How to Become a Media Psychologist – Career and Schooling Guide [2024 Guide]


The niche of media psychology is a rewarding and endlessly fascinating field. As the media eco-system continues to expand and invade every area of daily life, those involved in the field of media psychology attempt to explain, and occasionally predict the effects of these influences.

The niche of media psychology is very interested in sub-specialties like attentional capacity and the perception of various types of content and information.

Although the field may have originated with therapists who worked as public figures, media psychologists are not therapists that appear on television, or in the media. This field of psychology is rapidly developing, and is still being defined- so if you would enjoy setting the precedents for a new field, media psychology may be for you.

What is Media Psychology?

Media psychology is quite new, especially with respect to other areas of study in the field of psychology. Because it is so young, and because it is concerned both with media technologies of today and those that will emerge in the future, the definition of media psychology continues to evolve.

More or less, media psychology is concerned with the interaction between people and media (technology) on a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral level. In particular, media psychologists focus on whether human interaction with media is a good or bad thing or if it falls somewhere in between.

Since young people use media most often, they tend to be the focus of media psychologists’ attention. However, because media and technology are used by people of all ages, media psychologists examine our interaction with media across the lifespan.

In order to gain insights into the relationship between people and media, media psychology applies various disciplines of psychology, including neuroscience, clinical psychology, and cognitive psychology, to research how media and technology can improve human existence.

Media psychologists do their work in a host of settings doing various kinds of work. They might be employed by a business to determine the efficacy of a social media campaign, or they might work for a tech company to help develop user experiences that are pleasing to the eye and easy to use. Much research is also conducted by media psychologists, typically in a lab setting.

It was only in the late 1980s that media psychology became a recognized branch of the American Psychological Association (APA). Now, as Division 46 of the APA, media psychology is a rapidly growing field. Originally, media psychologists practiced in the media, hosting shows and training others to make media appearances.

However, the field has expanded to include the impacts of media and technology, as well as the sociocultural systems that grow around them.

What is a Media Psychologist?

A media psychologist is someone that explores the nature of the relationship between the media and human behavior. Media psychologists examine this relationship on both an individual and a societal level. Much of a media psychologist’s job centers around the manner in which people perceive messages they see and hear on TV, the Internet, social media, radio, and other communication mediums.

Media psychologists play a significant role in understanding human behavior because of the growing influence that media has on our lives. When media psychology began in the 1950s, the primary concern was about how television impacted the growth and development of children, in particular, their intellectual abilities.

Now with media easily accessible and pervading nearly every aspect of our lives, media psychologists explore many more topics including:

  • The effects of violent TV shows and video games on the socio-emotional development of children;
  • Effectiveness of advertising messages to people of all ages;
  • Ways in which the negative impact of news media can be diminished;
  • The impacts of various types of media on people of different ages, ethnicities, genders, and cultures.

In addition to studying the varying effects of media on people’s behavior, media psychologists also work to help individuals cope with the rapid changes that occur with technology. For example, a media psychologist might study the implications of digital communications on the manner in which people form interpersonal relationships. In that context, a media psychologist might offer strategies for people to build trust and communicate with one another in a more effective manner.

What Does a Media Psychologist Do?

Media psychologists have intensely interesting job duties. As a media psychologist, you can expect to conduct research on marketing and consumer behaviors. You can also expect to test the application of various psychological theories against the framework of media interactions. Media psychologists seek to understand the ways in which the media influences human behavior.

As a media psychologist, you may investigate the ways in which technological advancements change social relationships, buying behaviors, and many other aspects of human life. You will investigate the relationships between various media streams and violent behavior in adults and children. You will also study the psychology of the influence of color on human behavior.

Most importantly, you will seek to understand and quantify the role that the media plays within the lives of individuals. As a result of their expertise, media psychologists often become game and website developers.

A part of your job description will also include familiarizing yourself with new technological advancements, and investigating the ways in which new technology has changed society. You will study the differences between online relationships and real-time relationships, as well as finding effective marketing strategies for platforms similar to YouTube.

Related: Career Options With a Degree in Media Psychology

What are the Educational Requirements to Become a Media Psychologist?

Those who wish to work in the field of media psychology must successfully earn a minimum of a master’s degree.

While in school, they are expected to study advanced statistic for behavioral sciences, advanced consumer behavior, economics, macroeconomics, advanced research methods, psychological reward systems, advanced communication theories, and the psychology of desire. Some schools also require candidates to study ethics and basic business law.

For advanced positions and in order to conduct highly intensive research- most companies may require candidates to possess a doctoral degree.

Work Experience Requirements

Those interested in becoming media psychologists are usually required to complete an internship. The internship may require candidates to perform in the capacity of a marketing director or firm consultant.

Other internships require candidates to conduct intensive research on the impact of technologies on human behaviors. Research internships are often labor-intensive, and involve the input of large amounts of data into SPSS program technologies.

Occasionally, internships may be conducted at film and television studies, and are often funded by broadcasting companies.

What are the Requirements for a Licensure?

There are currently no state licensure requirements for those interested in becoming media psychologists. Media psychologists are not required to become licensed counselors because no patient population is involved. Although continuing education credits can be sought, there are no standardized examinations that you would be required to pass.

Because this is an emerging field, licensure requirements are subject to change. However, generally, without licensure you cannot officially call yourself a “psychologist” and most states require licensure to use the title “psychologist”.

What Skills and Qualities are Needed for a Media Psychologist?

Media psychologists need to have a special set of skills and abilities. You must be punctual, organized, friendly, and empathetic. You must have good math skills, and be able to efficiently investigate causes and effects.

As a media psychologist, you must be an innovator, a problem solver, and a critical thinker. A charismatic outgoing personality, good organization skills, a strong sense of personal boundaries, and an interest in all forms of media are also useful.

Media psychologists must also possess an innate fascination with human relationships, and with changing technologies. For this reason, you should be adaptive, and accepting of both change and progress.

Where Does a Media Psychologist Work?

Media psychologists typically work in:

  • Private practice
  • Broadcasting companies
  • Marketing and advertising firms
  • Schools, colleges and universities
  • Human services and health care settings
  • Government and private research facilities

What is the Salary of a Media Psychologist?

Income levels substantially increased with the media psychologist’s level of education. Media psychologists asked to consult for major motion pictures may earn salaries of six figures or more.

Those who work for major firms or companies, and who possess a doctoral degree make substantially more money than those who do not.

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