Social psychologists study how social influence, social perception and social interaction influence individual and group behavior. Learn more about what social psychologists do, the training and educational requirements and the job outlook in this brief overview of careers in social psychology.
What Exactly Do Social Psychologists Do?
Some social psychologists focus on conducting research on human behavior. These professionals might work in a university setting or they might be employed by businesses or government agencies. Other social psychologists are interested in discovering solutions to real-world problems. Applied social psychologists might help business hire and train employees, evaluate educational programs do determine if intervention strategies are working, search for ways to encourage people to reduce pollution or offer advice to businesses or employees who need help with conflict mediation.
Where Do Social Psychologists Work?
Because social psychologists are trained to combine their knowledge of human behavior with scientific research methods, job options and work settings can be very diverse. Many social psychologists choose to work in educational environments such as colleges and universities where they conduct research, teach classes and run social psychology laboratories. Other social psychologists work for government offices, non-profit organizations, hospitals, social service offices and private corporations.
What Training Is Needed to Become a Social Psychologist?
While some social psychologists find work with a masters degree, most opt to earn a doctorate degree. In most cases, students interested in becoming a social psychologist should start by earning an undergraduate degree in psychology. The next step is to enroll in a graduate program in social psychology. Some programs follow a two-step process by first awarding a masters degree in social psychology and then a doctorate, but other programs may skip the terminal masters degree and go straight to the Ph.D. For most students, it will take at least four to five years of graduate study in order to earn a Ph.D. in Social Psychology.
How Are Social Psychologists Different from Personality Psychologists?
While social psychology shares some similarities with personality psychology, there are important differences that distinguish the two areas. Personality psychologists generally focus on individual differences between people, while social psychologists are more interested in how situational variables influence the behaviors of groups and individuals.
Social psychology is sometimes confused with sociology, but the two (while somewhat related) are not the same. Social psychologists tend to focus on the behavior of individual people or small groups of people, while sociologists look at very large populations such as entire social groups or cultures as a whole.