Social studies

There are a diverse ranges of subjects included within social studies, as it also includes economics and politics, alongside courses that lead to professional qualification in social work.

What is social science? An animated overview

Graduate destinations

159,670 students were studying this subject in 2014/15.

74.3% of graduates went directly into employment.

Top five graduate destinations:

  1. Public administration and defence
  2. Health and social work
  3. Education
  4. Wholesale and retail trade
  5. Professional, scientific, and technical


What courses are available?

Universities and colleges in the UK are offering courses in the following subject areas:

Subject combinations and available course options include:

  • single, joint, and multiple subject combinations
  • full-time, part-time, and flexible study options as well as courses with a placement (sandwich courses)
  • qualifications ranging from BA and BSc, (Hons) degrees, through to a small number of HND, HNC, and Foundation Certificates

There are many different subject combinations on offer – common joint courses include business, modern foreign languages, English, history, and law, to name a few.

Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three. 

The Economics Network

‘Some courses require A level maths, but most do not. Virtually all require GCSE maths at grade C or B. No courses require A level economics, although it may be an advantage.’

Entry requirements

A levels – To get on to a social studies related degree, you will usually require a minimum of two A levels, with three A levels and A/B grades required for the most popular courses. Entry requirements range from CCC to AAB, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for BBB. For most degrees there are no particular A levels required, (although some universities ask for an essay based subject) apart from:

Economics – Although economics A level is not required (it may be an advantage), some universities ask for maths A level.

Human geography – A level geography may be required or preferred by some universities.

Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBB to AAABB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for ABB.


Social work – Interviews form a key part of the selection process and applicants are also required to complete a written test. Relevant work experience is essential (up to six months part time experience is required by some courses) and universities will look for evidence that you are suited to social work including your:

  • interest and motivation to undertake the career
  • interpersonal and communication skills
  • ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds
  • resilience to deal with challenging and emotionally difficult cases

Royal Anthropological Institute

‘If the undergraduate programme includes courses in physical/biological anthropology or forensics, there may be an expectation that students have an A level in biology or a related subject.’

Personal statement

Competition for places can be high so personal statements form an essential part of the selection process. Admissions tutors want to see you have aptitude, interest, and motivation in you chosen subject. In general, this means they are looking for:

  • an explanation of what drives your interest in your chosen field
  • evidence that you have a real enthusiasm for the subject, which could be demonstrated by:
    • relevant work experience/shadowing or voluntary work
    • additional reading and research
    • membership of related societies/clubs
  • a range of interests outside of academic study – e.g. sport, music
  • a well written statement that shows you are a motivated individual who has something to contribute to the university
  • ability to work individually and in teams

We also have some specific personal statement advice for sociology, economics, and politics.

How to write your personal statement

British Association of Social Workers

‘People who want to undertake the social work degree need to show that they have an understanding of social work and will need some experience of social work or social care prior to studying. This experience can be achieved through paid work, voluntary work, work placements, or life experience.’


If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.

Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.

Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.

Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)

Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)

Discover more about apprenticeships in public health, social care or childcare services

Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.

Public health, social care or childcare services industry guide

Key areas of employment

Key areas of employment include:

  • local and central government policy development and research
  • health, social and education support services – including, social work, youth work, probation, careers advice and guidance, learning mentoring, and education administration
  • finance and commerce
  • voluntary and charitable organisations
  • media, journalism, and public relations


Related careers

Where can I find out more?

Visit the websites of the following professional bodies to find out more about courses and careers in social studies.

Studying Economics as an Undergraduate

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