How are Psychology and Sociology Different?

Psychology and sociology are similar social science disciplines which focus on people and behavior. Both disciplines aim to understand relationships, motivations and emotions more thoroughly. However, there are significant differences between the two specializations. It’s important to understand these differences if you are considering one of these social sciences as a college major or field of study so that you can ensure you are on the right path toward reaching your intended career goals.


Psychology focuses on the study of individuals or small groups of people. Psychology professionals study and research individual concepts of human behavior such as motivators, creativity, memory, grief, intelligence, aging and anger. They also look at individuals impacts of mental illness, human behavior, emotions and stress, among other aspects of being, in order to reach conclusions about society as a whole.

Psychology professionals use their theory base to examine, assess, and make recommendations based on information gleaned from individual reports. While they often work as therapists in private practice, school counselors or researchers, there are many areas in which psychology professionals can specialize their work.


Sociology focuses on entire societies or cultural groups as a whole in order to determine patterns in relationships, norms or behaviors. Social aspects of race, gender, class and religion are also observed. Sociologists often study segments of a population or issues that affect society as a whole. Such areas of study may include disenfranchised groups, social or economic inequality or the environment. Sociologists use observation to guide their research and to format questions in need of answering.

Sociologists, and those who study sociology, can work in any number of career positions. Sociology is often a good, broad base for advanced education in other areas such as business or journalism because an understanding of how society works is useful to success in other areas. Some examples of common jobs those with a sociology background pursue include corrections officer, public health supervisor, urban planner, census worker, human resources manager and affirmative action worker, among many others. Sociology is a very useful and versatile degree to pursue.


The main differences between the two areas of human study are the scope in which they approach research. Psychology focuses on individuals and small groups, while sociology looks at societies and cultures at large. Psychology seeks to understand the motivations behind individual behavior and emotions and to help people improve their situations through self-examination. Sociology, on the other hand, is interested in how societies interact in order to aid in creating policies and research to inform members of those larger groups.

While both study human behavior, you can now see that psychology and sociology are quite different. If you strive to work with people or small groups in order to address feelings and behavior, psychology is likely to be the better path for you. Sociology is likely the field you’ll want to pursue if you would like to make an impact on a societal level.