Degree Programs That Could Help You Make Social Change

The Best Online Degrees for People Who Are Passionate About Social Change

  1. Degrees in Political Science and Public Administration

One thing is for sure: Next to nothing in our society remains untouched by political science and public administration. People who represent communities, states, and the nation help make policies that impact everything from schools, to health insurance, to animal shelters, to parks and recreation.

Plus, government-supported groups and local and state-wide legal systems help keep people safe and respond to issues such as racism and poverty. When political and legal systems fail to help people, professionals who are knowledgeable in political science and public administration help effect change.

What happens within the political sphere deeply affects people and their community’s quality of life. To become someone who works in important political areas, you might study:

  • The science of politics
  • Politics and public policy
  • Social justice
  • Comparative politics
  • The global economy
  • Democracy
  • International security
  • Globalization
  • Public administration
  • Political science
  • Politics in the U.S. and beyond

 By earning a degree in this area, you could help enact change that improves the lives of others. 

  1. Degrees in Psychology and Counseling

A lot of people in our world go through periods of suffering. Whether they have faced loss, experienced traumas, been dealt a rough hand, or simply need help making important decisions, psychologists and counselors help guide and support them.

Psychologists and counselors also work to address psychological and social issues that stem from homelessness, alcoholism and drug use, food addiction, divorce, grief, and other challenging experiences. When societies have a larger population of healthy, happy people, they’re more likely to thrive.

To become someone who helps others, you might study:

  • Human development throughout the lifespan
  • Counseling theory and technique
  • Group therapy
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Family and couples counseling
  • Cultural differences in counseling
  • Ethical and legal issues in counseling psychology
  • Diagnosis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Nonprofit management

By earning a degree in psychology or counseling, you could cause social change by helping people lead healthy, happy lives.

  1. Degrees in Sociology

Sociologists study human beings and how society influences and affects them. They look at issues in society, such as those connected to gender, race, and class, and they explore ways to address historical and contemporary challenges.

They might also work to analyze and, in some cases, protect culture and determine its influence on areas such as political science and society.

To become a sociologist, you might take courses in subjects such as:

  • Sociology theory
  • Sociology of education
  • Population trends
  • Crime and justice
  • Environmental sociology
  • Race, class, and gender
  • Rural sociology
  • Urban sociology
  • Social change theory
  • Social issues in America

By earning a degree in sociology, you could learn how to identify what shapes society and impacts people’s lives. You could then propose solutions to address issues and challenges or to protect groups of people or cultures.

  1. Degrees in History

By studying history, people discover what social, cultural, and political influences shaped society and led to contemporary issues over time. Knowing important data and how events shaped society can help people understand how to cause change. Historians might work hand in hand with psychologists, sociologists, political scientists and other professionals working directly with people to improve lives of people and in communities.

To become a historian, you might concentrate your studies in areas such as:

  • American studies (typically either up to the Civil War or from the Civil War to today)
  • African and African diaspora studies
  • Middle Eastern studies
  • Russian and Eurasian studies
  • Ancient and medieval studies

Within your concentration, you might study areas such as:  

  • Race and diaspora
  • Conflict and genocide
  • Environmental history
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Science and society
  • Social inequality and activism
  • History of social revolution

Knowing how communities, states, and countries were shaped over time can help you identify the best ways to cause social change.  

  1. Degrees in Education

People in the field of education gain a unique opportunity to affect young minds and deliver curricula that influences a positive effect on society.

Educators have opportunities to treat students well, encouraging in them a sense of confidence and responsibility, whether working in the classroom as teachers, in a leadership position such as principal or provost, or in an administrative office as a curriculum specialist. They also have an opportunity to help students learn what they need to become responsible adults who are also dedicated to creating healthy, thriving societies and address inequality and social change.

To become an educator, you may study:

  • Early childhood education
  • K-12 education
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Educational leadership
  • Community literacy
  • ESL

Within those areas you will likely learn how to design curricula, work with a diverse student body, respond to issues in the classroom, and meet education requirements for your state.

By becoming educators, professionals can cause social change both directly by interacting with students and systems of education and indirectly by influencing others to do good.

  1. Other Degrees That Impact Society

Other disciplines, especially those in areas of the liberal arts and humanities, criminal justice, public affairs and social sciences all offer options for influencing and impacting society in some way, and often in a way that makes a significant difference.

Also, degrees in business, healthcare, and information technology may provide paths to social change. Entrepreneurs and business leaders can always shift how business is done, opting to act in more ethical, community-friendly ways. Healthcare professionals, especially those in leadership roles, can help expand people’s rights to healthcare and provide healthcare to people in underserved areas. And IT professionals, depending on their skillset, can lend their ideas and skills to people and organizations devoted to social change.

How to Choose a Degree Program for Social Change That’s Perfect for You

When considering what degree to pursue to enact social change, ask yourself this: What is my passion?

