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Social sciences graduates are found in almost every occupational field and a wide variety of career and further study paths are open to them.

Skills you can develop

As well as the specific subject knowledge gained from studying for an OU degree, you'll develop many transferable and work-related skills that are highly valued by employers and which will increase your employability.

For Social Sciences students the particular employability skills you will develop include the ability to:

  • put together reasoned arguments and question assumptions
  • understand the processes of change in society and its institutions
  • draw together, analyse and critically evaluate information
  • communicate concisely, clearly and accurately with others
  • use ICT to research, identify and present information
  • manage time and take on responsibility for your own development
  • respond positively to critical feedback
  • interpret, use and evaluate data.

To see specific learning outcomes related to the degrees in this area visit Study at the OU.

To check which skills valued by employers can be developed from studying a particular subject, look at the Student Employability Profiles on the Higher Education Academy website. You will also find information about employability skills developed through study of specific degree subjects on the Options with your subject pages on Prospects website.

The OU Careers Advisory Service defines employability as "A set of capabilities and achievements that support students in developing their careers, raising their aspirations and enhancing their contribution to society".

Whatever your motivations for study you are entitled to supported personal development planning either as an intrinsic part of your programme of study or through signposted optional activities. You can view the full Student Employability Policy Statement on our website.

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Career opportunities

In the UK many graduates enter employment where a degree in any subject would be acceptable. In this instance what they offer the employer is evidence of the range of competencies which have been developed through their academic study, rather than the specific subject content of their degree. This page will focus on careers directly related to Social Sciences, but if you want to explore all of the choices open to you, also refer to the 'Further Resources' section.

Given the current economic climate and the increased competition for graduate positions, it is important to consider a varied range of occupational areas. Bear in mind that many careers require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your first degree.

Social sciences qualifications provide an excellent background for a wide range of careers. Opportunities can be found across all sectors and in a number of occupations. Education, central and local government, finance, health and social care, law, the media, public services, campaigning and research are frequent career choices.

Within the public sector, openings can be found in all areas of the criminal justice system, such as the police, prison and probation* services (*social work in Scotland), also administration and management of social services. Positions within civil and diplomatic services and local government are also popular choices.

Other careers include

  • banking and finance
  • politics
  • journalism and broadcasting
  • law
  • teaching
  • social work
  • accountancy
  • business management
  • advertising and marketing.

We advise you to thoroughly research your career choices as early as possible, particularly in relation to experience required, differences relating to where you live, or where the study choices you make may affect future opportunities.

Use the Prospects website to explore career options related to this subject. Click on your subject to see examples of job roles and get information for further research.

If you live in Ireland look at the relevant information on career sectors and jobs with your degree on the Gradireland website.

To find out about ways of gaining experience through volunteering see our voluntary work pages. You can also use the searchable databases on the following web sites:

Postgraduate Study

Many social sciences graduates undertake further study on completion of their first degree and/or after gaining some relevant work experience. Reasons for doing so include wanting to explore an aspect of their studies in more depth, to further or change their career or because a specific postgraduate qualification is either an entry requirement for their chosen career or would be an advantage if entry is competitive.

Generally postgraduate study can open up opportunities to work in higher education and teaching at other levels and in professions related to this area such as social work, social research, health care, counselling, journalism and other media related roles.

Relevant further study options offered elsewhere include the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) for primary, secondary and further education teaching, the masters degree in Research Methods relevant for a career in social research and a range of social work and health care qualifications, frequently offering an accelerated qualification route for those with a relevant degree.

It is important to research further study options comprehensively by exploring the range of postgraduate courses and research opportunities on offer, and funding possibilities to ensure you make the correct choice, for the right reasons and importantly that you can afford it, as funding for postgraduate study is very different to the undergraduate system.

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Your employers

OU qualifications are recognised and valued by many professional organisations and employers.

As an OU student, you can access the Employer Showcase to find out about some of the employers who are keen to recruit OU graduates.

Some companies on the Employer Showcase that are particularly relevant to social sciences graduates are

  • Co-operative Group
  • Enterprise
  • Heinz
  • Metropolitan Police Service
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group
  • Royal Mail Group
  • Tesco
  • The NHS
  • Waitrose

Having relevant work experience can be vital in gaining a competitive edge in the graduate employment market. Many of the employers featured on the Employer Showcase also offer the chance to gain experience through internships and other forms of structured work experience.

The Graduate Recruitment Manager for Unilever said

Combining work and study shows that OU students are ambitious and have a strong work ethic. They are evidently keen to develop themselves and are managing to do this while juggling a busy work or home life, which is no mean feat. The competencies which OU students therefore develop during their degree become invaluable to us.

If you are a student you might want to see further advice from major employers on applications, the skills they require and the value of OU study. Go to our What employers say pages.

As an OU student you can register for our online vacancy service and receive email notification about job opportunities.

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Further resources

There are a wealth of resources on the OU careers website. You might want to watch the Guide to the careers site to give you an overview of what it has to offer.

Use the other sections of this web site to

Don’t forget to check the careers home page regularly for news of events, forums, webinars, careers fairs and short courses. If you are an OU student you can participate in and read entries on our online forums and webinars.

If you are a mature student you may find our tips for mature graduates page useful to help you tackle the graduate employment market.

You may also find it useful to read the publications produced by the OU Careers Advisory Service and AGCAS, available to download from this site, giving further in depth advice and information to help you plan your next steps.

For some graduates, traditional forms of full-time employment are unattractive and increasing numbers of the workforce are turning to alternative ways of working that better fit their work and life values. Find out more about alternative work styles in the Exploring your career options section of this website.

If you are studying with the OU (or finished your studies within the last three years) you are entitled to a careers consultation with a careers adviser. This is designed to help you through the planning process and identify an action plan for your future. (If you are not studying with the OU or last studied with the OU more than 3 years ago, you should go to the Contact page of this website for other sources of careers advice.)

To find out details of professional associations relevant to this subject area, go to the Total Professions website.

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Student stories

To see the experiences of other OU students visit 'Student stories'.

Destination statistics

All UK graduates are invited to complete the Destinations of Leavers Survey six months after they graduate. Of the OU Social Sciences graduates who responded to the latest survey

  • 76% were in work or combining work and study.

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  • 13% were doing further study, whether in work or not.

  • Those who changed employer and stated that their qualification was a requirement or an advantage, found employment in schools, local councils and the Citizens Advice Bureau, among others.

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OU qualifications

Find out more about undergraduate study in Social Sciences.

Find out about postgraduate study in Social Sciences.

Find out about all undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications at the OU on Study at the OU.