BS in Science, Technology, and Society

The Science, Technology and Society degree advances students' ability to understand society, culture, law and health – and how they are shaped by media, science and technology. This degree offers a broad and flexible liberal arts education.

STS students headed for medical school often dual major in Science, Technology, and Society in addition to Biology or Biomedical Engineering. Students headed for law school often dual major in Science, Technology, and Society and Management or Information Technology.

STS students learn:

  • To analyze social change by looking at the history of science and technology
  • To think critically about contemporary social problems, recognizing the matrix of factors (economic, technical, biophysical, cultural, etc.) that shape problems and constrain solutions
  • To cultivate a global perspective and an understanding of cultural differences
  • To analyze and respond to multiple viewpoints
  • To creatively access, interpret, and use research resources
  • To apply social science and humanities knowledge to real-world challenges

STS students research:

  • How blogging and other new media communication are shaping US national politics
  • Why depression and ADHD diagnoses are soaring
  • How different groups of people use and think about reproductive technologies
  • How social robots are designed, interact with humans, and contribute to wellbeing
  • The World Health Organization's mission and its current challenges
  • US government policies protecting children's health
  • The use of technology in promoting religious faith

B.S. in STS Dual Major

About half the STS majors pursue the STS degree as its own major, usually with a minor in a technical field, and half STS majors pursue a dual major. In other words, they major in STS and another field. Rensselaer's innovative curriculum will let you graduate with two majors in just four years. As an STS major, you can build your own specially tailored major that matches your interests in fields such as:

  • Information Technology
  • Computer Science
  • Ecological Economics
  • Pre-Med or Pre-Health Professions
  • Management
  • Pre-Law
  • Plus many others

With a dual major in STS, you will learn more, stand out in the job market or applicant pool to graduate schools, and be better prepared for your career.

Why pursue a dual major with STS?

The main reason is that you will stand out in either the job market or the graduate school application pool. Most people know that if you earned a dual major degree, you're a cut above the average student. You can handle rigorous demands. You have discipline. You know what you want and are willing to make the effort to get it. Most importantly, you know more. If you're an engineer, you can demonstrate that you understand something about the institutional context of engineering, ethical issues, how to think about the possible social impact of new technologies, and how to think about choices in design from both a social and technical viewpoint. If you're a manager, you can show that you know more about the policy issues and the legal context of management. If you're pre-med, you can show that you understand the history of medicine, medical ethics, and the social side of being a doctor. No matter what field you are in, STS will change the way you think about it.

But isn't it a lot of extra work to pursue a dual major?

In fact, it does not require more coursework, just a clear focus in selecting your courses. One of the great advantages of Rensselaer is that you can combine dual majors in a relatively easy way. Your HASS core is 24 credits (20 credits for some students). Let's say you have a major in science, management, or engineering, and you take all 24 credits of your HASS core in STS. The STS degree requires 48 credits, so you've already completed half the credits with your HASS core. If you are a major in a department outside the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, then you can count your "technical option" requirement (a minor of four courses) from the courses you take in your first major. That gives you another 16 credits, or 40 credits total. For many students, only two more courses are then needed in STS to get the major, and they can be taken as free electives.

What if I'm a major in a humanities or social sciences field, say in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication or Economics? Can I still do a dual major with STS?

Yes. We have courses on information and society, on the environment, and on many other topics that will interest majors in other HASS departments. As an HASS major, you'll still need to take the HASS core of 24 credits, which you can do by starting your STS major. That will get you half way to the major (24 of 48 credits). You'll still need to do the technical option, a group of 4 courses outside the School of HASS, plus another two courses, or six additional courses beyond the HASS core. (No, you can't count the science core twice, so these six additional courses will have to come from your free electives.)

What's the difference between a dual major and a double major?

A dual major means that the student has to satisfy the degree requirements for both majors, but double-counting is allowed. In other words, if Science, Technology, and Society is the second degree, the person needs only to fulfill the Science, Technology, and Society requirements of 32 basic credits, as long as the first degree covers the "technical option" of the STS major. The HASS core requirement can be fulfilled by taking courses in the Science, Technology, and Society department as part of the major. This student earns one degree. A double major takes an extra year equivalent of about 32 credits. This means that the student takes the HASS core as one set of courses, and the Science, Technology, and Society major as another set of courses. This student earns two degrees.


Pre-Law and Accelerated Law Program

In cooperation with Albany Law School Rensselaer offers a unique program leading to the B.S. and Juris Doctor (J.D.) in six years rather than the usual seven. Most students are admitted as incoming first-year students at Rensselaer. Admission to this program is restricted to students who meet admission requirements of the Albany Law School of Union University. Transfer from other Rensselaer curricula to this program is limited to students who have demonstrated academic excellence. Conditional admission is available to accepted Rensselaer students who meet specified achievement levels in their undergraduate program. Accelerated STS-Law students have also applied successfully to other law schools. STS Department faculty co-write a recommendation letter for students who notify their STS undergraduate adviser before the end of the sophomore year of their wish to be nominated.

Pre-Med or Pre-Health Professions

We are living in the middle of a health care revolution. If you end up working in America's health care industry, you'll need the flexibility and vision to be able to survive in changing times.

Have you thought about becoming a hospital administrator? Running a state public health agency? Even trying to stand out in a medical school applicant pool of thousands of biology majors? Then this track may be right for you.

Take Kerry Ricker. As a Science, Technology, and Society major, she fulfilled all her pre-med requirements and studied all the science that was necessary to get into medical school. But she also had the opportunity to study the liberal arts and learn about the social context of medicine. As a result, she stood out in her application to medical school. Today she's a doctor practicing in New York state.

With the dual STS/Biology degree, you will fulfill all the requirements of a pre-med curriculum with your biology major, plus you will do the STS major with a focus on Medicine and Society. Pre-med students love this part of their curriculum, because it gives them a good sense of the history of medicine, medical policy, biomedical ethics, health and the environment, and the changing role of the doctor-patient relationship. With the dual degree, you'll be optimally prepared not only for medical school, but also for graduate programs in health-care administration, health law, and public health.


Ask a Question

STS students can take a wide array of courses

Science, Technology and Society

Century of the Gene

Cultures of Scientific Revolutions

China Past and Present

Medicine and Society


American Foreign Policy

Law, Values and Public Policy

Environment and Law

Globalization and Development

Self-Organization in Science and Society

Drugs in History


Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

What People Are Saying About STS


STS was the best department at RPI! It provided me with a well-rounded education and taught me the art of critical analysis.
--Kerry Ricker, D.O., in family practice in New York State

The program at RPI was fantastic. The students I met were concerned with society and looking to mix theoretical and practical knowledge. The program is most suited for people who are self-directed and highly motivated.
--Deborah Rich, Manager of Marketing Research, University of Michigan Health System