Postgraduate Programs in Social Sciences

Find postgraduate programs in the SOCIAL SCIENCES

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The social sciences are a vital part of today's culture and touch on all areas of life, and Europe has a long history with them. Today two out of the top five universities in the world for the social sciences are European. Many European universities specialise in the social sciences – as seen through places like the London School of Economics and Political Science or the Sciences Po, Paris. Even those that don't specialise in social sciences, however, excel at them, including places like the University of Amsterdam, founded in the 1600s, or the University of Copenhagen, the oldest university in Denmark.

Europe has long led the progress of these sciences, seen through Germany bringing out the emergence of experimental psychology, or the Swiss' influence on structural linguistics. This history of innovative thought makes Europe the perfect place for studying these subjects today.

Social Sciences: A Definition

What exactly are the social sciences? A good definition is given by the European Science foundation – the social sciences are those subjects which examine and explain human beings. This includes a variety of ways – from understanding how minds work, to how societies as a whole function. The major social sciences are Anthropology, Archaeology, Economics, Geography, History, Law, Linguistics, Politics, Psychology and Sociology.

Why Study a Social Science?

So why study a social science at the postgraduate level? For some, it's a chance to continue with the subject they loved as an undergraduate.

Rachel, a current masters student, explains,  “I absolutely loved writing my undergrad dissertation, and wanted the chance to do more work like that...I wanted to do a masters because I didn't want to give up on my subject just yet.”

For others, it's the edge it'll give them in their planned career. In particular, subjects like Law or Economics are well suited to particular career goals. Even with subjects that are more open, the amount of commitment and work expected during a postgraduate course shows a lot about your abilities, and it is something employers will take notice of. You'll also learn many transferable skills, such as how to previously learnt information to new situations, and how to engage with new concepts quickly.

Alice, a current anthropology student, has found her degree already leading her into work -  “...working on a temporary exhibition and a community-based museum project. “

Specific Social Sciences

Now let's look specifically at the subjects known as the social sciences:

Anthropology

Known as the 'science of humanity', anthropology covers a broad range of topics – from human behaviour, to cultural relations, and how the evolution of humanity has influenced society's structure. It's often described as being both scientific and humanistic, meaning it's well-suited for anyone looking to indulge passions for both of these kinds of subject – and, whilst focusing on history to an extent, there's plenty of chance to apply it in modern contexts too!

Archaeology

Whilst many people think of archaeologists as being like Indiana Jones, the truth is very different – though no less interesting. Similar to anthropology in that it is the study of humanity, it relies much more on the material evidence left behind by cultures. There is excavation work, analysis and surveying to be done. Europe's rich history – with the Roman Empire, the Vikings, and much more – means it is a perfect place to study this.

Economics

Economics looks at the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. You can choose to take a close view or a broad one, but in general, it comes down to looking at how the economic systems of the world work. This knowledge can be applied both theoretically and practically, meaning the subject is well suited for anyone interested in the current economic world.

Geography

Though many of us may remember geography as the subject at school that involved maps, it goes beyond that – analysing population, the land itself, the relationship between the two and often linking to the earth sciences (such as geology). At postgraduate level, you'll be able to specialise in a particular branch – such as oceanology, environmental management or tourism geography.

History

History is a broad subject, encompassing large areas and time periods of the worlds. Whilst postgraduate level study gives you a chance to specialise, you'll still be using similar skills – interpreting sources, looking at current theories of the past, and assessing ideas against the available evidence. With Europe's long, well-documented history, there's the chance to get to look at the places you're studying first hand.

Law

Studying Law will give you the opportunity to look at a variety of legal systems, and to focus on a particular area – contract law, international law or criminal law, to name but a few. Doing further study in law is especially useful if intending to go into it as a career, although it is possible to study it solely for academic reasons.

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Linguistics

Linguistics is the study of language – looking at its form, context, or meaning. Rather than learning to speak a particular language, it's more about how language itself works. Within linguistics, there is a broad range of study, from looking at grammar, to language acquisition or the evolution of language. With the EU having 23 official languages, and Europe itself having more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages, what better place to study linguistics?

Political Science

Politics affect every part of life, so it's no wonder it makes such a fascinating area of study. Often broken up into Political Philosophy, Comparative Politics and International Relations, this subject allows for studying both historical and current events. Again, this is a degree perfect for both those aiming for a career in the area, or looking at it academically, and with the EU containing so many differing systems, it's a fantastic place to study it.

