Industrial Organizational Psychology Ph.D. Programs Guide

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Updated December 2, 2022

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Industrial-organizational psychology is one of the best-paying specializations available. Learn more about earning a doctorate in the field with this guide.

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If you are considering a graduate degree in psychology, you may be interested in learning about a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology.

What is an industrial-organizational psychologist? I/O psychologists focus on how employees behave at work. They aim to improve the work environment (e.g., employee performance and satisfaction and safety in the workplace).

Common job descriptions for an I/O psychologist include a human resources (HR) manager or talent and staffing manager. Explore degree requirements, career information, and a collection of valuable resources for prospective psychology doctoral candidates in this guide.

Why Get a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Industrial-organizational psychologists can find employment opportunities in many different organizations and workplace settings. These professionals specialize in working with nonprofits, corporations, or government entities to use their expertise in motivation and behavior to help develop training programs, hire and evaluate employees, and create policies to improve retention.

I/O psychologists often consult with organizations; they may also specialize in a specific area, such as promoting mergers between companies.

  • The Ph.D. dissertation is a long-form original project that prepares candidates for research-driven work upon graduation.
  • A Ph.D. often leads to higher wages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median pay for psychologists is $81,040 annually. Industrial-organizational psychologists earn a median annual wage of $105,310 nationwide. The top 90% of wage earners make $168,300 yearly, according to the BLS.
  • The Ph.D. instills the skills needed to pursue hybrid career endeavors that provide opportunities for research, education, and clinical practice.
  • Ph.D.-holders may pursue licensure from state psychology boards.

Online Psychology Ph.D 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.

Example Curriculum

A school's course offerings depend largely on its faculty strengths and research areas. It also depends on the school's resources and nationally defined educational standards. As a result, I/O psychology graduate degree program courses tend to vary between institutions.

However, a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology typically includes the following common components.

Coursework

Ph.D. students must complete graduate I/O psychology coursework in a variety of areas, including research methods and statistics, ethics and professional issues, clinical practice, and behavioral science. Required courses build on existing knowledge and prepare learners for the next steps toward graduation, like practicums, dissertations, and internships.

Practicum

Practicums allow students to observe professionals working in their field and specialty area. Students often act as observer-participants and help with daily activities as their supervisors deem appropriate.

Practicum-related conditions and graduation requirements vary among schools and programs, and they often depend on candidates' experience levels. Many students begin practicum work in their second year of study.

Dissertation

Most Ph.D. programs expect candidates to produce a dissertation, or an extensive written document based on original ideas and research. A dissertation demonstrates that the student has mastered advanced concepts and is capable of contributing to their field by conducting meaningful research.

While a dissertation committee helps keep candidates on track throughout the process, a dissertation is largely a solitary effort that requires stamina and discipline.

Internship

Involving less supervision than practicums, internships are similar to regular jobs. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology often must complete an internship that includes a year of full-time training.

Internships are typically completed during the doctoral degree. Some learners complete their internship requirements during their third year, while others wait until the fifth or sixth year. When in doubt, it is best to follow the dissertation advisor or committee.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Psychologists with a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology apply their specialized knowledge to several fields, including:

  • Human resources
  • Marketing
  • Administration
  • Management
  • Sales

Armed with a versatile skill set, graduates can pursue diverse career paths working as:

  • Professional development leaders
  • Talent management specialists
  • Behavioral analysts
  • HR organizational development specialists
  • Industrial relations specialists
  • Optimization advisors

Depending on your training and area of specialization, an industrial-organizational psychology degree can open doors to many exciting job opportunities.

$113,320
Average Annual Salary
Source: BLS

Where Do Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Work?

These professionals work in locations such as corporate offices, businesses, research organizations, marketing firms, consulting firms, human resources departments, and universities.

Earning a Ph.D. vs. a Psy.D.

Doctoral-level industrial-organizational psychology graduate programs confer either a Ph.D. or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). While both degrees lead to careers as professional psychologists, they differ in focus, course content, and training methods.

The Ph.D. is ideal for research-focused students seeking careers at research institutions and universities. The Psy.D. best serves those interested in performing clinical work.

The primary difference between a Ph.D. and Psy.D. in psychology is that a Ph.D. focuses on psychology theories and research, while a Psy.D. emphasizes science-backed clinical practice skills. In organizational psychology, Psy.D. programs prepare students to offer psychological services to organizations.

A Ph.D. program's admission requirements usually include:

  • A master's degree
  • A high GPA (e.g., 3.6 or 3.7)
  • High GRE scores (e.g., 302 on the revised GRE test)
  • Essays, interviews, and letters of recommendation

The program length for Ph.D. programs is usually between 5-8 years. Coursework includes a focus on teaching and research methods and statistics. Regarding financial aid for psychology students, Ph.D. programs will likely waive tuition and offer a stipend for research assistance and teaching endeavors.

Psy.D. admission requirements commonly include:

  • A master's degree
  • A minimum 3.0 GPA but programs are competitive, so those with higher scores are more likely to be accepted
  • Verbal GRE score of 150 or higher; quantitative GRE score of 141 or higher
  • Letters of recommendation, essays, and interviews

The Psy.D. program takes about the same length of time to complete as a Ph.D. track, with an average length of 4-6 years. Coursework includes a focus on applying psychology in practice with groups and individuals.

Many Psy.D. programs don't waive tuition or pay a stipend. Psy.D. students typically accumulate more debt than those who attend Ph.D. programs.

Typical Admission Requirements

Typical admission requirements include GRE exam, bachelor's or master's degree with relevant coursework, and previous internship/work experience.

3-7 years
Time to Completion

$113,320
Average Salary

Learn more about industrial-organizational psychology degrees.

Licensure and Board Certification

Most states require licensure to practice as an I/O psychologist, but the requirements differ among states. Check the state's licensing board for specific requirements.

The American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology, a member of the American Board of Professional Psychology, offers an I/O psychology board certification. Certification is not usually a requirement for industrial-organizational psychologists to practice, but each state differs in mandates. The steps to getting certified include:

  • Earn a doctoral degree, such as a Psy.D., from a program accredited by the American Psychology Association (APA).
  • Complete the mandatory APA-accredited internship/work experience hours.
  • Hold a license to practice as a psychologist.
  • Submit a practice sample.
  • Pass an oral examination.

Professional Organizations

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

SIOP members enjoy access to online research publications, business resources, job listings, and fellowship opportunities. SIOP's website features a special section for students, which lists resources like internship and entry-level job openings, training program information, and career development workshop opportunities.

Emotional Intelligence Consortium

Founded in 1996, the Consortium strives to uphold high standards of practice for professionals studying emotional intelligence in the workplace. While students and professionals may apply for membership, applicants must demonstrate a record of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. However, the Consortium's online resources, including personal training sessions and networking events, are freely accessible to all.

Society of Psychologists in Leadership

SPL is a membership-based professional society of students, psychologists, and researchers exploring managerial, executive, and consulting roles in the workplace. Members take advantage of career development and mentoring services, an online listserv, and networking opportunities.

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