Social psychologists undertake research-intensive projects in which they use advanced methodologies, tools and models to investigate phenomena or solve problems that affect various populations within a greater society. No associate or bachelor’s degree is available in social psychology; rather, because of its specialized nature, most social psychology degree programs are completed at the doctorate level. Students can complete preliminary coursework in a related field at the undergraduate level before pursuing a master’s and usually a doctoral degree.

About Social Psychology Degree Programs

React. Respond. Relate. People do it all day long as they interact with each other and the world. Students in social psychology degree programs investigate these behaviors in-depth, learning how everything from different environments to the workings of cognitive neuroscience come to bear on the field of human behavior. Coursework encompasses a broad range of topics, including social influences, interpersonal relations, prosocial behavior, and social identity.

Advanced degree programs at the master’s and doctoral levels typically include a research component that gives students a chance to use scientific and field research methods to study and confirm theories in the overall study of social psychology. Students pursuing a career in research will need to complete a doctorate program that involves an internship, advanced fieldwork studies, and a dissertation.

Associate & Bachelor’s Degrees in Social Psychology

While social psychology degrees are not offered at the undergraduate level, students can earn a degree in a related field, such as general psychology or sociology, before entering a graduate program that focuses specifically on social psychology.

Undergraduate students can further increase their chances of success in graduate school by completing an internship or research project over a summer term. The American Psychological Association (APA) features a comprehensive list of undergraduate research opportunities and internships for students who wish to invest in their educational careers before pursuing a graduate degree program. You’ll find this list in our resources section. Internships can provide valuable hands-on experience either in the field or in a lab setting, and give students a chance to develop strong research skills.

Who Should Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

To prepare for graduate-level studies in social psychology, students can complete an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field, and may be able to take social psychology as an elective during their junior or senior year. Students may also choose to earn a two-year associate degree in psychology and use it as a stepping stone toward a baccalaureate degree; credits earned for an associate degree may often be transferred.

What are the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in psychology?

Depending on the school, the bachelor’s degree program will require coursework that covers a broad base of psychological principles, from psychotherapy and counseling to behavioral neuroscience and cognitive science. Students should anticipate completing clinical work before taking the GRE subject test in psychology in pursuit of a master’s degree. Courses in college-level math or statistics are recommended, as they are typically required for a master’s degree.

How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology?

A bachelor’s degree in psychology typically takes four years to complete, but may be longer or shorter if the student takes a more intensive course load or decides to go part-time. Some schools offer psychology, sociology, and other degree programs online, giving students some flexibility with their schedule if they are working while attending school or prefer to study independently.

What will I learn if I get a bachelor’s degree in psychology?

Analytical, communication, problem-solving, and observations skills all go into the professional toolbox assembled by students in a psychology degree program. Graduates also learn the foundational principles of psychology and how to apply them, as well as advanced research skills.

Master’s Degrees in Social Psychology

While some employers may require a PhD as a minimal requirement to enter the field, many will find a master’s degree in social psychology acceptable. Master’s degree options include a Master of Science (MS) in psychology-social psychology and a Master of Arts (MA) in social psychology. Some students my prefer to focus on the counseling side of this field by completing a program with a dual major in social psychology and counseling. Master’s programs typically include 30-40 credit hours, including both coursework and practicum and internship experiences. Most social psychology degrees at the master’s level can be completed in two to three years.

Upper-division courses at the master’s level cover research methods in social psychology as well as in-depth topics related to behavioral neuroscience, human motivation and behavior, and human memory. Students learn about the developmental processes of children, adolescents, and adults. Courses may be lecture-based or include a laboratory component in which students conduct clinical psychology research, develop theories, and present their findings. Students complete fieldwork where they can apply principles they have learned to support and illustrate a theory.

Where Could a Social Psychology Master’s Degree Take You?

A master’s degree in social psychology is the first step toward performing research or working as a practicing psychologist in the field. Licensing laws vary by state and position. Graduates of a master’s degree program in social psychology can explore a variety of professional career paths in this field.

College or University Social Psychologist

In this setting, social psychologists are engaged in research projects that address social issues relevant to college and university campus populations, including conflict management techniques, race relations, mental health, psychology and education, and counseling.

Research Social Psychologist

Some social psychologists are responsible for conducting research for a government agency or a private firm. They may be indirectly involved with developing public policies that address social problems, designing public awareness campaigns about various topics such as poverty or obesity, and performing critical evaluations of government programs.

Consultants

Social psychologists may choose roles as consultants, for which they provide recommendations to entrepreneurs, business groups, government organizations, and private companies in order to improve productivity, foster better employee and customer relations, or examine group dynamics within a company or organization.

