Become A Consumer Psychologist

What is Consumer Psychology?

Consumer psychology is a field which emerged as a distinct discipline in its own right beginning in the 1920s. This was around the time when radios and TVs were becoming more common and advertising was used in these mediums. With most nations trying to rebuild their economies after the War, advertising and consumerism were things which were actively encouraged. By the 1960’s, the American Psychological Association (APA) officially formed the Division of Consumer Psychology. Today, that division has been renamed and is now known as the Society for Consumer Psychology. It is responsible for understanding and advancing knowledge about consumer related behaviors.

For the purposes of consumer psychology, the purchasing patterns and behaviors of consumers is studied in the context of the various psychological processes which underlie the decision making process. Numerous facets of this relationship are explored including personal variables and situational variables. Due to this, consumer psychology is a field which relies heavily on social, behavioral and cognitive psychology as well as social influences.


What do Consumer Psychologists do?

Consumer psychologists are concerned with determining what makes people more inclined to purchase certain items or services. What factors are involved which influence their decisions? To answer these questions, consumer psychologists study advertising, marketing, packaging, placement, and other various features of products to determine what affects their sale. The ultimate goal is to maximize profits from the sale of goods and services. To that end, consumer psychologists have to find what factors have a positive impact on sales.

To determine the link between customers and their purchasing habits, consumer psychologists may:

  • Set up focus groups to study consumer behavior
  • Carry out surveys
  • Observe customers in business settings
  • Focus on specific products and services and find out what makes them more marketable
  • Determine why people chose to buy one thing over another
  • Carry out research in laboratory settings, government agencies, colleges, private businesses, and universities

How to become a Consumer Psychologist

For a career in consumer psychology, there are a number of degree options for you to pursue. Which degrees you enroll in will depend upon your specific career aspirations. For instance, there may be a number of entry level jobs available for you upon graduation from an undergraduate program. However, if you want to be officially recognized as a psychologist and increase your potential job prospects and salary, you will need to earn a doctoral degree.

Steps to become a consumer psychologist:
1. Get an undergraduate degree in psychology
2. Get a master’s degree in Consumer Psychology
3. Get a Ph.D. in Consumer Psychology
4. Get relevant training and experience

Bachelor’s degree in Psychology

At the bachelor’s degree level, there is no specific program in consumer psychology. You will need to enroll in a general psychology program and take courses which would be beneficial in pursuing a career in consumer psychology. It may also be helpful to take courses in business, marketing, and product design.



Duration Some of the courses offered
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology 4 years
  • Social psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Introduction to research methods
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Digital marketing and social media strategy

Master’s degree in Consumer Psychology

At the graduate level, students begin to gain specialized knowledge about consumer psychology. This degree covers the basics of marketing, marketing research, product development, consumer awareness, public policy, and a lot more in the context of psychology. With a greater understanding of these principles, you will learn how to influence consumer psychology in order to maximize the effectiveness of goods and services.



Duration Some of the courses offered
Master’s in Consumer Psychology 2 years
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Psychology of Branding
  • Group Dynamics
  • Statistical and Research Methodology
  • Economics
  • Research Methodology
  • Consumer Decision Making
  • Cognitive Psychology

Ph.D. in Consumer Psychology

A doctoral degree is absolutely essential for those individuals who want to become psychologists. At this level, you will gain all the in depth specialized knowledge you need to become a consumer psychologist. These programs typically culminate in a dissertation.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Ph.D. in Consumer Psychology 2-4 years
  •  Marketing
  • Behavioral Science
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Cognitive Psychology

Career prospects and salary

Unlike traditional psychologists, consumer psychologists typically work closely with businesses as opposed to working in clinical settings. They are often involved in carrying out research to determine how a new product or service will fare once launched.  Businesses employ consumer psychologists as consultants in order to determine what factors could potentially affect their goods and services.

Some of the jobs that an individual with a background in consumer psychology can take up include:

Careers you can pursue with a background in consumer psychology


  • Product Developmental Consultant
  • Advertising Manager
  • Marketing Executive
  • Independent Consultant
  • Media Coordinator
  • Research Analyst
  • Sales Representative
  • Public Relations Manager

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have specific data for consumer psychology as a career. However, you can get an idea of how much career psychologists may make by looking at jobs they can pursue with this educational background. Keep in mind these figures are only intended to give you a rough idea of how much you can potentially earn. Ultimately, much will depend upon the job, your employer, and the amount of experience you have in the field.

Job Title Median Salary (May 2015) Expected Job Growth


Industrial-Organizational Psychologists $77,350 N/A
Psychologists, All Other $94,590 N/A
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $124,850 9%
Public Relations Specialists $56,770 6%
Market Research Analysts $62,150 19%

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