How to Become a Media Psychologist

Media psychology is a relatively new field of study in the more than 130-year history of psychology. When discussing what media psychology is, it can be equally informative to talk about what media psychology is not. According to Pamela Rutledge, a media psychologist writing in Psychology Today, media psychology is not a clinical degree, media studies, appearing on TV, or watching TV for a living. Rather, it is the “applied study of what happens when people interact with media as producers, distributors, and consumers through the lens of psychology.” Media psychologists apply psychological theories to better understand how people use, consume, and produce media. They may work in such fields as media consulting, advertising, and media research.

What degree is required to become a media psychologist?

Since it is so new, opportunities to study media psychology are not as prevalent as other disciplines of psychology. Media psychology is offered on the master’s and doctoral degree level. These range from an accredited media psychology Ph.D. program to a media master’s program with a psychological foundation to programs that have some technology, media, or communications basis. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clinical, counseling, and, pertinent to media psychology, research psychologists need a doctoral degree, though exact degree requirements will depend on your employer and job interests. Those who wish to teach at a university or college, or hold a clinical practice will need a doctorate.

The right credentials are crucial to many fields in psychology, especially those in clinical and counseling psychology. A certification, for instance, may be required to practice as a school counselor or clinical psychologist. Since media psychology, is primarily a research field, there aren’t such strict demands on certification.

How long does it take to become a media psychologist?

The study of media psychology begins at the graduate level. To enter a master’s or doctoral program, students must already have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. An online media psychology degree at the master’s level generally takes between 18 months to two years to complete, while a doctorate degree can take four to six years to finish. In addition to the degree type, factors influencing the length of an online degree for media psychology include the student’s prior educator, whether the program is full-time or part time, and if any perquisites are needed prior to starting.

Upon completing a graduate degree in psychology, oftentimes gradates must obtain a license to practice. But because media psychology is a research, not a clinical, field of psychology, licensing requirements do not apply as they would to a specialty such as counseling. Media psychologists looking to work in academia, for instance, would not require licensure.

What is a media psychologist’s salary?

What you earn as a media psychology will greatly depend on your experience and education, as well as your employer and your location. The BLS provides a general idea of how much psychologists make in the United States. According to its most recent figures, in May 2010 the median annual wage of psychologists was $68,640, with the lowest 10% making less than $39,200 and the highest 10% making more than $111,810.