students in Leadership Ethics & Society: Addressing Contemporary Challenges working through a puzzle on the Quad

Sociology vs. Psychology & More: What’s Best for You?

You want a career that helps other people, and one of the best ways to get started on that path is to really understand the people who you’re going to be helping. So far, so good. But with so many people-focused majors available out there, which one should you choose? Will studying psychology give you the advantage in interpersonal relationships, or would you be better off in a department like human development and family studies? Does a sociologist do social work? Settle in for a read; we’re about to tell you!

undergraduate participating in brain imaging research


If you’re interested in how the brain works, whether that brain belongs to a human or an animal, you might be a budding psychologist. In this major, you’ll learn the biology of the brain as well as what makes people afraid of clowns (and the effect that might have on the human condition). From the actions of single brain cells to human interactions within large communities, psychology is a broad field that will help you understand what makes individuals tick. As you can imagine, that skill is in demand in all kinds of different fields.

Majoring in psychology can lead to a career in …

  • Academia
  • Business
  • Counseling
  • Law
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social services
  • And more!

Psychology at UIUC

If you’re interested in studying psychology at UIUC through our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, you have plenty of concentrations to choose from! Your many options are:

  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Clinical/community psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Developmental psychology
  • Diversity science
  • Intradisciplinary psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Personality psychology
  • Social psychology

father and daughter together during a tailgate on Homecoming's gameday

Human Development & Family Studies 

Like psychology, human development and family studies (HDFS) also focuses on how people think and act, but from a family, community, and developmental perspective. If you’re particularly interested in how children and adolescents navigate the world or how family units function and change within society, you’ll fit right in here. You’ll learn about how biology and human health impact communities, and you’ll have access to cutting-edge research on marriage, divorce, diverse families, and community resilience. You’ll have the potential to improve society from all kinds of different angles! 

Majoring in HDFS can lead to a career in …

  • Child, family, and community services
  • Clinical psychology
  • Counseling
  • Research
  • Pediatrics
  • Public health
  • And more!


If you choose to study HDFS through the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at UIUC, you can pick from two dynamic concentrations:

  • Child and adolescent development
  • Family studies

student posing in the School of Social Work

Social Work

Social work empowers students to tackle societal issues and improve the lives of people in their communities. Social work does not focus as much on how the brain works as some of the majors on this list; instead, it focuses on how to best interact with and assist people living with disabilities, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic or sexual violence, and more. If you want hands-on experience helping those around you manage difficult situations, social work just might be your calling.

Majoring in social work can lead to a career in …

  • Child welfare
  • Corrections
  • Government
  • Nonprofit work
  • Rehabilitation
  • Therapy
  • And more!

Social Work at UIUC

Our social work major does not have specific concentrations, but it does offer a two-year program called Social Work iBSW for transfer students. It’s a major as well as its own college here on campus. Just look for the School of Social Work!

blur of students walking on the Quad between classes


Where psychology is the study of individual minds, sociology is the study of entire societies. How do certain societies develop their values? What traits do healthy, positive societies share? You’ll learn the answers to broad questions like these and also have the opportunity to put your practical knowledge to use in the communities around you. Whether you’re interested in research, hands-on work, or an overlap of the two, you’ll have the opportunity to develop the skills you need to improve your community through a sociology major.  

Majoring in sociology can lead to a career in …

  • Academia
  • Human resources
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Nonprofit work
  • Social work
  • And more!

Sociology at UIUC

Sociology is offered through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences here on campus. While the sociology major does not have specific concentrations, the sociology department does offer a minor in criminology, law, and society

In conclusion…

Now that you’ve learned a little more about these majors, have you decided whether you’re more of a psychologist or a sociologist? A little of both? Something else altogether? If you’re still not sure, no worries. No matter which major you choose, you’ll be well-equipped to make a difference in your community and in your career.

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