How To Become A Social Psychologist (Plus Duties And Skills)
Updated 5 July 2023
Social psychologists observe how individuals influence each other in social settings and how these interactions dictate relationships, perceptions, emotions and actions. By entering this domain of psychology, you can increase the understanding of the factors behind social challenges, public perceptions and consumer trends. Learning more about social psychology can help you decide if this is a suitable career choice. In this article, we discuss how to become a social psychologist, explain their job duties and work methods and share the essential skills for this role.
What Is Social Psychology?
Social psychology is a multi-disciplinary field that studies how social environments, settings and interventions influence the actions, thoughts and choices of individuals. This field of psychology has many similarities with sociology, but, unlike sociology, it does not study groups or society as a whole, focusing instead on individuals. Social psychology has several practical applications, such as finding solutions to social challenges, understanding consumer behaviour, studying the impact of public policies and creating public awareness.
This field of psychology is essential to understanding human interactions and how they influence each other, particularly with regard to subjects such as stereotypes, prejudice, racism, bullying, self-identity, discrimination, criminal activity, domestic problems and community health challenges. Social psychology also studies the positive impact that people can have on each other. Its findings can enhance knowledge of and train people regarding social concepts, such as leadership, propaganda, bias, perception, conformity and group behaviour. Through research, social psychologists identify the sources of influences and discover solutions to challenges.
How To Become A Social Psychologist?
To learn how to become a social psychologist, follow these steps:
Finish your 10+2 qualification. Finish your senior school certificate examination or 10+2. Studying such subjects as psychology or sociology can be beneficial when pursuing higher education, but it is not mandatory at this level.
Complete a bachelor's degree. Complete a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from any established private or government institute. Depending on the admission process, it may be necessary to meet a minimum qualifying grade in 10+2 or clear an entrance examination.
Pursue a master's degree. Psychology, particularly social psychology, is an advanced field of study and requires higher educational training. Depending on your interest, you can also choose to pursue a Master of Arts in psychology degree programme.
Get training and professional experience. It can be helpful to acquire some practical experience and research training at this stage. Apply for internships with government, private and non-governmental organisations conducting research projects that require a social–psychological perspective.
Consider getting a PhD. As social psychology is a research-focused field, many psychologists in this domain pursue a PhD. Besides adding valuable skills and knowledge, this provides an excellent opportunity to conduct unique research and studies.
Complete specialised certification and training. You can pursue specialised diploma programmes in social psychology while completing your master's or PhD degree. You might consider international universities for short-term exchange programmes or summer certifications.
Look for relevant job opportunities. Find suitable employment opportunities related to your expertise and interest in different industries. Continue learning about new academic studies, discoveries and theories in social psychology to keep your knowledge up to date.
Duties Of A Social Psychologist
The duties of a social psychologist can vary significantly depending on their specialisation and employer. For example, they can work as researchers, political strategists, marketing advisors, brand managers, human resources (HR) consultants, social workers and brand consultants. They usually find relevant employment opportunities at rehabilitative centres, mental health institutions, counselling centres, educational establishments, public survey companies and government and non-governmental organisations. Here are some duties they undertake:
Conducting research: Social psychologists usually design experiments and research studies to study human behaviour in controlled settings when working with academic institutes. Through these studies, they validate theories, make new observations and learn how humans behave.
Studying the impact and perception of public policies: When a government hires them, social psychologists generally help to measure public sentiment and response to specific policies or interventions. They also assist government organisations in identifying the different facets of social challenges and devising appropriate solutions.
Designing communication and awareness campaigns: Social psychologists are instrumental in developing public awareness campaigns, particularly related to health challenges, such as substance abuse. In addition, they can help design awareness and intervention campaigns about other social challenges, such as homelessness.
Helping companies market their goods and services: When these psychologists work with businesses and corporate brands, they study consumer behaviour to understand a customer's decision-making process. This helps them design effective marketing campaigns that can improve sales.
Devising employee training material and HR processes: In the corporate sector, social psychologists also design training material for employees to improve compliance and the adoption of policies. They can also help an HR team create effective hiring strategies, develop objective performance review frameworks and establish a more inclusive workplace culture.
Work Methods Of Social Psychologists
Social psychologists use many research methods to collect data and test different theories, such as:
Lab-based research: These research methods include experiments and behavioural studies that they conduct in laboratories under controlled settings. In such methods, the psychologist usually manipulates different variables to observe the changes in subjects.
On-field research: This allows social psychologists to study subjects in natural settings and gather more comprehensive data. While psychologists have lesser control of variables in the field, they usually use various data collection techniques to improve accuracy.
Surveys and questionnaires: Surveys and questionnaires comprise different types of questions to measure the feelings, behaviours and responses of subjects. Psychologists can administer these surveys digitally or in person, depending on the scope of the study.
Researching official records: Psychologists may refer to information from official records when conducting research related to large data sets or historical events. For example, when studying the increase in the rate of crime in a region, they may check local police records and hospitalisation data.
Essential Skills Of Social Psychologists
Here are skills that can help you effectively perform your duties as a social psychologist:
A significant number of a social psychologist's duties involve interaction with peers, subjects and survey respondents. Communication skills, such as active listening, interpersonal communication and feedback are essential to interview people effectively and explain research methodologies. In addition, writing skills can help psychologists create academic papers, reports and meeting minutes.
Social psychologists working with academic institutions, government organisations and corporate companies require strong research skills. They deploy various methods to collect primary and secondary data in different environments. Knowing how to design research studies, gather data and analyse results accurately is a key requirement for social psychologists.
Attention to detail
Analysing human behaviour, thoughts and actions can be a complex activity that requires paying special attention to the body language, tone, gestures and words of subjects. As many of their data collection methods are based on observation, having greater awareness is vital. Being an attentive listener, having high levels of patience and undertaking the research process in a calm and composed manner can help these professionals stay observant.
While pursuing advanced education and during employment, social psychologists often lead teams of researchers to design experiments, collect data and study results. They may delegate tasks, check progress and provide guidance to team members. These responsibilities require strong leadership skills, such as problem-solving, giving feedback, flexibility and interpersonal communication.
Objectivity and empathy
Maintaining objectivity and integrity throughout the research and analysis stages is crucial for social psychologists. This includes embracing new information, identifying prejudices and removing subjective opinions. It is also beneficial for social psychologists to detach themselves from the topic of research and subjects to ensure that personal feelings do not impact any findings. Knowing how to be understanding, considerate and sensitive to people of different backgrounds and belief systems is crucial to balancing empathy with detachment.
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