2024 Best Online PhD in Social Psychology Programs [Doctorate Guide]

By Megan Patiry
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 8, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Earning a social psychology PhD could help you advance your expertise and expand your career opportunities in the field.

Best Online PhD in Social Psychology Programs

Social psychology focuses on how social interactions and environments affect human behavior, such as why individuals behave differently when in a group versus when they are alone.

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A doctoral degree in this specialty area can help graduates qualify for research and academic positions as well as consulting positions for companies and organizations. If you want to work directly with patients, you could pursue licensure as a social psychologist.

Universities Offering Online PhD in Social Psychology Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

California Institute of Integral Studies

The California Institute of Integral Studies offers a PhD in Psychology with a concentration in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology. The program is fully online and starts in the fall of each year. Classes are typically taken part-time, and the coursework can usually be finished in 2 years. The dissertation usually takes around 3 years to complete.

CIIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Senior College and University Commission.

Capella University

Capella University offers a PhD in Psychology through its School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Concentrations offered include Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Industrial-Organizational Psychology. The program is fully online, and students take part in virtual residencies instead of on campus. Doctoral projects may be started early in the program.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University is the first school in the country to offer an online program for a PhD in Cyberpsychology. The program is fully online. Capitol’s curriculum is industry-based, and the program’s instructors are experienced in their industries. Students may choose between a dissertation or publication project. The program requires the completion of 60 credits in courses like Cyberpsychology Future Demands.

Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Fielding Graduate University

Fielding Graduate University offers a PhD in Clinical Psychology. The program offers three concentrations to choose from, including Social Justice and Diversity. Coursework can be completed online, but students must attend two residencies that are 5 days long each year, for the first three years of the program. The program also requires the completion of 600 clinical hours and a dissertation.

Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University offers a PhD in General Psychology with an emphasis in Cognition and Instruction. Courses may be taken online or on campus in the evening. The program requires the completion of 60 credit hours, and courses are offered in an 8 week, accelerated format. It can potentially be completed in 4 years.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University offers a PhD in Psychology with an emphasis in Social Psychology. The courses are taught from a biblical worldview. The program may be taken fully online or in a hybrid format. Courses are offered in an 8 week, accelerated format, and the program can potentially be completed in just 3 years.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Saybrook University

Saybrook University offers a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Students may customize their electives to specialize in Social Psychology. Courses are offered fully online, but an orientation and residential learning experiences on campus are required. The program can potentially be completed in 5 years when attended full-time.

Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Sofia University

Sofia University offers a PhD in Transpersonal Psychology. Coursework is fully online, but four residential seminars must be attended over the course of the program. Each seminar is 5 days long. The program requires the completion of 75 credits and can potentially be finished in 3 years when attended full-time.

Sofia University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

University at Albany

The University of Albany offers a PhD in Social and Personality Psychology. Coursework may be completed online. The program offers students the opportunity to teach either online or on campus. The program requires the completion of a dissertation, research projects, and comprehensive exams. It is offered in the fall, spring, and summer.

UAlbany is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Walden University

Walden University offers a PhD in Psychology with an emphasis in Social Psychology. Coursework is entirely online. Students can choose between three tracks based on their previous degrees. Some students may be able to get credit for previously completed courses. Up to 55 qualifying credits may be transferred in. There are multiple start dates offered throughout the year.

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Online Social Psychology PhD Programs

Woman taking Online Social Psychology PhD Programs

An online PhD in Social Psychology program is designed to prepare students to become researchers, teachers, and practitioners in the field of social psychology.

Much like with a social psychology masters online or on campus, with a PhD program, you can expect to be exposed to rigorous scientific methods and approaches in cognitive neuroscience, behavioral experimentation, data analysis, field studies, psychophysiology, and more.

Social psychology PhD coursework may include a focus on:

  • Research training—both in class settings and community experiences
  • Advanced statistical and qualitative methods
  • How social structures influence behavior, social and political attitudes, and even health
  • How human experience, including thoughts and behavior, is shaped by various groups
  • Teaching methods—such as course preparation, teaching strategies, and assessment
  • Research applications to real-world processes—such as policy-making and counseling

Students can also expect to engage in multi-method approaches such as direct behavioral observation, survey and field research design, and peripheral psychophysiology. PhD students are typically heavily involved in an active research culture with mentorship opportunities.

You may have the opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors on research projects in an on-campus or online psychology degree programs. Common research areas include intergroup relations, social cognition, social identification, and more. Most PhD programs require the completion of a dissertation as well as a residency or fellowship.

