Earning an Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Online

What Is an Organizational Psychologist?

Industrial organizational psychologists use their understanding of human behavior to help improve an organization’s effectiveness. In many companies, they create systems for the hiring, training, and evaluation of employees. They may also develop programs and policies to help boost employee morale and retention. Others may specialize in a particular area, such as planning company mergers or assisting with downsizing due to budget constraints. Regardless of the focus of their work, industrial organizational psychologists must be highly skilled in observation, analysis, and program design.

Often, industrial organizational psychologists work as independent consultants, assisting private companies with specific organizational issues. However, industrial organizational psychologists may find full-time positions in larger organizations, often as part of a human resources department. Because their skills are transferable across a range of industries, industrial organizational psychologists may work for corporations, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for industrial organizational psychologists will grow by 8% from 2016 to 2026, there will still be strong competition for jobs. Candidates with a master’s in industrial organizational psychology and training in quantitative research methods will have a competitive edge when applying for open positions.

Can You Get a Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology Online?

There are many online industrial organizational psychology programs for students who cannot attend an on-campus program. For the most part, online programs are similar to their school’s on-campus offering. They feature the same coursework, assignments, and examinations. They cover the same topics and help students develop the same knowledge and skills. Many online courses are even taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus, though this varies from program to program. And because most master’s in industrial organizational psychology programs do not lead to licensure, they do not require clinical work — meaning they can be completed without any residential component whatsoever.

Online programs offer a great deal more flexibility than campus-based programs. Consequently, online programs are a good option for students who plan to continue working or who need to balance their studies with family and other personal responsibilities. Students can watch lectures and complete assignments on their own schedules. Some programs allow students to move through coursework at their own pace so that they can revisit concepts or skip ahead as needed. Online programs are also ideal for students who have issues with accessibility, or distance learners who simply prefer the convenience of studying at home rather than commuting to campus.

While online programs have many benefits, students must be able to motivate themselves and manage their time effectively in order to succeed. Understanding your own learning style is important when considering whether to pursue an online degree.

Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online Industrial Organizational Psychology Program?

While mandates vary, most states require students to earn a doctoral degree before applying for a license in psychology. Consequently, most online bachelor’s and master’s programs in industrial organizational psychology do not prepare students for licensure. While some of these programs may offer a lab experience or applied practicum, it is usually not a part of the required course sequence.

Similarly, most online master’s in industrial organizational psychology programs do not require students to complete an internship. Internships can be valuable, however. They offer students the opportunity to explore practical professional settings and to put their learning into effect. They can also help students build a network and find a job upon graduation.

Online students might have a tougher time finding internships than on-campus students. A good first step is speaking with faculty members with connections to organizations that have previously hosted student interns. Many schools also provide resources on finding an internship, usually through the career services department. Finally, students can seek out internships on their own through online platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, or Handshake.

How to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

To become an industrial organizational psychologist, students typically need both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Bachelor’s programs usually take about four years to complete, and master’s programs typically take about two years. Some online programs offer accelerated options that allow students to earn graduate credit while pursuing their bachelor’s degrees.

The cost of undergraduate education varies greatly by program. Students looking for comparatively inexpensive options should consider state schools. In-state tuition is almost always more affordable that what you’ll find at private schools, and sometimes in-state tuition is available to all online learners regardless of their location. The cost of a graduate degree also varies, but according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, students incurred an average of $60,000 in debt in order to earn a master’s degree in psychology. Online programs can help students save money, since they do not require housing costs or other fees associated with learning on campus.

Average Salary for Psychologists by Degree Level

Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology$78,321
Master of Arts (MA), Psychology$71,667
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)$73,482

Source: PayScale

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Before pursuing higher education and becoming licensed, students must earn a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s typically requires 120 credits and usually takes about four years to complete. Some schools offer accelerated online programs that students can complete in as few as three-and-a-half years. Dual degree options allow students to begin graduate coursework while still earning their bachelor’s degree, helping them save both time and money.

Students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in industrial organizational psychology, though a bachelor’s in psychology is far more common. Both programs provide students with foundational knowledge and skills in areas like personality theory, cognitive psychology, child development, and research methods for the behavioral sciences. Programs with a focus in industrial organizational psychology explore topics such as organizational behavior and employee assessment.

Example Courses:

Introduction to Psychology


This course provides a broad overview of the principles, processes, problems, and applications of psychology. Students learn about the brain and nervous system, consciousness, personality, learning and memory, sensation and perception, social psychology, and psychopathology.

History and Systems of Psychology


Before delving more deeply into a specialization within the field, students need to understand the history of psychological practice and theory. In this course, students discuss and evaluate psychology’s historical roots, including the people and movements that have shaped the field.

Introduction to Psychological Measurement


Because graduate study involves a great deal of statistical analysis, bachelor’s programs usually introduce students to key research concepts. This class explores the history and current applications of concepts such as test construction, standardization, validity, and the reliability of psychological instruments.

Introduction to Career Development


In this course, students learn about career counseling theories and techniques, with a particular focus on working with diverse client populations. Topics include career counseling, decision making, researching career opportunities, building employable skills, and assessing value and interest.

