What Does Social Psychology Focus On?
Social psychology is the study of how people are influenced by other people. This discipline focuses on the way individuals relate to one another and how the presence of other people can affect individual behavior within groups. In short, the social psychologist is concerned with how people influence other people’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
Social psychology is seen as a field that combines sociology with psychology because it combines elements from both fields. Sometimes it is even mistaken for being a sub-field of sociology. However, social psychology and sociology have some very distinct differences. Sociology focuses on group dynamics while social psychology focuses on how groups of people affect individual or group behavior.
Social psychologists conduct their research by watching people in real world environments. They are also known to create replicas of real world situations and observe how people behave. Many social psychologists specialize in a specific area such as leadership, group dynamics, perception, racism, sexism, bullying, criminal activity, community health problems, or other social concerns.
Related: Becoming a Social Psychologist
What is the Career Outlook for Social Psychologists?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not indicate the outlook for social psychology specifically however it does indicate that the related field of sociology as well as the general field of psychology are both expected to grow over the next several years. Sociology is expected to grow just 9 percent from 2018-2028 while psychology is expected to grow 14 percent from 2018-2028.
What are the Careers in Social Psychology?
With training in social psychology, there are plentiful career options available. What’s more, there are many varied types of jobs available in many different fields of work. Some of these include:
Using the tenets of social psychology, an industrial-organizational psychologist can help businesses to function more effectively and efficiently. For example, they might devise a reward system for employees to help motivate them (and to help them motivate one another) to complete their job tasks to a higher standard of excellence.
Additionally, industrial-organizational psychologists look at problems in the workplace and identify solutions to those problems. For example, they might spend a month studying interactions between employees and members of management and make recommendations for improving the quality of those interactions to strengthen relationships between workers and their superiors.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists earn an average (mean) wage of $111,150 annually, as of May 2019.
Human Resource Specialist
An important role of a human resource specialist is to help businesses and organizations find, interview, and hire people for open positions. Perhaps more importantly, these workers utilize their understanding of the dynamics of social interactions to ensure that the people they recommend for hire are team players and will be a positive influence in the workplace. For example, a human resources specialist might design a questionnaire to identify personal traits of potential workers that most align with company goals.
As another example, a human resource specialist might devise an educational program that helps employees acquire improved teamwork skills that allows employees to work together towards achieving company goals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Human Resource Specialists earn an average (mean) wage of $67,760 annually, as of May 2019.
An integral component of a winning political campaign is an understanding of how social structures influence individual behavior. As such, a political strategist might rely on the principles of social psychology to develop a political platform that speaks directly to specific problems of specific groups. For example, a strategist might emphasize improving lagging employment numbers in the hopes that blue-collar workers turn out to vote for their candidate in the next election.
As another example, a political strategist might study how to best communicate with different groups of people to help their candidate be more relatable to as wide a population as possible. This might mean using certain types of language, keywords, or particular phrases that research has shown are of particular importance to certain groups of people.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Political Scientists earn an average (mean) wage of $122,220 annually, as of May 2019.
Public Relations Specialist
The primary duty of a public relations specialist is to communicate with different groups of people about critical issues of importance. Naturally, to do this, they must possess an intimate understanding of groups, how groups communicate, how groups interact with one another, and how people within groups communicate as well. For example, if working for a company that’s embroiled in a scandal involving sexism in the workplace, a public relations specialist might devise a communications plan to articulate the company’s plan for addressing such a serious issue so that it doesn’t happen again.
Additionally, public relations specialists might work to target specific groups of people for the company’s products. For example, if a company has developed a new toy for toddlers, they would utilize their communication skills and understanding of the values that most parents have to devise an outreach program to reach parents of toddlers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, average yearly salary of a Public Relations Specialist in 2019 was $61,150.
Social Services Representative
A social services representative functions to assist children, adults, and families in finding the resources they need to lead healthy, safe lives. For example, a social services representative might work with a family in which the parents are both out of work to help them find jobs to support their children. This might involve providing job coaching or job training, as well as assistance in filling out job applications, writing cover letters, and the like.
Another example of what a social services representative might do as part of their job is to connect individuals that are recovering from a psychological or behavioral condition with the appropriate community resources. For example, they might help a client find a place to live that’s clean and safe, connect clients with counselors or therapists that specialize in treating their specific disorder, and arrange for their clients to take part in support groups.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, average yearly salary of a Social Services Assistant in 2017 was $35,060.
Though it might not seem like a technology designer career fits in with a background in social psychology, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, technology designers must utilize an understanding of how people communicate in order to design the most appropriate tools. For example, a technology designer would be an integral component of the design team responsible for creating a new smartphone, with input on how people interact with phones, what features are most beneficial to the end-user, and so forth, to ensure the design is on point.
As another example, a technology designer might use their understanding of how people live, work, or play to help design structures like office buildings, apartment buildings, single family homes, or parks that facilitate improved interactions with one another.
According to Glassdoor, Technology Designers on average earn $56,449 per year.
Marketing Director or Manager
Many companies hire social psychologists to manage their marketing research department. By observing behavioral trends, they help companies identify dynamics that influence certain groups of individuals to buy their products and services.
Marketing Directors are concerned with figuring out how to market to particular segments of the population. They identify consumers by factors such as income, ethnicity, and age and determine a marketing strategy to get as many people as possible in that segment of the population to make a purchase. Social psychologists are trained to understand how groups of people are influenced by social dynamics and therefore may make great Marketing Directors.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marketing Managers earn an average (mean) wage of $149,200 annually, as of May 2017.
Social psychologists are employed in a variety of settings to conduct applied research regarding social issues. These professionals are often found in government and nonprofit agencies where their research is used to help develop policies. Their research is sometimes quite influential and often affects policy development in areas such as education and environmental protection.
Social psychologists are also hired to conduct research that will help with the development of programs that are aimed at eliminating the spread of particular social problems. These professionals may also be asked to evaluate the data from existing educational programs to identify alternative strategies to deal with various social problems.
Social psychologists can also be found conducting research in more controlled environments such as laboratories within college and university settings.
According to Glassdoor, Research Psychologists on average earn $72,611 per year.
Social psychologists are often hired as Business or Educational Consultants. Business Consultants may work with the human resources department to help with the hiring and training of employees or to develop a conflict mediation procedure. These professionals may also evaluate policies that are in place and make recommendations to improve effectiveness.
Educational Consultants may focus on identifying how group dynamics affect education and are often tasked with developing awareness and preventative programs for school districts.
As mentioned above, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in the related field of Human Resources earn an average (mean) wage of $67,760 annually, as of May 2019.
Workers with a background in social psychology can parlay that experience into an occupation as a college teacher. College teachers focus on two primary areas: teaching and research. For example, a college teacher might teach four courses and then have a focused area of research on an area of interest to them, like how groupthink effects behavior or how different income groups perceive economic messages from politicians.
Primarily, college teachers begin their teaching career after working in the field, in this case, as a social psychologist in a clinical or a research setting.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers earn an average (mean) wage of $79,540 annually, as of May 2019.
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