What is Social Psychology?

What are some of the factors that shape our attitudes? Why are some people better leaders than others? How do people become prejudiced, and how can it be overcome. These are some of the big questions that are asked in social psychology.

Social psychologists contend with major issues that can have an impact on people’s health and well-being, from understanding why children bully to why people do not always offer help to people in need.

If you are interested in a career in social psychology, below is information about what social psychology is, how to to become a social psychologist, and more.

Social Psychology Overview

Social psychology uses scientific methods to explain and understand how feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the presence of other people, whether that is imagined, implied, or actual. (Verywellmind.com). Social psychology involves understanding how every person’s behavior is affected by the social circumstances where the behavior occurs.

For example, consider how you would behave in a situation where you were the only one in the room compared to a lot of people. The decisions that you make and the behaviors you engage in probably depend not just on how many people are there, but who is there. You may behave differently when you are around close friends compared to your supervisors from your job.

As a social psychologist, you will study many social topics, such as:

  • Group behavior
  • Social perception
  • Nonverbal behavior
  • Leadership
  • Aggression
  • Conformity
  • Prejudice

Social psychology is not just about studying social influences, however. Social interaction and perception are also important to understanding social behavior. The way we view other people can play a significant role in many decisions and actions. In public, we might act differently than when at home.

This is because the people we are around have an influence on our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and perceptions. The presence of others makes a difference in the choices we make and the actions we take, for better and for worse.

How Does Social Psychology Help People?

Social psychologists study how social perception, social influence, and social interaction affect group and individual behavior. Some in the field focus on doing research on human behavior, while others look at the practical applications of social psychology.

As a social psychologist, you may help a company hire and train employees; evaluate educational programs to decide if strategies are working; look for ways to encourage citizens to reduce pollution, or offer advice to employees and businesses who need assistance with conflict mediation. (APA.org). Social psychologists also may assemble public awareness campaigns, such as attempts to boost public health.

Other social psychologists may work in academia and help students by teaching and training them to become psychologists. Some also perform research for government agencies and private companies. The research might be to evaluate public opinion about new government regulations or programs. This work allows stakeholders to gather important data on people’s opinions of policy, which can then be tweaked to be more effective.

Another area a social psychologist can help people is by evaluating how effective educational programming and human resource practices are. For instance, a social psychologist may be hired by a school district to look at educational programs for their effectiveness in children based on race, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity.

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How Can You Become a Social Psychologist?

To become a social psychologist, you first need to earn a bachelor’s degree in social psychology or general psychology. Some are able to work in the field by earning their master’s degree in social psychology. But to work at higher levels in government and private companies, or to obtain employment as a professor, it is better to earn your Ph.D. in social psychology. (APA.org)

Some of the courses that you may take in a Ph.D. in social psychology program include: (Psychology.ASU.edu)

  • Social Psychology Principles
  • Current Topics in Social Psychology
  • Experimental Design Research
  • Advanced Social Psychology Principles
  • Multivariate Statistics
  • Social Psychology Research

After you earn your master’s or doctoral degree, you may need to earn your license to become a social psychologist, but this depends on the state. If you need licensure, you can expect to need a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and to pass a state examination.

What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?

All admissions offices for social psychology programs have different standards, but most will require you to have the following items to apply for a Ph.D. in social psychology program:

  • College transcripts: You will need at least your bachelor program transcripts, as well as transcripts from your master’s in psychology or social psychology program
  • Letters of recommendation: Ph.D. in social psychology programs are competitive, so you will need three or more outstanding recommendations from your employers and professors.
  • Prerequisites: If you have bachelor’s and master’s in social psychology, you probably will not need to fulfill prerequisite requirements.
  • Personal essay: All Ph.D. in social psychology programs will ask for writing samples.
  • Application: Most applications are now online. Make sure that you meet all deadlines and provide everything the program asks for.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

Most social psychologists do not require state licensure, but this depends on what your duties will be and the policies of your state government. In some cases, licensure is an option and not required. Be sure to check with your state licensing board.

Is The Job Outlook for a Social Psychologist Good?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the job outlook for psychologists is strong, with 14% increase in jobs expected by 2028. This is faster than average than for all occupations. (BLS.gov). Employment for school, counseling, and clinical psychologists is rising because of higher demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, and mental health clinics. More people are asking psychologists for help with their mental health and personal problems, so the demand for the field should continue to rise for years.

BLS also states that the employment of sociologists will grow 9% by 2028, faster than average. Sociologists will be needed to apply modern sociological research to other disciplines. For instance, sociologists often work with researchers in other social sciences, such as economics, psychology, and statistics, to study how groups and social structures influence regulatory policy about education, health, criminal justice, and economics. (BLS.gov)

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Further Resources for Candidates in Social Psychology

If you are interested in a career in social psychology, please review the following social psychology resources:

Now that you have learned what social psychology is, how people can benefit from the discipline, and what it takes to become one, now you just need to take the next step – begin your education in social psychology!