Psychology

Both theoretical and experimental, psychology makes use of studying both social behaviour and neurobiological processes. With such a broad area of study – the human mind – you'll specialise in particular areas, perhaps child development, interpersonal relationships or social psychology. Europe has a long history with psychology, thanks to Germany's involvement in its development, so in studying here you'll be joining a long line of innovative scholars.

Sociology

Sociology is the study of society, both on the individual and structural level. Covering topics such as class, religion and social mobility, there's a broad range to choose to specialise in. Some sociologists work solely for theoretical purposes, whilst others intend to use their findings in policies or welfare. In such a multicultural continent as Europe, with its large variety of societies, you'll find plenty to study, and with the amount of changes that have taken place in the past century, there'll definitely be an area to interest you.

In Summary...

Of course, these subjects aren’t the only areas you can study that come underneath the Social Science umbrella. Each university will have a variety of different courses included in their social sciences department - for some, you’ll also see international relations, accounting or media studies. These, and more, are among the social science subjects offered by many European universities today.

What's Involved In a Postgraduate Degree in Social Sciences?

Now that we’ve looked the social sciences in the abstract, let us turn to more concrete things – namely, just what a postgrad degree involves.

Firstly, what types of postgraduate degrees there are? There are masters degrees, both taught and research. A taught masters is like an undergraduate course with exams, regular classes, lectures and so on. They also include a dissertation, though sometimes you can skip this and get a  Postgraduate Diploma  instead. A masters by research is far more like a dissertation overall – focused around producing a thesis with the help of a supervisor. These are generally around a year or two full time, longer part time.

The next level is a PhD. For a PhD, you research a topic under an academic supervisor with the intent to produce a thesis of around 100,000 words. These generally take three to four years full time, or up to six years part time.

How Will It Be Taught?

If you choose to do a taught masters, it will be similar to an undergraduate course but do not expect it to be exactly the same. There is far more reliance on independent study, and the freedom of topic choice can often seem overwhelming. That said, there are many positives when it comes to studying a masters programme.

Lorna, who is a student in Sweden, says,  “I've found for me that my motivation to participate in group discussion has skyrocketed since starting my postgrad course."

For a research degree, these points are even more important – you will be writing on a particular area of study, and, over the course of the degree, working with your supervisor to come up with something interesting and well-researched. A challenge, certainly, but a worthwhile one.

Dan, who recently completed his masters programme, states,  “It's sometimes intimidating to know you're now doing some of the research, not just as reading it, but it's rewarding when you make that link that hasn't been made by anyone else – knowing that what you're writing is your own, original work.”

Tuition Fees 

Next, the fees. As this article is attempting to cover most of Europe, the figures here will not be too explicit but they are intended to give you an idea of just what to expect.  In the UK, the average fee for postgraduate study is around £8,000 (€9,900). As for the rest of Europe, many countries do not charge  EU students at all – Finland, Greece and Norway are examples of this. Some charge per semester – for instance, German universities are around €500 a semester. Others have registration fees, rather than tuition fees. As you can see, the expenses are varied. Bear in mind, this is only the tuition fees – there are also living expenses to take into account. There is funding available, although it will require a lot of research to find. Some notable examples are scholarships given by individual universities, and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

Entry Requirements 

As with the tuition fees, entry requirements will vary from country to country and from university to university, but generally they require a 2.1 or equivalent, or some professional experience in the area. It’s best to look at each course individually to find out exactly what you need to get. As the courses are taught in English, you are also required to either have an IELTS scores of 6.5–7.0 or equivalent, or to have done your undergraduate degree in English.

Future Prospects

There is one last concrete thing to look at – what you can do after getting a postgraduate degree.

Catherine, who did an area studies postgraduate program, says,  “I knew that a number of options would open themselves up to me as a result of doing the masters, making new contacts and writing a dissertation.” 

If you find studying a postgraduate degree only makes you love your subject more, you may consider moving into academia – either with further study, teaching or research. Still, if you’d rather leave the academic life behind, you’ll find a postgraduate degree prepares you for anything involving some level of knowledge of society – governmental work, economics, or law. You could move into psychology, advertising or go into social work The skill sets gained during a postgraduate degree are broad enough that you could apply them to many fields, and be successful.

Jamie, another recent graduate, says,  “My degree didn't just teach me about my subject, but how to write clearly, think for myself, and analyse information – skills that have subsequently helped getting into my chosen career.”

With a postgraduate degree in the social sciences, the possibilities are endless.

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