Social Psychology Careers & Salaries

Social Psychology PhD Careers & Salaries

Social psychologists typically find careers in research, teaching, or consulting with individuals or organizations. Social psychology PhD graduates may teach at the university level or conduct research for private, academic, or government institutions.

Social psychologists who want to work directly with patients go on to obtain state licensure. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some potential career paths associated with the study of social psychology.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $133,380
Training and Development Managers $120,130
Sociologists $92,910
Psychologists $81,040
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Health Education Specialists $60,600
School and Career Counselors and Advisors $60,510
Survey Researchers $59,740
Social Workers $50,390

Earning a degree in social psychology may lead to diverse opportunities to focus on behavior, research, data, and more in various career settings. Social psychology graduates may also work directly with organizations to solve societal problems. To give an example, a social psychologist might help to create public awareness campaigns for certain health issues.

Professionals with a background in social psychology could also work for marketing agencies or corporations. They might apply their knowledge to help companies develop employees, understand customers’ buying behavior, or improve advertising campaigns.

Social Psychology PhD Curriculum & Courses

PhD students taking Social Psychology in a group study

While the coursework of social psychology PhD programs online can differ from school to school, many curriculums feature similar courses, including:

  • Research Methods: This course delves into the fundamentals of research methodology, including best practices and ethics.
  • Statistics: This course prepares you for working with and analyzing data sets, probability, statistical inference, and statistical theory.
  • Overview of Social Psychology: This course overviews the broad themes and theories present in modern social psychology as well as accumulated research.
  • Group Processes and Intergroup Relations: This course examines the psychology behind social group processes, along with relations between social groups.
  • Self and Identity: This course evaluates concepts of the self and how this identity process impacts both individuals and groups.
  • Attitudes and Social Influence: This course introduces historical and modern social theories as well as experimental and correlational research regarding social influence.
  • Interpersonal Processes: This course explores the nature of interpersonal relationships and their processes.
  • Motivation, Affect, and Cognition: This course explores research on motivational systems, as well as the effect of cognition on motivation.
  • Foundations of Doctoral Study in Psychology: This course focuses on scholarly writing, critical thinking, and empirical research in view of PhD requirements.
  • Teaching of Psychology: This course focuses on the skills necessary to teach psychology at the university level, including rapport, learning strategies, course creation, and more.

Much like with a doctoral online clinical psychology degree program, earning an online PhD in Social Psychology also tends to require the completion of a dissertation and dissertation support courses. Some programs may also include the opportunity for residences.

How to Become a Social Psychologist

Social Psychologist discussing to a group of adults

In order to hold the title of social psychologist, it’s necessary to earn a doctoral degree in social psychology.

Below are the common steps toward becoming a licensed social psychologist:

  • Doctoral degree. Social psychologists practicing, teaching, or researching psychology typically need to earn either a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology from an accredited university.
  • Internship or residency. Social psychology students will typically conduct research under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
  • Licensure. Most psychologists working with patients are required to become licensed in the state that they practice. This may include the prerequisites of holding a doctorate, passing an exam, and completing a supervised fellowship. Social psychologists who do not work with patients may not need licensure.
  • Certification. Although not always required, licensed social psychologists may choose to become board-certified. This credential could help psychologists pursue specialized careers and expand their opportunities.

The type of licensure or certification you may need depends on whether you’re looking to pursue an academic career or work directly with patients.

Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for PhD in Social Psychology

Admissions requirements for entry into social psychology doctoral programs can vary depending on your school, but many core requirements remain the same. These may include:

  • Bachelors or masters degree in a related field
  • Personal essay
  • Academic research sample
  • Letters of recommendation
  • 0 minimum GPA, on average

Many schools no longer require GRE or GMAT scores for graduate admissions, so you may want to check with your school to see if you need them. Some universities may also require an interview or departmental approval for entrance into a PhD psychology program.

Social Psychology Graduate Programs Accreditation

University offering Social Psychology Degrees

Determining whether your potential school or college is accredited is an important step to take before you apply. Accreditation is, in essence, quality assurance that a postsecondary institution meets a set of professional education standards.

Enrolling in accredited online psychology programs is a precondition for certain types of financial aid. Plus, many employers and license boards only recognize doctoral degrees that are awarded by accredited schools. Regional accreditation is considered the most prestigious and widely recognized accreditation.

You can find out whether your school is regionally accredited by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s website.

Social Psychology Licensure and Certifications

Social Psychologist doing individual counseling

While requirements vary by state, social psychologists usually need to become licensed if they want to work with patients. Here is a breakdown of common licensing requirements:

  • Hold a doctoral degree in psychology
  • Complete supervised work experience
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

Board certification with agencies like the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is optional, but it may lead to advanced opportunities in the field. To become certified, practicing psychologists must be licensed and pass an exam of competency. If you plan to teach or conduct research, you may not need a state license.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Social Psychology PhD financial aid

Many students seek financial assistance to complete a social psychology PhD program. Luckily, there are many types of aid options available to students who qualify. These options may include federal aid, state aid, scholarships, grants, and more.

