What does a social psychologist do?
Social psychologists study people’s interactions with the social environment and with other people. They ask questions about people such as how people become who they are and how people influence, relate, and think about other people. They are concerned with trying to explain how others influence the thoughts, behaviors, and feelings of a person. They look at the aspects of a person including characteristics, attitudes, and goals and the aspects of situations including incentives and social norms. Group behavior, perception, social cognition, attitudes, leadership, prejudice, friendship, romantic attraction, aggression, and conformity are important areas of study.
Social psychologists typically use empirical and quantitative research methods that are centered on experiments in laboratories. There are also some computational modeling approaches in the field of social psychology. They typically work in marketing research, systems design, organizational consultation, or other practical psychology fields.
What kind of training does a social psychologist need?
Most social psychologists have doctoral degrees in social psychology. The goal of most doctoral programs is to prepare graduates to become independent researchers in social psychology. Since entrance to doctoral programs can be very competitive many students complete internships and gain social psychology research experience. For some positions a master degree may be sufficient, but doctoral degrees are usually preferred by employers and are typically required for college or university professor positions.
A license or certification is required for graduates who wish to practice independently or desire to work in direct patient care of any type. The rules for licensing vary by state, but most states require graduates to pass a state test. Majority of state licensing board distribute a standardized test and some states require continuing education for license renewal.
What are the prospects for a career in social psychology?
Employment of psychologists of all specialties is projected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 15% from 2006 to 2016 (1).
Job growth will be driven by the growing demand for social psychological services in many different settings. Job opportunities will be the best for social psychologists that have doctoral degrees and extensive experience in the field along with sufficient research experience.
How much do social psychologists make?
As of June 2009, the average annual salary for all social psychologists was $64,000, which is 3% higher than the average annual salary for all job postings around the country (2).
Hopeful social psychologists should have a genuine interest in the way people interact with others in social situations. Candidates should be able to work efficiently as part of a team and independently. Good communication skills, detail orientation, patience, perseverance, and sensitivity are also vital characteristics of successful social psychologists.