How to Become a Consumer Psychologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a consumer psychologist. Research the job description and education requirements to find out how to start a career in consumer psychology. View article »

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  • 0:03 Consumer Psychologist Overview
  • 1:24 Complete a Bachelor's Program
  • 1:59 Complete a Master's Program
  • 2:35 Complete a Ph.D. Program
  • 3:13 Earn Licensure & Certification

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Video Transcript

Consumer Psychologist Overview

Consumer psychology, or the study of consumer behavior, draws on the fields of psychology, marketing, and communications. Consumer psychologists explore how people respond to information and experiences related to certain products and services. Many consumer psychologists are employed as professors and/or researchers on the university level, but their work also could prove useful to advertising agencies, government entities, market research firms and private companies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary psychology teachers earned a median annual wage of $70,260 as of May 2015. This was just slightly less than the median wage of $72,580 for psychologists.

Career Requirements at a Glance

Degree Level Doctorate
Degree Field Psychology, consumer behavior, consumer psychology, or related field
Licensure and Certification Requirements vary by state; voluntary certification available
Experience Varies, internships, depends on jurisdiction, 3,000 hours supervised experience including 1,500 hours postdoctoral experience
Key Skills Analytical, communication, interpersonal, observational, problem-solving, and research-based skills: judgment and decision-making abilities; knowledge of systems analysis, evaluation, writing, analytical and scientific software, as well as document management, resource management, and spreadsheet software
Salary (2015)* $72,580 (median salary for psychologists in general)

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, The American Board of Professional Psychology, O Net OnLine

Let's look at the steps involved to become a consumer psychologist:

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Program

A career in consumer psychology typically requires a Ph.D.; aspiring consumer psychologists will need to start on this path by earning a bachelor's degree. While a specific major isn't required on the undergraduate level, a bachelor's program in psychology can provide a solid foundation in general psychology and human behavior, as well as an introduction to research methods. In particular, students might look for a Bachelor of Science in Psychology program with a business option, which typically includes relevant classes in communication and marketing.

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Step 2: Complete a Master's Program

Some universities allow students to begin pursuit of a doctorate with only a bachelor's degree, while others require a master's degree for admission to a Ph.D. program. On the master's level, aspiring consumer psychologists might seek a degree in consumer behavior or in psychology with a specialization in consumer psychology. Courses in this specialty might address psychology in relation to branding, market diversity and segmentation, social media, and media influence. Master's students also continue to build on their research skills.

Step 3: Complete a Ph.D. Program

On the doctoral level, aspiring consumer psychologists might opt to pursue a Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral science, consumer behavior, or marketing. Students will likely complete courses in social psychology, behavioral decision making, and attitudes and persuasion, along with studies in behavioral and quantitative research and statistical theories and methods. Additionally, doctoral candidates will research, write and defend a dissertation. Other requirements might include one or more practicums, a teaching assistantship, and oral exams.

Step 4: Earn Licensure & Certification

Consumer psychologists who intend to work independently, rather than in a teaching or research capacity, must be licensed to work in their state. Requirements vary but typically include a doctorate in psychology, supervised practical experience, and passage of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Additionally, consumer psychologists might be eligible for voluntary certification through the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology. General requirements include a doctoral degree and state licensure as a psychologist; additional specialty-specific requirements also must be met. Certification demonstrates proficiency in the field and can lead to increased job opportunities.

In summary, a consumer psychologist typically needs a doctorate in psychology with a concentration in behavioral science, consumer behavior, or marketing. Licensure might be required, and voluntary certification could lead to more and better job opportunities.

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