Social Psychology Degree Overview

Social psychologists investigate human social behavior, including the relationship between individual behavior and group dynamics. A social psychology degree prepares graduates for careers in industries like research, academia, and business. This page explores social psychology degree and career opportunities.

What is Social Psychology?

Social psychology studies how individuals respond to their social environment. The field investigates group dynamics and their role in shaping individual actions and choices. Social psychology also examines social challenges such as implicit bias, intolerance, and bullying. Social psychology relies on research methods to understand social dynamics.

How to Become a Social Psychologist

Becoming a social psychologist requires several years of educational and professional experience. Prospective social psychologists typically need a doctorate, supervised internship experience, and a state license to practice. They can also pursue board certification to highlight their skills. This section covers the qualifications for social psychology jobs.

  • Degrees

    Social psychologists who practice psychology typically need a doctorate, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D., and a state license. Some social psychology opportunities, including roles in business or research, may only require a master's degree.

  • Internships

    Social psychology students often complete an internship to build professional experience. During the internship, students conduct research under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. The American Psychology Association (APA) requires an internship for accredited social psychology doctorate programs.

  • Licensure

    Some social psychologists need a state license, depending on their position. Psychologists who work with patients generally must complete the licensure process in the state where they practice. Requirements vary by state, but candidates often need to hold a doctorate in psychology, pass a licensing examination, and complete a supervised postdoctoral fellowship. Psychology professors, researchers, and social psychologists who do not treat patients may not need a license.

  • Certification

    After earning a license, practicing psychologists can pursue board certification to showcase their skills. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) grants board certification in 15 specialties. While it does not offer social psychology certification, ABPP does offer certificates in clinical psychology, organizational and business psychology, and behavioral psychology, which can help social psychologists pursue specialized careers. Candidates for certification must meet educational and experience requirements, complete a credential review, and pass an oral examination.

Social Psychology vs. General Psychology

While social psychologists and general psychologists have some similarities, the two fields possess distinct differences. The following sections cover the commonalities and differences between social and general psychology.

COMMONALITIES

Social psychology and general psychology share several commonalities. For example, at the undergraduate level, prospective social psychologists generally major in psychology, since many bachelor's programs do not offer a specialized social psychology degree. Learners study general psychology concepts, including human behavior, abnormal psychology, and research methods.

Master's programs in general psychology and social psychology also share many of the same core courses, but prospective social psychologists often pursue specialized electives in their field. Graduate programs in both fields typically require an internship.

At the professional level, both general psychologists and social psychologists may work in academia or research. Both fields also require a state license to practice as a psychologist, though many social psychologists work in research rather than clinical practice.

DIFFERENCES

Social psychology differs from general psychology in several ways. Social psychology programs typically emphasize research more than general psychology programs, so students often take additional coursework on topics such as statistics and experimental methods. Although both specialties require an internship, social psychology students often pursue a research-based internship working under the supervision of a faculty member rather than a clinical internship working with patients.

Social and general psychologists often pursue different career paths. While general psychologists typically act as health service professionals and directly treat patients, social psychologists usually focus more on broad social research in their professional career. Many social psychologists work in academia, where they teach and conduct studies. Others pursue research careers outside of academia or act as consultants or analysts in the private sector.

What can You Do With a Social Psychology Degree?

Social psychologists research group dynamics to understand the impact of groups on individuals, as well as how individuals shape groups. They may work as researchers and professors, applying their training to understand social perceptions, the role of social environments on behavior, and group dynamics. Most social psychologists hold a doctorate, but some employers hire candidates with a master's degree.

In addition to researcher and professor, social psychology jobs include roles such as consultant, manager, strategist, and analyst. In these roles, social psychology graduates apply the research, analytical, and interpersonal skills gained during their degree to perform tasks such as analyzing business operations to suggest improvements or assessing programs for efficacy.

Social Psychology Degree Programs

Undergraduate Social Psychology Programs

Degree Requirements

A bachelor's degree in social psychology generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. Students usually complete around 120 credits, including general education and major courses. Psychology majors may complete an internship or practicum to gain experience. Graduates can enroll in a master's or Ph.D. program or pursue roles such as social worker or social service manager. The following list outlines common careers for graduates.

Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For

  • University Admissions Counselor Admissions counselors at colleges and universities help prospective, incoming, and transfer students navigate the admissions process. They provide information about the university, conduct outreach at high schools to promote the institution, and advise students on the transfer process. The position generally requires a bachelor's degree.
  • Social Worker Social workers help people manage daily challenges. They assess clients' needs, connect clients with resources, and offer counseling services. While some social work positions, including clinical social work, require a master's degree, candidates with a bachelor's in psychology qualify for some entry-level positions.
  • Social Service Manager Social service managers supervise social service programs, overseeing workers who provide services to the public. They identify necessary programs based on community feedback, analyze data to assess a program's effectiveness, and implement program improvements.

Social Psychology Master’s Programs

Degree Requirements

A master's degree in social psychology prepares graduates for roles such as counselor, program director, and management analyst. Social psychology master's programs generally take two years of full-time study to complete. Graduate students usually complete a master's thesis, depending on the program. Most social psychology master's programs incorporate an internship to build professional experience.

Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For

  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor Mental health counselors work in healthcare settings or private practice. They help patients manage mental, behavioral, and emotional challenges, including trauma and addiction. These professionals may specialize in working with a particular population, such as adolescents or people with eating disorders.
  • Nonprofit Program Director Nonprofit program directors act as the chief executives for a nonprofit organization. They direct the organization's goals, oversee staff, and make administrative decisions. The position often requires a master's degree and nonprofit experience. Nonprofits related to mental health, behavior, or psychology may appeal to candidates with a background in social psychology.
  • Management Analyst Management analysts research organizations to determine ways to improve their efficiency. They conduct observations, analyze data, and develop solutions to the organization's problems. Management analysts report their findings and recommendations to executives and managers.
Master's in Social Psychology

Social Psychology Doctorate Programs

Degree Requirements

A Ph.D. in social psychology meets the requirements for licensure in every state. These programs prepare graduates for careers as psychologists, professors, and researchers. Social psychology Ph.D. programs typically take five years to complete. During the program, students usually complete an internship to gain professional experience and research, write, and defend a doctoral dissertation.

Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For

  • Social Psychologist Social psychologists study group dynamics, including how individuals shape groups and the impact of groups on individuals. They research social perceptions, choices, and actions to better understand interpersonal dynamics and social problems.
  • Psychology Professor Psychology professors teach courses to undergraduate and graduate students. They design syllabi, prepare and deliver lectures, and assess student learning. Psychology professors often conduct research, which they publish in scholarly journals. Most tenure-track positions at colleges and universities require a doctorate.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological principles to understand organizational dynamics. Their research helps organizations improve efficiency, boost worker productivity, and improve employee training and development programs.
Ph.D. in Social Psychology

Online Social Psychology Programs

Online social psychology degrees often give students the flexibility to complete coursework at their own pace, which particularly appeals to students with work and family obligations. During an online psychology program, students complete coursework through a distance learning platform and meet internship requirements at approved sites near their home. The accessible format allows graduate students to earn their degree from top social psychology programs without relocating.

When Selecting a Program


Check Accreditation Status

To obtain licensure, students typically must hold an accredited psychology degree, and many employers only hire candidates with an accredited degree. Accreditation also expands educational opportunities, as most accredited schools do not accept non-accredited degrees or credits. APA accreditation is the highest standard for psychology programs.

Look Up Job Placements

A school's job placement record indicates how well the program prepares students for their career. This data can help prospective students determine if the program meets their career goals and interests. For instance, a program that mostly leads to employment in research psychology may not appeal to students who want to pursue clinical practice.

Research Graduation Requirements

Each program sets its own graduation requirements. Prospective students should make sure that they can meet the requirements of each prospective program. Learners should also ensure that program components align with their state's licensure requirements if they intend to practice clinical psychology.

Take the Next Step

Learn More About How to Choose a Psychology Program

Program Database

School Degree Levels State