Social Psychology Career, Salary, and Education Information

What You Should Know About Social Psychology

What Is a Social Psychologist?

Social psychologists specialize in the factors influencing human behavior in groups. In other words, they rely on scientific research to explain why people behave and think the way they do in social settings.

Although differences exist between psychologists and sociologists, social psychology utilizes research and analytic methods used by both psychologists and sociologists. Social psychologists examine factors such as prejudice, aggression, conformity, nonverbal behavior, leadership, social perception, and group behavior. In addition to examining these social influences, they also evaluate social interactions and perceptions while studying behavior.

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What Do Social Psychologists Do?

Certain social psychologists spend all their time conducting and evaluating research. They typically work at universities or government agencies. Some social psychologists utilize their expertise developing solutions to current social problems. Some examine educational programs to determine their effectiveness, assist companies as they hire and train workers, and organize public awareness campaigns, such as efforts to improve public health. These professionals can specialize in such fields as perception, leadership, and group behavior.

How Is Social Psychology Different From Other Disciplines?

People often confuse sociology, personality psychology, and folk-wisdom with social psychology. However, social psychologists rely on empirical and subjective research to find patterns and draw conclusions; whereas, folk-wisdom is based on anecdotal and subjective evaluations.

Additionally, social psychologists evaluate how people interact in social situations, while personality psychologists examine individual personality characteristics. Social psychologists also attempt to understand how social settings affect behaviors and thoughts.

There are similarities between the fields of sociology and social psychology, but sociologists typically focus on group behavior, culture, community, and institutions, while social psychologists typically focus on why individuals behave the way they do in social settings. In other words, they focus on similar topics from different viewpoints.

Where Do Social Psychologists Work?

In addition to teaching and conducting research at colleges and universities, social psychologists also work at consulting firms, market research companies, and elementary and secondary schools. Opportunities are also available with private companies, social welfare organizations, hospitals, and non-profits.

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Education and Training for Social Psychology

According to the APA, most social psychologists become teachers or facilitate research within a college or academic setting. A doctoral degree is often mandatory to teach at the college or university level. Outside of academia, a master’s degree may be sufficient although some organizations may still prefer or require a doctorate.

College students interested in this field should obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field and then earn a graduate degree in social psychology. Some universities permit students to bypass master’s programs and directly enroll in doctorate programs. It typically requires 4-5 years to obtain a doctorate degree in social psychology.

Job Outlook for Social Psychology

Social psychologists with doctorate degrees enjoy a wide range of opportunities as these specialists are typically employed in various industries.

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