  • Are you passionate about gender issues? Issues of race and class? If so, consider earning a degree in sociology.
  • Do laws and policies excite you and are you interested in working with communities to make sweeping changes across communities, states, or nations? If so, consider earning a degree in political science or public administration.
  • Are you curious about why things are the way they are and what actions might most effectively address historically stuck issues and contemporary problems? If so, consider pursuing a degree in history or sociology.
  • Do young minds and the power of youth inspire you? Why not become a teacher?
  • Do you believe that healthy minds and hearts lead to healthy communities? Do you care deeply about people’s mental health? If so, study to pursue a career as a counselor or in psychology.

Also consider where you want to work and with whom. Professionals in these areas might work in universities as college professors, research institutes as researchers, community facilities as activists or public servants, teachers in the classroom, or a number of other settings.

Schools With Online Degrees Online Schools with Potential Online Degrees for Social Change

The following colleges and universities may have online degrees for students interested in studying social justice issues, current social issues, social evolution, and how to make social impact.  

  1. Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University (NAU) is nestled in the mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona. Founded in 1899, NAU has offered programs to meet student needs and interests for more than a century. They offer many online options for students interested in social change.

Online degrees for social change:  Interdisciplinary Studies in Public Administration, Applied Science in Early Childhood, Comparative Cultural Studies, Public Health, Sociology, and more

  1. Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University (CTU) serves traditional and nontraditional students interested in building their careers.  CTU offers flexible online programs and prides itself on serving a diverse student population. CTU is a great choice for students seeking a degree that may lead to a career of making social change

Online degrees for social change: Business Leadership, Health Care Management, Information Technology, Psychology, Project Management, Nursing, and more

  1. University of the Rockies

University of the Rockies is a small school with big heart. It emphasizes three things: leadership, purpose, and expertise, with the hopes that its graduates will become thoughtful, responsible leaders committed to the greater good.

Online degrees for social change: Addictions counseling, Education, Nonprofit Management, Psychology and Justice Studies, Mediation and Conflict Resolution, and others

  1. Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University is based in Manchester, New Hampshire. It is a private, nonprofit, accredited school that has served students since in 1932. Their online programs provide an array of choices for students interested in pursuing degrees in the field of social change.

Online degrees for social change: Anthropology, Human Services, Liberal Arts, Psychology, Public Relations, Sociology, and others

  1. UMass Online

UMass Online is part of a public research institution that is the third largest in Massachusetts (just after MIT and Harvard). UMass proudly serves local communities and has been given the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification.

Online degrees for social change: Curriculum and Instruction, Critical and Creative Thinking, History, School Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, and others &

  1. Northcentral University

Northcentral University is an online university that caters primarily to working professionals. As such, it allows for a great deal of flexibility for its students. It also pairs a doctoral faculty member with a student in each course through its “One-to-One Teaching Model.” This helps students carve out a more customized education specific to their needs.

Online degrees for social change: Criminal Justice, Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychology, Health Psychology, LGBTQ Couple and Family Therapy, English as a Second Language, and others.

  1. Liberty University

Liberty University is a private non-profit Christian university that offers 100 percent online programs. It believes that teaching and learning involves the whole person and that individuals can change freely by developing knowledge, values, and skills while in service to God.

Online degrees for social change: Biblical and Educational Studies, History, Christian Counseling, Human Services Counseling: Crisis Response and Trauma, Public Policy in International Affairs, Christian Ministry: Global Studies, and others.

  1. Ashford University

Ashford University is private, for-profit institution that offers online degrees at all levels. It provides students with top-notch technology and tools for success, such as digital access to libraries, librarians, writing assistants, faculty, and classmates.

Online degrees for social change: Complementary and Alternative Health, Cultural Anthropology, Education Studies, Gerontology, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, International Business, Political Science and Government, Social Science, and others.

What Is Social Change?

Social change is basically any changes that are made in social institutions, behaviors, relations, and structures by people who are committed to societal change. When people say that they want to effect social change, they mean that they want to shift something in society to make it better. How people cause social change varies greatly. Some people do it by providing therapy to individuals to change behaviors; some do it by creating policies to shift laws and policies; some do it best by writing new curricula to shift schools—or institutions—for the better; and still others do it in countless other ways.

By earning an online social justice degree or a degree in a related area, you can turn your passion for social change into a top field of study and potential career. Curricula in disciplines such as political science, psychology, sociology, history, and education help students understand the social, economic, and political issues that shape our society. Students can also learn how certain policies and actions improve people’s lives, whether at the individual, familial, community level or human rights or beyond. Here are some ideas for specific degrees you can earn to learn how to effect social change.

Find Your Perfect Program and Make Social Change!

There are many ways to shift institutions, behaviors, relations, and structures in society. By earning a degree in history, education, psychology, political science, sociology, or other areas of the humanities, liberal arts, and political science, students learn how to address social problems, respond to controversial issues, and make societal progress.

You could be someone who improves people’s lives. Visit some of the college websites listed above to find your perfect program.

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