There are a number of scholarship and grant opportunities offered by schools and private organizations that could be based on a student’s need, merit, or area of study. If you require assistance in the form of student loans, both federal and state loan options may be available. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see your eligibility for federal aid options.

Some employers also offer tuition benefit programs to help their workers further their education. Schools may also have assistantships available for doctoral students.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Social Psychology?

Marketing Manager brainstorming with the team

Earning a PhD in Social Psychology can help prepare you for a research career at various academic, private, or government institutions.

PhD graduates may also teach at the university level, where they might conduct research as well. Some professionals choose to work directly with patients, individuals, or organizations as consultants. In organizations, they might use their knowledge of behavior and social influence to help with employee development or marketing research.

Social psychologists who want to work directly with patients in a clinical or counseling setting often need to obtain licensure or certification.

What Does a Social Psychologist Do?

Social Psychologist in a group session

Social psychologists focus on understanding human behavior within social interactions, groups, and relationships. They primarily study how these interactions affect the individual. Because of this, social psychologists may work as researchers in a variety of fields that deal with groups. They can also teach at the postsecondary level.

Social psychologists can also apply their knowledge of group dynamics, behavior, social perception, and social environments in clinical settings. They may work directly with individuals in need of counseling. Others consult with organizations, especially when it comes to marketing or employee training.

Where Do Social Psychologists Work?

Social Psychologist working in government research center

Social psychologists can be found in a variety of career settings. Many social psychologists enter the research field, where they can be found at academic institutions like universities, government research centers, or laboratories.

Social psychologists may also be found in correctional facilities, schools, and welfare organizations. Those in clinical settings may work directly with patients. Others work at marketing or advertising firms to assist in market research. Many social psychologists also teach at the university level, where they can simultaneously conduct research.

Should I Earn a Doctorate in Social Psychology?

School Career Counselor counseling a student

If you’re interested in human behavior and how people are affected by social settings, then earning a doctorate in social psychology could expand your career opportunities in this field.

Professionals in this field often have the opportunity to be involved in research that contributes to the field of psychology. Some also work in government or politics. Doctoral graduates may also work with organizations, individuals, and even the military to improve societal-related issues.

Social psychology professionals with a PhD may also qualify to teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Whether a social psychology doctorate is right for you may depend on your personal interests and career goals.

How Long Do Social Psychology PhD Programs Take Online?

student pursuing Social Psychology PhD online

Generally, earning a PhD takes 3 to 5 years to complete with full-time study. The length of your program can depend, though, on the number of credit hours required as well as how long it takes you to complete the dissertation process.

If no dissertation is required, a social psychology doctorate program can sometimes be completed in 3 years with full-time study. Of course, students enrolled part-time due to other career or family obligations may take longer to complete a doctoral program.

What’s the Difference Between PsyD vs. PhD Programs in Social Psychology?

Although Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Psychology programs are similar in many aspects, they differ when it comes to career focus and outcomes.

  • PsyD in Social Psychology: A PsyD is a professional doctorate that’s primarily designed to prepare students for clinical careers working directly with patients.
  • PhD in Social Psychology: A PhD is designed to prepare students for entering research careers as well as careers in academia and clinical settings.

PhD programs typically admit fewer students than PsyD programs, which may cause PhD programs to be more competitive.

Is a PhD in Social Psychology Worth It?

Training & Development Manager briefing the team

Yes, a PhD in Social Psychology is worth it for many students. Earning a psychology PhD can help you qualify for a range of career opportunities in this lucrative field.

Graduates may choose to work in research that has an impact on human interaction and individual psychology. Those with a PhD may also choose to teach at the university level. Social psychology professionals can also consult with organizations or pursue psychologist licensure to work directly with patients.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychologists is projected to grow by 6% over the next ten years.

Getting Your PhD in Social Psychology Online

PhD student taking Social Psychology online

A PhD in Social Psychology program is designed to help you prepare to become a researcher, teacher, or practitioner in social psychology.

The study of social psychology is focused on human behavior and how individuals are affected by social interaction and society. Earning your doctoral degree online is a convenient way to advance your expertise and professional qualifications in this lucrative field.

If you’re ready to take this next step in your educational and professional journey, you can start researching accredited schools to see which PhD program in social psychology is right for you.

Ready to start your journey?