Difference Between Discipline and Subject

Key Difference - Discipline vs Subject


Discipline and Subject are two words that relate to fields of knowledge between which a key difference can be seen. To most people, the difference between a discipline and a subject can often be very confusing. So first let us define the two words. Discipline refers to a branch of academic study. On the other hand, subject refers to a branch of knowledge studied or taught. As you can see from the definitions, the term discipline is associated with academia, unlike in the case of a subject. This is the key difference between the two words. This article aims at clarifying the meanings of the two words.

What is a Discipline?

Let us begin with the word discipline. As mentioned above, discipline refers to a branch of academic study. For example, psychology, sociology, anthropology, mathematics and philosophy are all disciplines. These can mostly be seen in higher educational institutions such as universities. This, however, does not denote that disciplines cannot be seen in other educational settings such as schools. For example, mathematics is a school subject that is also a discipline that is found in higher educational institutions.

Disciplines usually consist of theoretical backgrounds, research and experiments, groups of experts in the discipline, etc. For example, a person who is pursuing his studies in a particular discipline not only gains an in-depth understanding of it but also conducts experiments or research as well. Such a person is considered as specializing in the chosen discipline.

However, the word discipline can also refer to the training of people to obey rules or a code of behavior. For example in schools disciplining the child is considered as an important part of learning as subject knowledge.

Difference Between Discipline and Subject

What is a Subject?

Subject refers to a branch of knowledge studied or taught. In schools, children learn a number of subjects such as mathematics, science, language, history, religion, music, art, dancing, health, etc. These subjects are also branches of knowledge but are often adjusted to accommodate the goals of education. When speaking of subjects attention paid to research is rather minimal.

The word subject has other meanings as well. It is used to refer to the word in a sentence naming who or what performs the action of the verb. Let us look at an example.

Jim played tennis.

In the sentence, the subject or the person who does the action is Jim. Hence, Jim is the subject.

It can be used to refer to a member of a state ruled by a monarch. For instance when we say the kind addressed his subjects, it denotes that the king spoke to his people.

Key Difference - Discipline vs Subject

What is the difference between Discipline and Subject?

Definitions of Discipline and Subject:

Discipline: Discipline refers to a branch of academic study.

Subject: Subject refers to a branch of knowledge studied or taught.

Characteristics of Discipline and Subject:


Discipline: A discipline produces academics or specialists.

Subject: A subject attempts to provide knowledge that is in line with the overall educational purpose.


Discipline: Disciplines are taught in higher educational institutions such as universities.

Subject: Subjects are taught in educational institutions such as schools.


Image Courtesy:

1. “Math lecture at TKK” by Tungsten – photo taken by Tungsten. [Public Domain] via Commons

2. US Navy 110624-N-VE260-654 Sailors assigned to Naval Air Facility Atsugi teach elementary students English at Terao Elementary School By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Smelley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons