How to Become an HSOC Major:
1. Pre-requisite: HSOC 10 or HSOC 145
In order to declare the HSOC major a student must have already taken or be currently taking HSOC 10 or HSOC 145. There are no exceptions to this rule (LPS and transfer students should contact Dr. Greene or Dr. Barnes for further information.) If a student cannot get into the class during preregistration but still wishes to take the class, they should: (a) contact the instructor in advance to be on the waitlist (b) attend the first lectures and recitations.
2. Download and complete the HSOC Application (see below.) Be sure to fill out the entire application, including the one-paragraph explanation of your interest. You will need to have a hard copy application.
3. Meet with your Pre-Major advisor or a College advisor and have s/he make your HSOC worksheet official(including choosing a concentration) (This is not the same as declaring the major.)
4. Read website pages "HSOC Requirements" and "Worksheet Explanations"
5. Bring your hard copy application to Dr. Barnes (HSOC Director) or Dr. Greene (HSOC Associate Director). You must meet in person with one of them, with your application in hand, in order to declare the major. You may not just drop off your application. Please remember that making your worksheet official does not declare you as an HSOC major.
FAQs about the HSOC Major
What can I do with an HSOC major?
What can’t you do? Our majors say HSOC "allows you to study the big picture” and "understand real issues for a real world.” HSOC majors go on to every kind of professional school, and jobs in business, public and international health, and government. For more information, contact Dr. David Barnes, HSOC Director, or Dr. Ann Greene, Associate Director, read the Alumni page, or contact or a member of the HSOC Student Advisory Board.
HSOC 10 (Health and Societies) or HSOC 145 (Comparative Medicine) is a pre-requisite for this major. Students must take this course in their freshman or sophomore year; they cannot declare the major until they have taken or are currently enrolled in HSOC 10 or HSOC 145.
How to Become an HSOC Major
What other courses are recommended for me to take to explore the HSOC Major? Many of our introductory level courses will help you explore the major.
Freshmen are urged to consider one of several freshman seminars offered by the department. Other courses that are excellent ways to explore the major include Medicine in History (HSOC 002), Comparative Medicine (HSOC 145), and American Health Policy (HSOC 150). See all courses at the "Courses" link on the left side of this website.
What are the requirements for the HSOC major?
HSOC is a fourteen credit major. Students in the HSOC program take four core courses, three department courses, six interdisciplinary courses in a field of concentration, and a research seminar. HSOC 10 is a pre-requisite for declaring the HSOC major.
HSOC majors must complete at least 34 c.u. overall, 14 for HSOC and 20 in the College, to graduate with an HSOC major.
What is a field of concentration?
A field of concentration is an interest area. There are nine (9) HSOC concentrations, each reflecting a different academic path within the larger field of Health & Societies. Each concentration consists of six (6) courses. Some concentrations have a required core course and topical categories which must be fulfilled. The lists of pre-approved courses for each concentration can be found by following the links to the left for each concentration.
Bioethics and Society
Disease and Society
Environment and Health
Gender and Health
Health Care Markets and Finance
Health Policy and Law
History of Medicine
What if I find a course that I think should be part of my concentration, but which is not on the list of pre-approved courses?
You may petition to include a course or courses into your concentration other than the pre-approved ones, if you can show, and the program directors concur, that the course (or courses) are related to Health and Societies and make a meaningful contribution to your in-major concentration. Courses cannot be petitioned to substitute for the three required department courses, which must be courses taught by the department or crosslisted by the department. NOTE: The lists of pre-approved courses for each concentration do change from time to time as courses are added and dropped. Courses that are on the pre-approved list when a student becomes an HSOC major will always apply to the concentration even if the course is later taken off the list. Courses from old lists do not apply to new majors.
How do I become a Health & Societies (HSOC) major?
Go to the top of this page, "How to become an HSOC Major."
What specific courses will I need to fulfill core requirements?
You must take HSOC 10 or HSOC 145, SOCI 100 or SOCI 111, a core history course (HSOC 002 or or HSOC 112 or HSOC 150), and a core social science course (ANTH 238 or SOCI 175).
Do courses double-count within the major?
No. For example, if you take HSOC 145 as the prerequisite course, you may not use it to fulfill any other requirement within the major. If you take a 400-level course for your capstone requirement, it cannot count for a department course or in your concentration.
What is a department course?
See the list of "department courses" for the courses that fulfill the 3 credits of department courses required for the major.
What if I am not ready to declare a major but have questions about HSOC? How do I get academic advising?
The HSOC program director or the Associate Director will be happy to meet with you. You may also contact members of the HSOC Student Advisory Board.
What does it mean to be on registration hold?
Any sophomore who has not declared a major by the time of Advanced Registration in the spring is put on registration hold until they do declare a major. This means that they cannot register for courses. As soon as sophomores declare a major, they are removed from registration hold (unless they are on registration hold for other reasons, in which case they need to talk with an adviser in the College office).
