Sociology vs Anthropology: Which Field of Study is Right for You?

Sociology vs Anthropology: Which Field of Study is Right for You?

Sociology vs Anthropology: What Sets Them Apart?

If you have a passion for human behavior and a curiosity about different cultures, you might find it challenging to decide between sociology and anthropology as your major. Although both fields explore the causes of human actions, they have distinct differences.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at sociology and its key elements. According to the American Sociological Association, sociology is defined as “the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior.”

A sociologist analyzes social components of human society such as race, gender, age, social status, and social movements to draw conclusions and better understand human behavior. Their day-to-day responsibilities, as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include developing research projects, collecting data through surveys and interviews, analyzing research data, writing reports and research papers, and advising policymakers on social issues like education, crime, poverty, health, population, and race relations.

Read on to learn more about the key differences between sociology and anthropology.

Common Sociology Focus Areas

As a sociology major, you’ll take courses that equip you with the skills to explore and comprehend the complexities of human society. However, you’ll likely need to select a specialized concentration to better focus your career goals within sociology. Here are some potential areas of focus you may encounter in your sociology curriculum:

Culture and Diversity:

This concentration explores how different cultures have developed over time and how cultural norms and beliefs affect human behavior in contemporary society. It also investigates power imbalances and social status within and between cultures.

Family, Gender, and Society:

This branch of sociology examines the connections between family structures, gender roles, and larger societal issues such as marriage, migration, divorce, fertility, and mortality. Additionally, students explore the evolution of family systems and dynamics over time.

Law and Society:

The law and society concentration helps students understand the relationship between laws and social institutions. They examine the impact of laws on society and the consequences of not following them.

Medical Sociology:

Medical sociology is the study of the intersection between health and sociological factors like gender, race, age, religion, and class. Students learn about how these factors affect access to healthcare and how individuals deal with illness.

What Is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of human beings, both past and present, aimed at understanding their origins, differences, and evolution. According to the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University, this field explores various aspects of human life, including biology, cultures, linguistics, and societal development. Anthropologists may work in different settings, such as universities, research organizations, museums, historical sites, and government agencies. They are responsible for planning and conducting cultural research, collecting information through various means, analyzing human remains and artifacts, managing research records, and presenting key findings through reports and presentations.

Common Anthropology Focus Areas

Anthropology, like other academic disciplines such as sociology, comprises different subfields that students can focus on to achieve their career objectives. In the following discussion, we will explore some of the common areas of focus in anthropology.

Cultural Anthropology:

In general, cultural anthropology is an academic discipline that investigates the ways in which individuals and societies live, and the evolution of cultures over time. Cultural anthropologists employ a range of methods, including living with a particular society or conducting research using various techniques, to gain a comprehensive understanding of their customs and ways of life.


In general, archaeology is a scientific field that focuses on the study of early human life by examining and interpreting the material remains of ancient human societies. Through the use of scientific techniques, students in this discipline learn how to investigate past societies and understand how early humans utilized and transformed their environments.

Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is a field of anthropology that focuses on the study of human evolution over time. It involves examining the anatomical, genetic, and physiological differences and similarities between past and present human populations. This area of specialization also explores the relationship between biology and culture in order to understand how humans have adapted to various environments.

Linguistic Anthropology:

Linguistic anthropology is a field of study that explores how people communicate with one another, both past and present, across the globe.

This area of specialization takes into account verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as written text, and how they each influence social relations and culture. Moreover, linguistic anthropology also focuses on the evolution and changes of specific languages over time, shedding light on the relationship between language and culture.

Similarities Between Sociology and Anthropology

There are various similarities between sociology and anthropology, which are two social sciences.

They both encompass subfields that overlap with other sciences such as criminology, social work, archeology, and forensic anthropology.

Furthermore, they both focus on studying human society and interactions within it, utilizing similar scientific approaches, methods, and theories.

Both reject the notion that human nature is the sole determinant of human behavior, instead emphasizing the role of cultural influences in shaping human nature.

Ultimately, both disciplines seek to comprehend the complexities of human behavior.

Differences Between Sociology and Anthropology

Sociology and anthropology are two distinct disciplines with contrasting approaches.

Anthropology concentrates on individual behavior, while sociology examines how social institutions impact groups of individuals.

Anthropologists aim to understand different cultures, whereas sociologists use their findings to tackle current social problems.

Anthropology primarily relies on material evidence, while sociology employs economics and statistics to understand social groups.

Anthropology emphasizes culture and its physical and social characteristics, whereas sociology focuses on society and its development.

Lastly, anthropologists tend to rely more on qualitative data to draw conclusions, while sociologists rely heavily on quantitative data.

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