Career and Training of Social Psychologists

Social psychologists study groups

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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 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 businesses hire and train employees, evaluate educational programs to 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.

Social Psychology Work Environment

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.

Social Psychologist Salary

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, typical salaries for psychologists vary based on education, experience, specialty area, and work setting. An APA report cites a median salary of $85,000 for people whose highest degree is in social psychology.

Social Psychologist Education and Training

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 master's degree in social psychology and then a doctorate, but other programs may skip the terminal ​master's 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 Social Psychologists Differ

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.

Job Outlook for Social Psychologists

While ads seeking social psychologists may make up a smaller percentage of psychology job listings, it is important to remember that social psychologists work in a wide variety of job areas, so individuals with a Ph.D. in social psychology are frequently able to find work in related areas.

Social psychologists who are looking for work can start by checking out job listings posted by the American Psychological Association on their PsycCareers website or reviewing the job postings on the Social Psychology Network’s job forum. For more information on psychology careers and which might be the best fit for you, take our psychology careers quiz.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Psychology: Science in Action. Social psychology studies human interactions.

  2. American Psychological Association. Psychology: Science in Action. Pursuing a career in social psychology.

  3. American Psychology Association. How much do today's psychologists make?

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.