Doctorates in Social Psychology

Social psychologists do not typically work directly with patients in counseling situations. As such, the clinically focused PsyD option is not offered for this field. Instead, students may earn the research-oriented PhD degree that is completed with a comprehensive exam and a dissertation based on the student’s independent research studies.

Social psychologists do not typically work directly with patients in counseling situations. As such, the clinically focused PsyD option is not offered for this field. Instead, students may earn the research-oriented PhD degree that is completed with a comprehensive exam and a dissertation based on the student’s independent research studies.

Who should pursue a doctorate in social psychology?

Social psychology is a niche area of expertise in the field of psychology, with doctorate programs focusing on research methods. The degree is appropriate for anyone with a master’s degree in psychology or social psychology who wants to pursue a research-oriented career or teach social psychology in a college or university setting.

What are the prerequisites for a doctorate in social psychology?

Students can go directly from a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field to a doctorate program in social psychology. However, those who are unsure about completing a doctorate program or want additional training before entering a doctorate program may choose to complete a master’s program as an interim step.

How long does it take to complete a doctorate in social psychology?

Most doctorate programs in social psychology take five years to complete, but will vary depending on whether the student undergoes the program on a part-time or full-time basis.

What can I learn if I get a doctorate degree in social psychology?

Students complete a variety of advanced courses in the areas of human development, relationships, interpersonal communication and social psychology. Students can expect to spend a significant amount of time immersed in research projects and completing fieldwork studies.

What Could You Do with a Social Psychology Doctorate Degree?

Job opportunities for social psychologists with a doctorate degree abound in both the public and private sectors; they may work for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, corporations, and employers in the healthcare field.

College or University Teacher

Doctorate degrees allow graduates to work as teachers or professors at colleges and universities. They may teach a variety of courses in human behavior, social problems, conflict resolution, human motivation, work behavior and sport psychology, among other topics, and may also incorporate current research findings into their coursework.

Government Worker

Social psychologists may further the work of government organizations by conducting research or by designing and evaluating public policies and programs and providing recommendations for improvement.

Researcher in the Private Sector

Researchers may be responsible for applying research methodologies to human behavior to evaluate existing policies and programs or to discover new information that is applicable to business operations.

Online Social Psychology Degree Programs: How They Work

Technology is Vital

With a reliable computer and high-speed Internet access, students can access an online portal through which they can download assignments and view lectures or presentations. Students should also expect to spend some time participating in online discussion forums with instructors and peers, and collaborating on projects with other students.

Real-Time Interaction

A significant portion of a social psychology degree program requires human interaction and hands-on research, so typically coursework also includes a lab component or fieldwork studies. Schools that offer both online and traditional programs may have a campus-based lab for psychology students to attend throughout the semester.

Keeping Up

As with any class, success is dependent on effort: watching lectures, reading the recommended material, and completing assignments are the minimum requirements, but online students must also possess a degree of resourcefulness, learning how to access content online through research journals and other digital libraries. Forming an online study group with fellow students can help to tackle some of the more challenging assignments and get feedback on papers or research projects.

Communication is Key

While it is the student’s responsibility to reach out to ask questions or get help, instructors of online classes are aware that communication from students is not only expected, but often desirable to help forge a personalized experience. Most instructors will make themselves available to students throughout the week via email or through virtual office hours offered through the online system.

Choosing Online Programs in Social Psychology: 4 Determining Factors

Lifestyle, learning style, and career goals all factor into choosing an online program. Students should identify their short and long-term plans. Will they research, or teach, or work in the private sector? Programs should have some emphasis that aligns with the main focus of the student, but beyond that, there are other things to consider, most notably the following must-haves when choosing a graduate program.

GOALS

What are the goals of the program being considered? Goals should be detailed and easy to find and understand. Are the learning objectives and outcomes clear and achievable? They should be focused on theory, research and history. Students need to consider whether they want to practice social psychology in a private or public sector, what types of research they want to do, and whether potential employers will accept a master’s degree or require a doctorate. Some schools offer assistance with finding internships and applying for grants, which can be a bonus for prospective students.

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

Because social psychology is heavily focused on research, students would be wise to attend schools that offer a variety of fieldwork projects and provide access to sufficient resources, particularly for doctoral students working on their dissertations. They should be able, upon graduation, to synthesize research principles to produce their own original research. Many schools host workshops and programs to help students complete research projects and apply for grants or opportunities in the community.

LICENSURE

If students are interested in landing in a career that requires them to be a licensed psychologist, they should ensure that any program they are considering states clearly that they are preparing students to become licensed professionals. For some fields, licensing is not required, but to work directly with patients, licensing is usually a requirement.

ACCREDITATION

Accreditation is vital to ensure the program meets educational standards that are recognized in the professional realm. At the undergraduate level, online programs should be accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. At the doctoral level, look for accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Resources: Social Psychology Scholarships, Fellowships and Professional Organizations