An industrial organizational psychology degree prepares graduates for a dynamic, lucrative career working with a variety of clients, colleagues, and other professionals. This field offers high pay and job stability, and graduates can work in a variety of fields and industries. Read on to learn more about what you can do with an industrial organizational psychology degree.
What Is Industrial Organizational Psychology?
The field of industrial organizational psychology was popularized in the early 20th century by Walter Dill Scott and Hugo Münsterberg. Today, I/O psychology is one of the fastest growing areas of psychology thanks to an ever-expanding emphasis on ensuring companies run smoothly and effectively. Also known as organizational psychology, this area of the discipline helps employees, organizations, and workplaces improve through the use of psychological theories. The following sections explore how the degree can be used throughout a variety of professional settings, as well as what it takes to become an industrial/organizational psychologist.
How to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist
Students often have lots of questions about specific educational and professional requirements for working as an industrial organizational psychologist. We explore some of the more common requirements in the following section.
Industrial organizational psychologists frequently possess a master's degree or doctorate, depending on whether they work in a private sector position or if they focus their efforts on clinical and/or research jobs. We explore each type of degree later in this guide.
Prospective I/O psychologists must complete internships and practicums at various stages of their education, beginning with a semester-long internship during baccalaureate-level studies. They must also complete an expanded, supervised experience lasting 1-2 years during their doctorate. Those seeking board certification must pursue additional hours.
The majority of industrial organizational psychologists working in private sector jobs are not required to hold licensure. Individuals who want to call themselves a psychologist — or work in a clinical setting — must typically apply for a state-issued license. This may involve completing required supervised hours and passing a written and/or oral examinations. You may also need to take part in continuing education programs to renew your license every couple years.
While not required, some I/O psychologists seek board certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology — a group that has certified these professionals for more than 50 years. To receive certification, applicants must complete a postdoctoral fellowship lasting not less than two years, then pass both a written and oral examination and pay the accompanying fee.
Industrial Organizational Psychology vs. General Psychology
General psychology offers a broad overview of the discipline as a whole, while industrial organizational psychology programs represent a particular subdiscipline in the field. Some of the other commonalities and differences are highlighted in the following sections.
As members of the same field, general and industrial organizational psychology share many common topics. For instance, when studying psychology at the bachelor's and master's levels, learners in both programs complete a core set of classes such as social psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, statistics, and research methods.
Both types of learners must also seek licensure if they hope to actually call themselves psychologists. This is done by meeting supervised practicum requirements and passing a series of exams offered through their state's board of licensing. Both types of psychologists can also seek board certification if they hope to stand out from other practitioners. Career opportunities tend to also be common in their scope: those with bachelor's and master's degrees can work in support and discipline-adjacent roles, but only individuals with doctorates can work in the highest roles in the field.
After completing core course requirements, I/O psychology students veer sharply away from general psychology topics. Rather, they consider questions around applied measurement theory, workforce training and development, succession planning and leadership development, and applied cross-cultural I/O psychology. In short, I/O psychology students are focused exclusively on issues and topics that influence the workplace and its employees, while general psychology works with people in a variety of settings across the lifespan.
Seeking board certification also requires different procedures: general clinical psychologists apply to the American Board of Clinical Psychology, while I/O psychologists meet requirements established by the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology. Professional roles for I/O psychologists tend to concentrate in consultative positions, where companies hire them to assess issues and make recommendations for improvements. General psychologists, conversely, tend to work individually with clients over a longer time frame.
What Can You Do With an Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree?
Industrial organizational psychology degrees qualify graduates to pursue a wide variety of roles that meet their professional and personal interests. Some newly graduated learners may decide they want to work traditional business hours as an in-house psychologist for a single company; others may want the flexibility that comes from working as a consultant and setting their own schedule.
Regardless of job type, the majority of I/O psychologists help companies root out issues around employee morale, efficiency, and growth. They conduct interviews, observe employees at work, and make recommendations for changes. Individuals need a doctorate in I/O psychology to call themselves a psychologist, but there are plenty of jobs available for those with bachelor's and master's degrees. Check out our career guide to learn more about available roles.
Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Programs
Undergraduate Industrial Organizational Psychology Programs
A bachelor's in industrial organizational psychology gives learners a foundational understanding of the discipline, and prepares them to take on roles in areas of human resources, behavior analysis and management, and organizational efficiency. The majority of programs require 120-128 credits and take approximately four years of full-time study to complete. Many of these degrees also require learners to participate in a semester-long internship to build hands-on, relevant skills.
Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For
- Human Resources Manager HR managers oversee the administrative processes of their organizations. They hire and train staff, handle continuing education programs, oversee benefit programs, and handle staff issues. Median salaries in 2018 hit $113,300, and the field is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028.
- Behavior Analyst These professionals come into organizations, nonprofits, and corporations to assess the behaviors of employees and leaders. They use this information to make suggestions for improvement and provide ideas for new plans to implement. Average yearly salaries are currently $58,531.
- Training and Development Manager Individuals in these roles coordinate the training and continuing education initiatives for their companies, leading to increased and up-to-date knowledge alongside employee effectiveness and efficiency. They develop programs, hire training vendors, review curricula, and evaluate program success rates. Average salaries were $111,340 in 2018, and roles are projected to grow by 8% through 2028.
Industrial Organizational Psychology Master's Programs
Students who undertake a master's in industrial organizational psychology should plan to spend 18-36 months working toward degree requirements. Most programs require learners to complete 30-42 credits. Rather than participating in an internship, most departments ask students to research and write a long-form thesis that explores and answers a unique research question about a relevant topic.
Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For
- Management Analyst These professionals may work in-house for single companies, or as consultants to several organizations. They help corporations improve organizational efficiency by changing how supervisors and leaders manage their staff. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows annual median salaries at $83,610, with a projected 10-year growth of 14% from 2018 to 2028.
- Instructional Coordinator Instructional coordinators work in businesses and schools to design educational materials that adequately cover new materials and engage students in the learning process. Those working in businesses typically focus on topics within continuing education. Average salaries in 2018 were $64,450, with a projected 10-year growth of 6% from 2018 to 2028.
- Career Counselor Career counselors use assessment tools and interviews to help clients understand the type of job they are best prepared for. They evaluate client experience and education, assist with job searches, and walk alongside them as they apply for jobs and sit for interviews. Average salaries were at $56,310 as of 2018.
Industrial Organizational Psychology Doctoral Programs
Earning a doctorate in industrial psychology takes approximately 5-7 years without a previously completed master's degree; those with a master's can usually graduate in 4-5 years. The program features advanced coursework and comprehensive examinations; students are also expected to research and write a formal dissertation that explores a unique topic in the field of I/O psychology. Learners also usually complete a practicum to begin earning hours required for licensure.
Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For
- Industrial Organizational Psychologist Industrial organizational psychologists work in both in-house and in consulting roles to address issues around efficiency, employee moral, and organizational development. They interview subjects, observe procedures, and make recommendations. Average wages in 2018 were $97,260.
- Industrial Organizational Professor Individuals hoping to train the next generation of industrial organizational practitioners often prefer this career path. These professionals give lectures, assign readings, grade papers, mentor students, provide guidance on academic and career choices, and attend academic conferences. Median salaries of professors in this field were $78,470 in 2018, with jobs projected to grow by 11% over the next decade.
- Industrial Organizational Researcher Researchers work in laboratories and in the field to gather raw data, study evolving trends, and use methodologies and frameworks to better understand these changes. They use this information to write papers and give presentations, ultimately pushing the field forward. Average salaries currently sit at $78,503 annually.
Online Industrial Organizational Psychology Programs
Many students pursue an online industrial organizational psychology degree because it provides the flexibility to balance personal and professional responsibilities alongside academic requirements. Others find that online programs cost less, as learners don't need to account for costs associated with campus housing, meal plans, traveling to school multiple times per week, and paying fees for things like access to the student center or gym.
Like other psychology degrees, I/O programs transfer well to distance learning platforms. Students use services such as Blackboard and Canvas to interact with their fellow students and teachers while also completing readings, turning in papers, participating in group projects, and taking exams. Some students may find it difficult at first to stay focused and disciplined when they aren't required to visit campus every week, but this can be overcome by connecting with your fellow distance learners.
Those wanting to learn more about online I/O psychology programs can check out our guide on the topic.