What is Consumer Psychology?

consumer psychologist

Although the title “consumer psychology” may sound complicated, consumer psychology is actually the study of why people buy things. If you’ve ever made a purchase and later wondered why, and who hasn’t at some point, you’re actually experiencing a type of consumer psychology. It might seem like consumer psychology is a relatively new type of psychology, but it’s actually been around since the 1950s. Here is an overview of consumer psychology as a term and as a career.

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What is Consumer Psychology?

Consumer psychology involves the study of what makes consumers buy the things that they buy. A consumer psychologist does extensive research and surveys to determine what underlying cognitive processes are involved that make a consumer choose to buy a certain product. They also study what external stimuli convinces consumers to buy certain products and how much they’re influenced by marketing.

Marketing executives generally use the services of consumer psychologists to determine what makes consumers buy certain products. By being aware of why consumers purchase certain products, they’re better able to adjust their marketing and advertising campaigns so they can sell their products. Consumer psychologists perform research and studies to provide the executives with the information they need. They also get a lot of their information from watching and surveying shoppers.

Degree Levels to Become Consumer Psychologist

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that psychologists should have a doctoral degree, candidates interested in becoming consumer psychologists can get by with a master’s degree or even a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. Consumer psychology students may complete courses in advertising, consumer psychology, marketing, research methods/statistics, communication, and management.

Bachelor’s degree programs may include a major in psychology with a minor in consumer psychology. Students in the undergraduate program should complete an internship in an advertising agency, marketing business or something relevant. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs may find work as assistant media planner, advertising manager assistant, public relations specialist or media coordinator.

Master’s degree consumer psychology programs may come in the form or Masters’ in psychology with concentrations in consumer or social psychology; Master’s in Consumer Science; Master’s in Consumer Behavior and Market Research, and Master’s in Social Psychology. Graduates of master’s programs may find careers as product development consultant, market research analyst, public relations manager, sales manager, advertising manager or research associate/coordinator.

Doctoral degrees are required for the individual who wishes to be a full-time consumer psychologist who consults, teaches or does research. Possible educational programs may include Ph.D. in Experimental Social Psychology, Ph.D. in Consumer Behavior or Ph.D. in Psychology with a focus on consumer psychology. Although psychologists are usually required to be licensed, consumer psychologists are not.

According to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, psychologists who teach or perform research are exempt from licensure requirements, and this is the category in which consumer psychologist’s fall. The reason for this is that they do not counsel patients. Graduates of any of the degree levels are qualified for positions in the area of consumer psychology.

Career Outlook

Psychologists overall are projected to see an employment growth of 14 percent during the 2016-2026 decade, according to the BLS. The bureau also reports that psychologists earned an average annual wage of $93,440 as of May 2014. Consumer psychologists can earn less or more than that amount based on experience, degree level, employer and geographic location. Consumer psychologists may work as full-time employees or as self-employed consultants.