Social Psychology Careers
What Is Social Psychology?
As a general rule, the majority of people act differently when they are with different groups of people. If you think about it carefully, you probably do as well. For instance, you most likely act differently around your family than you do your friends. The reason for this is simple. Our actions, thoughts, and feelings are almost always influenced by the individuals that surround us.
Social psychology is the study of how the presence of people can affect one individual's behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The group of people that can influence a person is often real, but the imagined or even the implied presence of other people can sometimes alter an individual's behavior or thoughts. Social psychology is often thought to be a combination between sociology and psychology, since it utilizes research and analytical methods from both areas. Although social psychology is similar to sociology, it is also very different. For instance, professionals in both of these fields have a particular interest in groups of people. Sociology, however, focuses on group behavior, while social psychology focuses on how a group of people influences each individual in that group.
This special field of psychology began in the early 20th century, and it was spurred on by experiments on social facilitation performed by Norman Triplett in 1898. Social facilitation is the phenomenon that causes the majority of people to do better at certain things when other people are around. Social psychology became even more popular in the 1930's, when German psychologists who were fleeing from their country started studying prejudice and the spread of Nazism.
Since its beginnings, social psychology has been used to study everything from hate crimes to bullying to marketing tactics. Today, it is still a growing field, and it can be applied to many areas.
Why Do We Need Social Psychology?
The world, unfortunately is teeming with all different sorts of social problems. All it takes to see this is watching the evening news or skimming the morning paper. Understanding these problems and how a group can influence each of the individuals in that group, is one of the first steps toward putting an end to these problems. Some of the problem areas that social psychology can be used to study include:
- Criminal Activity
- Community Health Problems, such as HIV and AIDS
- Substance Abuse
- Family and Domestic Problems
Not all group influences on individuals is negative, however. Some individuals that are in the presence of certain people, for example, might feel more inclined to react positively to the world around them. Social psychology can be used to study these types of situations and possibly be used to help create more.
What Are the Education Requirements for a Social Psychology Career?
The majority of individuals interested in social psychology careers will typically start out by earning bachelor degrees in general psychology or social psychology. Classes in general psychology, developmental psychology, community psychology, social sciences, social psychology, anthropology, and sociology are usually recommended for this career path.
Most aspiring social psychologists will also go on to earn advanced degrees as well. After earning their bachelor degrees, for instance, they will typically earn their master's degree and doctorate. Social psychologists that prefer to work in a clinical setting should consider earning Doctor of Psychology, or PsyD, degrees, and those interested primarily in research should earn Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, degrees.
Read more about social psychology degrees.
What Does a Social Psychologist Do?
Social psychologists might analyze previous social psychology research results, or they might conduct original research. Reading research papers and social psychology journals is often the best way to study research conducted by other social psychologists, and original research can be conducted a few different ways.
First, social psychologists can create environments that are replicas of real world environments. Individuals and groups of individuals can be put in these environments, and social psychologists can then observe their behaviors and actions. Social psychologists might also ask interview a person while monitoring brain activity with sophisticated equipment
Since the presence of social psychologists and medical equipment can influence how a person behaves, however, many social psychologists prefer to do their research "in the field". This typically involves watching "real" people in "real" environments and situations.
The research that psychologists conduct can be applied to solve a number of real world problems, from minor problems to major problems. For example, social psychologists might be able to help advertisers and marketers figure out how to use group influence to help get more individuals to buy certain brands. Social psychology studies can also be applied to help put a stop to or lessen the spread of certain social problems. Professionals that work toward this goal will usually help create such things as community programs and public awareness campaigns. Some social psychologists might also provide counseling for individuals affected by social problems.
Where Does a Social Psychologist Work?
Social psychologists will often be able to find employment in a number of different facilities and organizations. Those that focus on research, for instance, will often be able to find employment in private and government research facilities. They might conduct research in controlled environments, such as laboratories, or in natural environments, such as urban settings. Other facilities might also hire social psychologists, like schools, correctional facilities, and social welfare organizations.
Marketing and advertising firms also sometimes hire social psychologists for marketing research. Social psychologists that work at universities will often be hired to teach, but they will also usually be able to conduct research as well.
What Is the Median Salary for a Social Psychologist?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social psychologists fall under the category of sociologists who, as of May 2019, earned a median salary of $83,420.
The highest earners worked in research and development companies, who earned an average salary of $100,730, followed by those in state governmental agencies, who earned an average salary of $87,540.