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Social psychology is one of several prominent areas of study within the sprawling field of psychology. If ever you’ve found yourself thinking about why people behave the way they do, how our personalities develop, or what effect society has on them, then you’ve begun your initial foray into social psychology. Social psychology focuses on the scientific study of individuals and how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual or imagined presence of others. It’s a discipline that places a heavy premium on researching the complex dynamics between people and the world around them, so make sure you’re comfortable working in a research-based environment.

Social psychology graduate programs prepare students for research careers in both academic and non-academic settings by developing a sound foundational understanding of psychological theory and methodology. Through course work, research experience, and interaction with area and adjunct faculty, social psychology students study a wide array of topics, including (but not limited to) prejudice, romantic attraction, gender, social influence, friendship, aggression, conformity, self-identity, group interaction, and emotion. Given this tremendous range of study options, social psychology students are well prepared to pursue careers in virtually every employment setting. Academic and educational institutions, non-profit organizations, corporations, government agencies, and hospitals all have needs for social psychologists.

Degree Information

A terminal masters degree (MA or MS achieved in two years) used to be common in the social psychology field. A recent trend has turned preferences toward doctorate degrees, usually PhDs, which require a term of study ranging from four to six years. To achieve a doctorate in clinical psychology—which allows you to have a clinical practice in which you see patients—students are generally required to complete an additional year of supervised clinical practice. Because social psychology is so heavily grounded in research, there is no Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) pertaining specifically to social psychology.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What type of career would you prefer to pursue?
  • Would you like to combine social psychology studies with other academic study areas?
  • Do the programs you’re considering focus on research or clinical work?
  • What types of non-academic opportunities would be available in your field?
  • Do the graduates of the programs you’re considering have success in finding jobs?
  • How is the faculty of your program structured? What is the level of faculty involvement and how many professors are active and available within the program?

Career Overview

A significant number of social psychology graduates use their PhDs to continue research and teaching at the university level, primarily in departments of psychology but also in departments of business, education, political science, justice studies, law, health sciences, and medicine.

If a life in academia doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of non-academic avenues to pursue. Social psychology graduates have thorough experience with research methodology; this, combined with their study of human personalities and individuals’ relationships to the social world, make social psychologists attractive to private and non-profit sectors as consultants, researchers, marketing directors, educators, and political strategists (for example).

Graduates with PhDs generally have more career options available to them. With additional clinical training at the PhD level, social psychologists have the opportunity to practice psychotherapy in hospitals, clinics, or private practice.

Career/Licensing Requirements

State laws and regulations govern the practice of psychology; licensing requirements vary from state to state and are coordinated by each state’s professional licensing board. A board certification isn’t usually necessary for many avenues of academic and private sector work related to social psychology; however, to enter into private psychology practice, a license is required.

Salary Information

Because of the wide array of opportunities available to social psychology graduates, no exact information is available for average or median incomes of employed social psychologists.

Related Links

Society for Personality and Social Psychology
A website that provides both specific and general information to those in the social psychology field.

Social Psychology Network
An expansive website that provides information on social psychology and a host of links to other social psychology websites.

American Psychological Association
A blanket website for the general field of psychology; good place for information on clinical practice guidelines.

American Psychological Society
Membership-based psychology website that provides research news, job-postings links, and academic links from a scientific perspective.


  • Introductions To Social Psychology

  • Advanced Social Psychology

  • Applied Social Psychology

  • Attitudes And Persuasion

  • Group Behavior

  • Human Sexuality And Sexual Orientation

  • Interpersonal Relationships

  • Race, Gender, Culture

  • Research Methods In Social Psychology

  • Social Cognition

  • Sociology Of Race And Gender

  • Statistics

  • Theory And Research In Social Psychology