Organizational Psychology


This class prepares students for master’s-level coursework in industrial organizational psychology. Students learn how to maximize efficiency in a range of organizational settings. The course explores motivation, morale, ethics, and training.

Online Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Industrial organizational psychologists typically need a master’s degree in psychology to enter the field. A master’s degree requires students to complete around 36 graduate-level credits. Full-time students can earn a master’s degree in about two years, while part-time students take three years or more. Some programs follow a cohort format, meaning students take one or two classes at a time as part of a group. Other programs are self-paced to create even more flexibility for online learners.

Industrial organizational psychology master’s programs feature coursework in personnel psychology, the ethics of the profession, organizational behavior, and leadership. Research-based programs also include classes in qualitative and quantitative research methods and assessment in order to prepare students to complete a thesis or capstone project.

Example Courses:

Psychology of Organizational Behavior


In this course, students examine the application of behavioral theories in organizational contexts. The class covers subjects such as team building, group development, employee motivation, job satisfaction, organizational leadership, and organizational culture.

Consulting for Organizational Change


This class teaches students the fundamental techniques of change management. Topics include strategic planning and conflict management. Students can apply these skills through organizational case studies.

Personnel Psychology in the Workplace


Industrial organizational psychologists often work closely with human resources professionals. In this class, students explore the psychological aspects of job design and analysis, employee selection and placement, professional development and training, and performance management and evaluation.

I/O Testing and Measurement


This class examines measurement theory and assessments used in organizational settings. Topics include reliability and validity, normative sampling and standardization, test score interpretation, and test development. Students also learn about cultural biases and sociological issues as they relate to testing.

Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis


This course helps students develop knowledge and skills in data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Students learn and apply statistical concepts, explore the importance of quality assurance, receive training on statistical software, and synthesize their learning by developing a quantitative research plan.

Required Licenses and Internships to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Licensure requirements for industrial organizational psychologists vary a great deal. In most states, practicing psychology or using the title “psychologist” requires a license. However, according to the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychologists, some states specifically exempt industrial organizational psychologists from this requirement. Other states only require industrial organizational psychologists to be licensed if they will be performing certain duties as part of their job. Prospective students should reach out to their state’s licensing board for more information. Contact information for each state board is available through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Generally speaking, bachelor’s and master’s programs in industrial organizational psychology do not prepare students for licensure. As such, these research-based programs do not require clinical work such as a lab or practicum. However, internships in this field are common and can serve as an invaluable way for students to gain hands-on experience. They can also position graduates for employment opportunities by allowing them to demonstrate competence and build a professional network.

Careers for Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Holders

Students who have earned an online master’s in industrial and organizational psychology have a rich array of careers paths from which to choose. They may opt to work independently, consulting with various organizations on a case-by-case basis. Others prefer full-time employment, either in the for-profit or nonprofit sectors. Regardless of how or where these graduates work, all jobs in this field require excellent observational, analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills.

  • Management Consultant
    Management consultants help a company improve a particular facet of their business. They may boost productivity or enhance the company’s public image. Consultants diagnose an organizational issue, create a plan for addressing that issue, and present their recommendations to a company’s managers. Many management consulting jobs require a master’s degree in a related field such as business administration or industrial organizational psychology.

  • Consulting Psychologist
    Consulting psychologists offer expertise and technical assistance to individuals, groups, and organizations. Typically, they work in an advisory manner, meaning that it is ultimately up to the client to accept and implement their recommendations. The American Psychological Association recommends that consultants hold a master’s degree in a field like clinical psychology or industrial organizational psychology.

  • Industrial Organizational Psychologist
    Industrial organizational psychologists analyze human behavior in professional environments and use their findings to improve an organization’s effectiveness. Industrial organizational psychologists must be able to communicate their findings to non-psychologists who will assist with implementation. Most jobs in this field require a master’s degree, though some employers may prefer candidates with a doctorate.

  • Personnel Research Psychologist
    Personnel research psychologists work on issues related to employee selection and workforce evaluation. They design, validate, and administer assessments for both hiring and promoting employees. These psychologists must have strong quantitative and qualitative research skills. Many positions require a master’s degree.

  • Human Resources Team Leader
    These professionals manage an organization’s human resources department. They have high-level responsibility for hiring, training, and evaluating employees. They may also draft company policies, mediate employee disputes, or create programs to improve worker satisfaction. A bachelor’s degree usually suffices for entry-level jobs, but management positions such as human resources director may require a master’s degree.

What Does an Industrial Organizational Psychologist Make in a Year?

Industrial organizational psychologists have strong earning potential. According to the BLS, the 2016 median salary for professionals in this field was $82,760. By comparison, the median salary across all occupations was $37,040. Additionally, salaries increase rapidly in line with professional experience. PayScale estimates that industrial organizational psychologists with 5-10 years of experience earn an average of $94,000 per year, and those with 10-20 years of experience earn as much as $112,000 per year.

Salaries vary greatly depending on where individuals live, whether they have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in industrial organizational psychology, and whether they hold any sort of professional credential or license. The field offers lucrative professional opportunities to those with the right mix of education and experience.

PositionMedian Annual Salary
Management Consultant$85,302
Consulting Psychologist$74,093
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist$71,260
Personnel Research Psychologist$70,163
Human Resources (HR) Team Leader$61,336

Source: PayScale