Program Overview:

Undergraduate Social Sciences Major

Social sciences majors examine humankind—its basic nature and evolution around the world and over time, its social structures and issues, and its politics and political institutions. Through interdisciplinary study that employs a full range of the research methods and comparative perspectives in the social sciences, students gain essential skills in critical reasoning and analysis, creative problem solving, writing, and social awareness.


In the social sciences major, students will explore related disciplines—anthropology, political science, psychology, and sociology—to develop analytical, interpretive, communication, and research skills that can be applied to complex problems and issues. In curriculum taught by Northwestern University faculty, social sciences disciplines are equally represented in the core courses, while research and methods courses foster engagement with key texts, scholarly sources, and the gathering and analysis of evidence. Advanced elective courses offer the opportunity to emphasize certain academic subjects and engage in exploring others including African American studies, economics, history, and international studies.

Career Options

Students who study the social sciences emerge with a robust foundation of analytical, research, writing, and argumentation skills, and the ability to apply problem solving and critical thinking to current and future performance in a variety of disciplines and professional settings. They study in professional school—including law, business, medicine, education, public policy—or pursue advanced studies in liberal arts and sciences, or build on their rigorous training in research and analysis to advance in careers in technology, research, analytics, health care, education, the nonprofit sector, public administration and service, management, consulting, planning, and human resources.

Program Goals

Graduates will be prepared to:

  • Explain how human identity is linked to social constructs of gender, race, class and culture
  • Apply the insights of various social science disciplines to analyze behavior and beliefs, both of individuals and groups
  • Analyze how various disciplines in the social sciences approach social problems and explain the diverse configurations of human society
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyze problems and illuminate issues
  • Use argument and evidence effectively to communicate
  • Apply critical and creative thinking, information literacy, and interdisciplinary perspectives to analyze and evaluate proposed solutions for practical problems in the social sciences

Program Requirements

Students are required to complete 45 units. The degree program includes major requirements, distribution requirements, and electives.


Choose from two degree programs for this major:

Bachelor of Philosophy – 45 units

  • The bachelor of philosophy (BPhil) is conferred by the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. To earn the BPhil degree, students must complete a total of 45 units (courses), including a writing requirement, two years of study in a foreign language (or demonstration of equivalent foreign language proficiency), distribution requirements, a major and electives. Foreign language proficiency may be demonstrated by completion of a second-year language sequence with a grade of C or better at an accredited college or university. Minors are optional.

Bachelor of Science in General Studies – 45 units

  • The bachelor of science in general studies (BSGS) is conferred by the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. For the BSGS degree, students must complete 45 units, including a writing requirement, distribution requirements, a major and electives. Minors are optional.

Social Sciences Major Requirements

4 core courses

  • Anthropology – one of the following: ANTHRO 211 Culture and Society; ANTHRO 213 Human Origins; ANTHRO 214 Archaeology: Unearthing History; ANTHRO 215 The Study of Culture through Language
  • Political Science – one of the following: POLI SCI 201 Introduction to Political Theory; POLI SCI 220 American Government and Politics; POLI SCI 221 Urban Politics; POLI SCI 230 Introduction to Law in the Political Arena; POLI SCI 240 Introduction to International Relations; POLI SCI 250 Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • Psychology – PSYCH 110 Introduction to Psychology
  • Sociology – one 100- or 200-level Sociology course (excluding SOCIOL 226)

3 research/methods courses

  • STAT 202 Introduction to Statistics or PSYCH 201 Statistical Methods in Psychology
  • ANTHRO 389 Ethnographic Methods and Analysis or POLI SCI 210 Introduction to Empirical Methods in Political Science or SOCIOL 226 Sociological Analysis
  • Research seminar – one of the following: ANTHRO 398 Capstone Seminar; POLI SCI 395 Political Research Seminar; SOCIOL 329 Field Research and Methods; SOCIOL 398 Senior Research Seminar

5 electives

  • five 300-level courses in anthropology, political science, psychology or sociology. Courses must be selected from at least two subjects. Up to two 200-level courses may be included with academic adviser approval. An additional research seminar may be counted as an elective. 

View Courses

Distribution Requirements

English - 2 units

  • ENGLISH 111 or 205
  • ENGLISH 113

Humanities – 4 units

  • 4 courses from the following areas: art history, classics, comparative literary studies, English literature, foreign languages (up to two units), history, music history, philosophy, religion, and some courses in African American studies, foreign languages with literature, gender studies, performance studies, radio/television/film, Slavic languages and literature, and theatre.

Social Sciences – 4 units

  • 4 courses from the following areas: anthropology, economics, history, linguistics, political science, sociology, and some courses in African American studies, gender studies, psychology and statistics.

Science – 4 units

  • 4 courses from the following areas: astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, earth and planetary sciences, engineering, geography, information systems, mathematics, physics and some courses in anthropology, psychology, radio/television/film and statistics

Modern Foreign Language (BPhil degree only) – 6 units


Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil)

  • Up to 15, depending on transfer credits

Bachelor of General Studies (BSGS)

  • Up to 21, depending on transfer credits