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Grad Program: Social Psychology

Basic Information

Social psychology is one of several prominent areas of study within the sprawling field of psychology. If ever you’ve found yourself thinking about why people behave the way they do, how our personalities develop, or what effect society has on them, then you’ve begun your initial foray into social psychology. Social psychology focuses on the scientific study of individuals and how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual or imagined presence of others. It’s a discipline that places a heavy premium on researching the complex dynamics between people and the world around them, so make sure you’re comfortable working in a research-based environment.

Social psychology graduate programs prepare students for research careers in both academic and non-academic settings by developing a sound foundational understanding of psychological theory and methodology. Through course work, research experience, and interaction with area and adjunct faculty, social psychology students study a wide array of topics, including (but not limited to) prejudice, romantic attraction, gender, social influence, friendship, aggression, conformity, self-identity, group interaction, and emotion. Given this tremendous range of study options, social psychology students are well prepared to pursue careers in virtually every employment setting. Academic and educational institutions, non-profit organizations, corporations, government agencies, and hospitals all have needs for social psychologists.

Degree Information

A terminal masters degree (MA or MS achieved in two years) used to be common in the social psychology field. A recent trend has turned preferences toward doctorate degrees, usually PhDs, which require a term of study ranging from four to six years. To achieve a doctorate in clinical psychology—which allows you to have a clinical practice in which you see patients—students are generally required to complete an additional year of supervised clinical practice. Because social psychology is so heavily grounded in research, there is no Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) pertaining specifically to social psychology.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • What type of career would you prefer to pursue?
  • Would you like to combine social psychology studies with other academic study areas?
  • Do the programs you’re considering focus on research or clinical work?
  • What types of non-academic opportunities would be available in your field?
  • Do the graduates of the programs you’re considering have success in finding jobs?
  • How is the faculty of your program structured? What is the level of faculty involvement and how many professors are active and available within the program?
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