It's not always easy to choose a major, especially if you're interested in human services and the helping professions. The helping professions include fields like psychology and sociology. Psychology and sociology are so closely related that some schools even offer a combined psychology/sociology major. But if you'd prefer to stick to just one major, there are also some significant differences between these areas of study that may impact your selection.

About the Psychology Major

A psychology major is the second most popular course of study among undergraduates, says CNN.com. Psychology involves the study of the inner workings of the human mind, human behavior and emotions and psychological dysfunction. The psychology major focuses on human development, learning, moods, gender differences and relationships. Coursework usually includes an introduction to psychology, statistics and research methods and electives, such as abnormal or personality psychology. Earning a degree in psychology can lead to careers in fields like human services, teaching or business. And many students decide to pursue graduate study in psychology to become psychologists, professors or researchers.

About the Sociology Major

Sociology involves the study of groups and societies and the behaviors of and interactions between people. According to the Princeton Review, the sociology major teaches students about the ways in which groups and societies are structured, the social influences that affect human behavior and the rules that societies create in order to function at an optimal level. During your studies, you will take coursework such as an introduction to sociology, statistics, sociology survey courses like organizations and social structures, and electives. Sociology graduates often pursue advanced study, but many also directly enter careers in fields like human services, counseling or criminal justice.

Similarities

There are some striking similarities between the psychology and sociology major. Both fields are interested in discovering the underlying influences on human behavior, cognition and emotion, with the ultimate goal of learning more about what makes people "tick." Psychology and sociology are also concerned with improving people's lives and bettering society, although they accomplish this goal in somewhat different ways. In both majors, you'll gain a broad range of transferable skills, such as communication, interpersonal evaluation and critical thinking, that can be beneficial to almost any occupation.

Differences

The psychology and sociology majors also have some noteworthy differences, especially in area of emphasis. According to the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work at Angelo State University in Texas, the sociology major focuses more on the functioning of groups and societies, while the psychology major emphasizes the functioning of the individual. In addition to contrasts in coursework, the focus of the internship for these majors can also be very different. During the course of their studies, psychology majors often participate in internships in clinical settings in which they interact directly with clients. On the other hand, sociology majors may be involved in internships that involve the broader community, such as community centers or international aid organizations.