more likely to obtain a managerial or senior role.

Excellent employment prospects aside, social science as a research topic is fascinating. The social science field encompasses a broad range of disciplines; all united by insights into the workings of human society. A student of social science could spend one day learning about the underlying psychology of how groups and individuals function, while the next day centres on how economic policies influence human spending. Many universities grant students the chance to specialise in a particular aspect of social science once they have discovered where their interest lies.

Social science courses are offered at undergraduate and postgraduate levels by universities and other higher education institutions worldwide. Today’s student-to-be has more options than ever at their fingertips. If anything, the choice is almost too broad- should you study at home, or consider global options? What are the differences between how countries teach social sciences, and is one more likely to lead to employment than another? How do the various academic institutions in particular countries differ in their teaching styles and course materials?

Deciding where to begin in your social science career is a mammoth task, and comparing all available courses is far too ambitious for a single article to cover. To whet your appetite and provide a starting point for your own research, let’s compare how social science degrees are delivered in two of the most popular destinations for social science students – the US and UK. For the purpose of this article, we will go into detail on the course material and structure of a select few universities. In general, UK-based courses would lean towards the study of politics and international studies, while US-based courses generally face more mathematics-based subjects – but there are a range of differences between individual course providers…


As part of a university ranked in the global top 100 for Social Science – the School of Politics and International Studies at Leeds offers the chance to explore the fields of politics, international relations, and international development from undergraduate, to masters and PhD level.

Here, courses are tailored to both your passions and aspirations, with specialist masters programmes that provide a breadth of optional modules for students to select, plus a wealth of undergraduate degrees that offer the chance to pursue modules from different academic fields, as well as exclusive semester abroad and political placement options.

Here, academic experts who lead the degrees are frequently involved in research that has an impact in the UK and across the globe, with academic study frequently complemented by a host of co-curricular activities that don’t just boost career prospects, but also enhance your overall student experience. Whether you choose to attend guest speaker events that include the Speaker from the House of Commons, get involved in volunteering or otherwise join numerous student-led societies like the Model United Nations Society, you are whole-heartedly encouraged to make the most of your time at Leeds.


Students who major in Government (Political Science) at Dartmouth will study four main subfields – American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory/Public Law. In addition, courses in Political Analysis are available. This course is suited to students with a special interest in the political side of social science.

With opportunities to participate in internship programmes in Washington DC, a course like this is truly invaluable to someone who intends to move into politics, political commentary or legislation – especially at such an exciting time in American politics. Students can also undertake internships in London, England. Alumni have moved into a diverse range of fields, including diplomacy, journalism and social development.

In Honors programme is available for those who wish to undertake an independent piece of research into a specialised topic of their choice. Research and commentary by faculty members has landed in publications like the New York Times and The National Interest.


John Hopkins offers both an undergraduate major in political science, and a postgraduate programme that leads towards a Doctorate.

Undergraduates at John Hopkins have the opportunity to spend a full semester in Washington DC, both attending lectures and interning in a government-based role under the Aitchison Public Service Fellowship programme. This is a unique chance for those with a strong interest in American politics. For those whose interests lie more in politics on an international scale, a double major programme is available in World Politics and Global Governance.

Doctoral graduates from John Hopkins have gone on to enjoy a variety of careers. Many moved into academia, and are employed in higher educational institutions across the US, including the University of Southern California and University of Colorado. Others moved into research and economics and currently hold senior roles in these fields.


This school consists of four separate departments – European and International Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Political Economy and the Russia Institute. The school regularly hosts open lectures and seminars about current political and economic issues – including citizen radicalization, plus the issue of sweatshops and unfair trade in the clothing industry. For those with a genuine passion about social issues, this is an exciting place to study.

Research by the Faculty at King’s College has been used to inform policy and thinking on a number of different social issues within the UK – from nuclear energy to vocational education. Students who undertake postgraduate research in this department therefore have the chance be at the cutting-edge of exciting and relevant discoveries across the field of social science.

Anyone who has ever questioned the relevance of social science need only glance at the broad opportunities for study and career growth in both the UK and US. This is certainly an exciting time to get into the field, whichever side of the pond you might prefer.


Northwestern urges students to use a number of methodologies to examine Political Science – including, but not limited to, examining statistics, conducting field research, and analysing texts. For postgraduates, students who intend to work towards a doctorate are embraced with open arms – so for any graduates hoping to pursue academia or research, Northwestern should be a strong contender.

Northwestern has been ranked seventh-best political science department in the US in terms of college major return on investment. For undergraduate students, classes are offered across four major subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations and Political Theories. Students can choose to concentrate the bulk of their elective classes in one subfield, or across all four – meaning the degree can be as specific or broad as you like, depending on your interests and ambitions.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

Liked this? Then you’ll love these…

Benefits of studying humanities and social sciences in the UK

7 reasons to study Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds