Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Overview


Updated August 17, 2022 · 2 Min Read

Industrial organizational psychology is a small but growing subsect of psychology. So what do IO psychologists do and what does it take to become one? is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | DigitalVision | Getty Images

The trend of workers leaving their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, known as the "Great Resignation," has prompted employers to explore how to retain current employees and attract new hires.

This is the industrial organizational (IO) psychologist's area of expertise. These professionals help organizations create efficient, healthy, and safe work environments.

If you are passionate about improving work life balance, productivity, and employee morale, a career in IO might be right for you.

Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology

While some companies may hire bachelor's degree-holders for roles in IO, these opportunities are rare. Most professionals in the field hold an advanced degree.

"A person with a master's degree in IO psychology is often able to find an entry-level position to launch a career. However, those with a doctoral degree will have more employment opportunities in this field," the American Psychological Association writes.

Many of today's IO psychologists received their undergraduate degree in general psychology or human resources. They have pursued further education to specialize in IO after spending a few years in the workforce. Since the discipline has gained prominence and name recognition in light of the pandemic, more universities now offer IO programs.

As an IO psychologist, you can find employment in private companies, academia, and the government.

Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology

While more IO bachelor's programs are emerging, it may be difficult to find one in your area. However, many IO specific bachelor's degree programs are offered online.

If you'd prefer in-person coursework, you can major in general psychology and minor in business. This will give you a solid foundation in psychology and an understanding of problems that arise in business.

Curriculum at this level typically includes courses in fundamentals of psychology, research methods, and human resources management.

Master's Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology

You can find master's degree programs in IO online and in person. They usually take two years to complete, but some may be as short as one year, others as long as 3-4 years.

During their master's degrees, students learn the specifics of how to apply IO principles to help businesses. Typical courses include employee selection, statistics, ethics, legal issues, project management, and conflict resolution.

At this level, students must complete an IO or HR internship — typically during the summer between their first and second year of graduate school.

Doctorates in Industrial Organizational Psychology

If you're interested in conducting research or teaching at the collegiate level, consider pursuing your Ph.D. in IO psychology. Doctoral programs are offered both in person and online and usually take 4-5 years to complete.

Most universities require applicants to hold a master's degree in psychology or another behavioral science to apply, though some only require a bachelor's degree. Some programs require GRE scores, while others don't list this as a requirement.

Doctoral programs usually require you to write either a thesis, a doctoral dissertation, or both. Some examples of the courses you might take include cross-cultural studies, advanced statistics, cognitive psychology, and attitude theory. Each program offers different class types.

Featured Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Industrial Organizational Psychology

What is industrial organizational psychology?

Simply put, IO psychology examines human behavior as it relates to work environments. Some other names for IO psychology include occupational psychology, organizational psychology, or work psychology.

Do I need a doctorate to be an industrial organizational psychologist?

No. Doctorate degrees aren't mandatory to enter the field. However, having a doctoral degree can qualify you to work in academia.

Do industrial organizational psychologists make as much as therapists?

The average IO psychologist made $112,690 in 2020. By comparison, the average clinical psychologist made $82,180 the same year. However, both professions' salaries vary significantly based on work setting, job title, and geographic location.

What's the difference between IO and HR?

Degree-holders in either of these disciplines sometimes cross fields because their knowledge bases overlap. However, IO puts a greater emphasis on science, research, and metrics, while HR focuses more on compliance and administration.

​​​​What Does an Industrial Organizational Psychologist Do?

IO psychologists apply psychological theory to business activities, such as human resources, marketing, and operations. They help organizations shape policy, select and train employees, and conduct statistical analyses. They aim to help employers optimize productivity by improving workplace conditions and employee morale.

On a typical day, an IO psychologist may help train new employees, assess employee performance, perform internal studies on business efficiency or employee satisfaction, and present findings to stakeholders within the company.

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

An IO degree can qualify you for a variety of different jobs, including as a trainer, coach, development specialist, HR professional, and research associate. Some even choose to become consultants, providing services like creating workshops and administering personality assessments for clients.

An industrial psychology degree also primes you for various other career paths. With a master's degree in IO, you can pursue a Psy.D. in clinical psychology to become a therapist. Alternatively, you could pivot to a more business-oriented role, such as marketing analysis, project management, or operations management.

Latest Posts

Discover Online Programs by Specialty

Find the psychology program that best fits your career plans and budget.