Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Overview


Updated April 2, 2024 · 3 Min Read

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Are you curious about what industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is and what I-O psychologists do? This guide covers the different roles, workplaces, and educational requirements of IO psychology.

Explore I-O educational requirements and degree options at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Then, learn about the different roles and workplaces of I-O psychologists.

Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychologists can launch their careers with a master's degree, but it is required by the American Psychological Association (APA) and most states to hold a license to use the title "psychologist" and to practice psychology. Licensure requires a doctorate.

According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), state licensure boards may make exceptions for IO psychologists in academia, government, and other work sectors.

In addition, most I-O psychology jobs do not include diagnosing and treating individuals, so many states do not require licensing. Check with your state board for specific requirements.

Bachelor's Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology

A bachelor's degree in I-O psychology can prepare you for entry-level business and organizational management jobs and graduate programs. However, most I-O psychology employers hire graduates of master's degree programs, and you'll need a doctorate to become a licensed I-O psychologist.

An I-O psychology bachelor's degree offers a stepping stone to graduate school, as do undergraduate degrees in other psychology fields or non-psychology bachelor's with coursework in psychology.

You can earn your I-O psychology degree online and take courses in psychological measurement, organizational cultures, psychology of leadership, social psychology, and theories of behavior.

Master's Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Master's degrees in I-O psychology are available online, in-person, or hybrid. While curriculums vary by program, you can expect topics in I-O testing and measurement, organizational behavior, professional ethics, quantitative reasoning and analysis, and research methods.

Master's degrees in IO psychology offer specializations or electives, including executive coaching, management consulting, and training and development.

I-O psychology students are typically not required to complete clinical practicums or internships, but the SIOP recommends gaining some type of supervised experience. Master's programs often culminate with a thesis, capstone, or research project.

Admission criteria typically include a bachelor's degree, a 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores.

Doctorates in Industrial Organizational Psychology

I-O psychology doctorate programs award either a Ph.D. or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). Research-based Ph.D. programs examine psychological theories and can lead to careers in academia and government. Psy.D. studies emphasize evidence-based clinical practice in organizations and businesses. Both doctoral degrees help qualify you for licensure.

Coursework includes behavioral science, clinical practice, ethics, research methods, and statistics. Depending on whether you're a Ph.D. or Psy.D. student, you can expect to complete practicums, internships, and a dissertation or original research project. Programs may be offered online with in-person components.

Admission typically requires a master's degree, 3.0-3.7 GPAs, and GRE scores.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Industrial Organizational Psychology

What is an industrial organizational psychologist?

Industrial-organizational psychologists help businesses and organizations increase productivity and efficiency through staff assessment and training, consumer behavior analysis, and positive workplace development.

Do IO psychologists make a lot of money?

I-O psychologists earn an average annual salary of $144,610, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top industry, local government, pays even more, averaging $156,940 annually. I-O psychologists in California, Ohio, and Oregon earn the most among U.S. states.

What major is best for I-O psychology?

Majoring in I-O psychology, other psychology fields, and even other majors with coursework in psychology can qualify you for admission to master's or doctoral programs in I-O psychology.

Do I need a license to practice I-O psychology?

Whether you need a license to practice I-O psychology depends on your career goals and state laws. You'll likely need a doctorate to hold the "I-O psychologist" title and become licensed.

How long does it take to become an IO psychologist?

You can earn a bachelor's degree and a master's in IO psychology in about six years. If you want to become licensed, a doctorate adds 2-7 years.

Is I-O psychology a stable career?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% growth in employment of I-O psychologists from 2022-2032, which indicates current and future stability.

Where do I-O psychologists work?

I-O psychologists can find employment in the public and private business and industry sectors, academia, and non-profit and community organizations. They also work as independent consultants.

What Does an Industrial Organizational Psychologist Do?

I-O psychologists apply psychological theories of individual, group, and organizational behaviors to help businesses improve their decision-making, effectiveness, productivity, and workplace environments.

Their duties include analyzing consumer behavior, assessing worker satisfaction, interpreting human behavior in the workplace, developing employee training materials and exams, and helping managers and human resources departments make better hiring decisions.

Effective I-O psychologists have high emotional intelligence and critical thinking ability. Other career skills include adaptability, creativity, and resourcefulness. They also need skills in data analysis, communication, and organization.

I-O psychologists can find employment in academia, businesses and corporations, government agencies, and non-profit and community organizations.

What Else Can I Do With an Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree?

I-O psychologists can work as consultants advising clients on a contractual basis or as internal employees in an organization.

Doctoral degree holders can pursue certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology, which opens up high-level consulting opportunities in the business sector.

In academic settings, I-O psychologists can become professors, department chairs, deans, and university administrators.

The broad and diverse skill sets graduates acquire in I-O psychology degree programs translate to other fields, including data analysis, human resources, management, project leadership, and research.

Master's-level IO psychologists can also become practicing clinical psychologists with a Psy.D. or Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

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