In this era of increasing globalization, not to mention incursion into other cultures for the purposes of selling goods, taking natural resources, or conducting war, it is becoming clear that over specialization in education is no longer the way to go.
Whether expanding a very focused field of study, as with the so called “hard” sciences, or whether focusing on social science for a degree, it is becoming important to broaden the education.
The social sciences allow for a very broad education. While studying the millions of facts about human behavior and endeavors, the social scientist can incorporate coursework, theories and principles from many fields of study, including math, the biological, natural and technological sciences, history, and much more.
There are new “hybrid” degrees like ethno-botany and ethno-economics, where a need for better understanding of people and their cultures became quite clear. These hybrid degree programs have incorporated anthropology, sociology and other social science coursework into the degree programs.
As an example, bio prospecting for medicinal plants and substances looked like a sure bet at first. But actually synthesizing the substances into working medicines required more than a lab and a chemical degree. Respect for indigenous, or oral knowledge is now taking on importance for understanding how people have compounded their medicines and used their natural resources. The host nations are demanding compensation for intellectual and physical property. Complex trade issues are involved.
Global trade and combined economic systems that must operate in a symbiotic relationship have proved to be challenging when various social, ethnic, national and interpersonal conflicts and differences must be considered. The effect on citizens who reap little or none of the rewards for the oil, strategic minerals and other resources of their lands must be considered. The environment is important. Even the different uses of language must be considered when crafting documents, contracts or instruction manuals in many languages.
This is where linguistics, law, political science, individual and group psychology and the ways in which people make economic decisions come into the picture. In some cases, a new social movement or new human paradigm may have no precedent, and can only be studied by someone who has the training, techniques and skills of an anthropologist.
The world never was amenable to a formula that could predict purchasing habits, whether nations would adopt western medicine, what potential profits will be, or how the markets or sources of raw materials will operate. The world was always about the complex, ever changing and thrilling world of human beings and how they work with nature and with each other. This kind of work calls for historians, psycho-historians, political scientists, ethno-biologists, sociologists and many more.
A degree in social science is portable and useful. Even if a person with a social sciences degree never works in their field, the principles and knowledge, not to mention the academic discipline, can be put to use in many fields and in many situations.
A degree in social science is not easy to earn. There is a need to know statistics, computer technology, field work, experimental design and the very, very complicated existing theories, principles and understandings of human history and nature.
A social scientist has a wide variety of opportunities. One can spend a lifetime as an academic, studying and teaching just one aspect of human life, society, culture, history, belief, nature and more. A social scientist can become a military scientist, a charismatic leader, an artist, a great comedian, a writer, a successful entrepreneur, and much more.
In the end, with a broad education and a wide array of real world and real life applications for the social sciences, a social science degree can pay off in many ways.