Can I double-major in HSOC and something else?
However, being a double major means meeting two sets of requirements, and a student who wants to double major must plan their program carefully for the remainder of their time at Penn. The ability to double major depends on how many credits you need to complete both majors, and how many semesters you have before graduation. The College requires double majors to complete a minimum of 18 separate courses between the two majors. You also must complete the General Requirement, and may only double-count one course between each major and the sector requirements.
It is important to remember that it is not necessary to double major, and there is little evidence that it "matters" much outside Penn when you are job-hunting or applying for graduate school. What is most important is that you get the most out of your primary major and out of your undergraduate education, and that you do not sacrifice your educational journey to the challenges of fulfilling two sets of major requirements. Once you have graduated, double-majoring will matter little, but the quality, coherence and depth of your major will matter a lot.
Can I double-concentrate within the HSOC Major?
Can I minor in HSOC?
We do not offer a minor in Health and Societies.
Can I study abroad if I am an HSOC major?
Yes. We encourage HSOC majors to plan a semester abroad, and many do. Some (but not all) select programs with courses similar to the Health and Societies program. Credits from study abroad are applied to the in-major concentration portion of the HSOC major. Check both the College study abroad website and the Penn Abroad website for more information. Courses taken abroad are submitted through the XCat system, and evaluated for credit by the Director or Associate Director.
Do my pre-med courses count toward the HSOC major?
Pre-med courses do not count toward the HSOC major, with the exception of STAT 111 and BIOL 446, which count for some but not all concentrations, and with the exception of some English courses which count toward some concentrations as well as fulfilling the pre-med requirement.
Pre-med students should schedule regular appointments with the pre-med advisers and go to the Pre-Med website in Career Services for information about pre-med requirements and advising.
What if I am a transfer student? How do I get credit for courses taken at another school?
Go to the section on transfer students on the College website for information. Transfer courses must be submitted via the XCat system. Credits from other institutions may be counted toward the HSOC major based on the evaluation of the Director and Associate Director.
Can AP credits count toward the HSOC major?
Can I get transfer credit for a summer course at another university?
Sometimes. Read the section about "credit away" on the College website. If you wish to take a course at another university, you must petition the department at Penn that has a course most closely matching the course you are planning to take.
Do LPS courses (courses offered through the College of Liberal and Professional Studies) count toward the HSOC major?
Yes--if the course would count toward the major if offered in the College, then it counts if offered in LPS.
Can I take more HSOC courses than the major requires?
Yes. You may take as many HSOC courses as you wish.
Can I do independent study projects as part of the HSOC major?
Yes. Go to the Research Opportunities page and and find the Independent Study page for further information.
Is research an important part of the HSOC major?
Yes. All HSOC majors take a research seminar in the spring of junior year or fall/spring of senior year to fulfill their Capstone Research Requirement. Some may wish write a senior thesis for honors during the first half of the senior year (this requires being admitted to HSOC 420 in spring of junior year). HSOC majors are encouraged to explore other opportunities for research, such as internships and publication. See the College website for research opportunities and for College policy on internships, and also the CURF website.
What is the Capstone Research Requirement?
This is a requirement that you take a 400-level HSOC or STSC course during spring of junior year or fall/spring terms of senior year. The only courses that count for the capstone requirement are 400-level courses taken during one of these three semesters. We encourage students to take more than one 400-level course, but if taken before the middle of junior year it does not fulfill the capstone requirement.
Visit the Capstone page for more information.
What if I want to write a senior thesis- what are the requirements for graduating with honors in HSOC?
To graduate with honors, an HSOC major must apply for admission to HSOC 420 during spring of junior year, research and write over the summer, and complete the senior thesis during the fall of senior year. See Senior Thesis for department requirements. The senior thesis process begins in fall of your junior year as you formulate a tentative project and talk with potential advisors.
How do I participate in HSOC events and meet other HSOC majors?
Become involved with the HSOC SAB. The HSOC Student Advisory Board sponsors programs on topics of interest to HSOC majors, and is a source of information for majors on courses, careers and internships.
What courses should I take next semester?
Check to see what core requirements you still need to fulfill, and whether those courses are being offered next semester. Fall courses are: HSOC 111, HSOC 002, SOCI 175, ANTH 238. Spring courses are: HSOC 010. HSOC 100 is offered most semesters. Check to see what core and category requirements you have in your concentration, what courses you need to fulfill them, and what semester those courses are offered. Last, review the list of department offerings to see what courses might apply towards your concentration.
How do I find out about internships, career and postgraduate study related to HSOC?
The HSOC SAB has compliled a database of internships to get you started. See the "Life After Penn" page. We absolutely recommend you contact Career Services for internship and postgraduate information.