Social psychology studies how individuals relate within and among groups. Different areas of specialization include political psychology, stress, culture and ethnic issues, and evolutionary psychology. Some social psychologists focus on one gender or group, like sport psychologists; others choose broader topics, such as social cognitive and positive psychology.
Students in social psychology master’s programs should expect to spend at least two years earning a degree. The typical program will require several courses in fundamental psychological theory, such as developmental psychology and cognitive behavior. Since most social psychology focuses heavily on research, at least two courses in qualitative and quantitative methods are also usually required. Most programs require either completion of a project or a master’s thesis prior to graduation.
Why a Master’s Degree in Social Psychology?
According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate in 2012 for people with a master’s degree in this field was 3.5%, whereas the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree was 4.5%; similarly, people with master’s degrees earned about 20% more than their bachelor’s degree holding counterparts. In fact, according to a recent report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, a master’s degree holder will earn $400,000 more over his/her lifetime compared with a person who possesses a bachelor’s degree and $1,250,000 more than someone whose highest degree is a high school diploma.
Getting Into a Social Psychology Master’s Degree Program
The expectations of social psychology master’s degree programs vary. Some common requirements include the following criteria:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Sufficient scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- Sufficient undergraduate grade point average (GPA) – typically over 3.0
- Statement of interest or letter of intent
Inside a Social Psychology Master’s Degree Program
Students in social psychology master’s online degree programs should expect a demanding curriculum. Courses that explore personality, cognitive behavior therapy, psychopathology, and cognition are frequently required. Classes in group dynamics, organizational behavior, and industrial psychology may be required as well. Students should also expect to take courses on counseling theories and methods.
As a graduate program, rigorous training in research methods is also to be expected. Most programs require at least two courses on quantitative and qualitative methods as well as research design. Specific social psychological methods, such as survey research, are also commonplace. Depending on whether the program is more theoretical or applied in nature, either a thesis or project will also be required. Many programs also require a passing grade on a written comprehensive examination.
What’s Next for Social Psychology Master’s Degree Holders?
Graduates of social psychology master’s degree programs are in high demand; in fact, jobs in the field are expected to grow faster than the national average through 2020, according to the BLS. Those who choose to practice independently as counselors can expect a salary in the range of $40,000. Others who move into supervisory positions as social service managers earn a median annual salary of $57,950. Some chose to apply their research skills as market research analysts; they can expect salaries of roughly $60,000.
Many choose to continue their education and pursue a Ph.D. A typical social psychology doctoral degree will take at least three years to complete, although graduates of doctoral programs have even more employment choices. Many choose to teach at the university level, where median annual salaries are approximately $60,000. Those who practice as psychologists expect earnings of about $70,000 annually. Others, who choose to work in industry as marketing managers, earn annual salaries in excess of $100,000.