How to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

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Updated August 11, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Industrial-organizational psychologists help companies run smoothly. Read on to learn how to become an industrial-organizational psychologist.

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Industrial organizational (IO) psychology is a dynamic specialty that allows practitioners to explore topics from multiple areas of the field. IO psychologists impact organizations by increasing efficiency and reducing turnover rates. They may also directly influence non-administrative personnel by improving incumbent morale and increasing job satisfaction.

Furthermore, IO psychologists earn a median annual wage of $96,270, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Read on to learn more about how to become an industrial organizational psychologist.

What Is Industrial Organizational Psychology?

Industrial organizational psychology is a specialized area of psychological practice and applied research that addresses workplace issues at the individual and organizational levels. IO psychology provides organizations with scientifically based ideas for improving workplace environments and productivity, decision-making, ethics, and organizational effectiveness.

Practitioners who work in or closely with human resources may focus on improving overall efficiency for organizations through job recruitment and monitoring job performance. IO psychologists may also focus on learning and development to improve organizational structures by examining incumbent motivation and job satisfaction through surveys or experiments.

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Industrial Organizational Psychology Salaries

Industrial Organizational Psychologists
Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
$96,270 2%
Source: BLS

How Do I Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist?

Aspiring IO psychologists begin their educational pathway by earning a bachelor's in psychology. Graduates often begin working entry-level positions to gain experience. Simultaneously, students go on to earn a master's degree in IO psychology. Applicants should find out if their desired programs require GRE scores. Online programs often do not require this exam.

Students who already hold a bachelor's degree may also apply to graduate programs. Note that some programs may require prerequisite coursework.

Some graduate programs require applied experiences or practicums. For instance, students may engage in a social justice practicum, which can require over 200 hours of experience in multiple settings.

While a master's in IO psychology is considered a terminal degree, students often go on to earn a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. Students interested in academia or making advances in the field through scientific research should consider earning a Ph.D. Those interested in offering actual psychological services to organizations or individuals should complete a Psy.D.

Licensure for Industrial Organizational Psychologists

States often require a license to practice IO psychology. However, students should confirm requirements, as they vary by state. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) acknowledges that practitioners often work in multiple states that require a license. IO psychologists typically can work in another state for around 60 days per year without needing to obtain a license in that state.

IO psychologists who work in multiple states more than two months per year need SIOP permission to do so. SIOP provides guidance on how to evaluate applicants' training when practitioners seek reciprocity. Students may also access a list of state licensing boards on the SIOP website. Graduates who need to earn a license need to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Board Certification for Industrial Organizational Psychologists

IO psychologists can obtain board certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP), a member board of the American Board of Professional Psychology.

The ABOBCP certifies professionals who apply their knowledge of psychology in organizational entities with an emphasis on business settings. Common areas of practice include organizational training and development, assessment, placement and performance measurement in companies, and human performance in complex person-machine systems.

Applicants need a doctorate from a program accredited by the American Psychology Association or the Canadian Psychological Association. ABOBCP certification requires an oral exam, covering assessment, selection, placement, and performance measurement. Other categories include training and development, organizational psychology, organizational development, and consumer psychology. Candidates receive results within 30 days of completing the exam.

Pre-Professional Experience for Industrial Organizational Psychologists

IO psychology programs may require a practicum experience, which provides students with an opportunity to work alongside practitioners in the field. However, programs often do not include any applied experiences, which means students may need to seek their own opportunities.

Students may want to explore organizations that provide networking and internship opportunities. For instance, Psi Chi is an international honor society for psychology professionals and offers multiple resources.

When selecting internships, students should consider if they plan to work as a consultant or for an organization in-house. Internal internships consist of working with one or more IO psychologists in a human resources department. External internships may require interns to engage with multiple clients, working on projects that explore different areas of the field.

Frequently Asked Questions About Industrial Organizational Psychologists

Where do industrial organizational psychologists work?

IO psychologists provide services that benefit all organizations. While practitioners may choose to work directly for one company, IO psychologists often consult, working for multiple organizations for an agreed amount of time.

When did the discipline of industrial-organizational psychology emerge?

IO psychology has existed for well over 100 years. However, the field began to expand rapidly after World War I.

Is industrial organizational psychology in demand?

According to BLS data, there is a 2% increase in job outlook for IO psychologists expected from 2020-2030. There is an 8% increase in demand projected for all psychologists.

What Does an Industrial Organizational Psychologist Do?

IO psychologists study human behavior in workplace settings to identify solutions to problems that affect an organization's bottom line or that lead to an improved work environment for employees. IO psychology careers often coincide with human resource duties unless an organization has enough resources to create a separate learning and development department.

Practitioners working internally for a company often carry out performance evaluations, data analytics, or training and development. In this role, practitioners often work with other HR professionals and directly with employees.

Internal IO psychologists may need to hold meetings with management and senior executives. External IO psychologists often work more closely with management and senior executives, as these individuals hire IO psychologists to solve a particular issue.

IO psychologists possess an in-demand skill set that qualifies practitioners for opportunities in any industry. Work settings may include factories, hospitals, or white collar offices. Though IO psychology is the scientific study of human behavior, practitioners do not need access to a lab. In fact, IO psychologists can complete most of their work from their computer.

Skills and Competencies

The best IO psychologists possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. They can pinpoint their own emotions or biases, as well as those of others, and respond to them effectively. IO psychologists must also engage in critical thinking to uncover the issues within an organization. Other necessary career skills include resourcefulness, creativity, and organization.

In fact, IO psychologists benefit from adaptability, as this field is highly dynamic. Even when contracted for a specific concern, practitioners often uncover other issues that require additional attention. External practitioners also need to adapt easily, since contracted services last for a limited amount of time.

IO psychologists should demonstrate strong data analysis skills, since success is measured by improvements within an organization. Additionally, IO psychologists must possess excellent communication abilities to present findings in a way that clients can understand and use.

Industrial Organizational Psychology Resources and Professional Organizations

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