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Industrial and Organizational Psychology Programs

In today’s culture, there has been a major shift in the relationship between employer and employee. Workplaces are striving to become more employee-centered, focusing on work-life balance, quality work environments, and employee morale.

At the same time, they want to increase productivity and find ways to onboard the best talent. This is where Industrial and Organizational Psychology programs are started to come into play.

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Industrial and organizational psychology has been called the “psychology of work.” It deals with human factors in the workplace from two interlocking sides: The industrial aspect is concerned with how employee factors affect productivity, risk, loss, quality, and efficiency. The organizational aspect seeks to understand and improve how workplace culture affects employees’ well-being, work-life balance, satisfaction, and motivation.

As workplaces strive to become more employee-centered and productive, the demand for industrial and organizational psychologists has grown. If you have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, or business and are exploring graduate degrees and career options, take a few minutes to explore your opportunities in industrial and organizational psychology.

On this page you will learn:

  • What industrial and organizational psychologists do
  • Salary and career outlook for I-O psychologists
  • How to become an I-O psychologist
  • Tools and resources for I-O students and professionals

What Does an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist Do?

Industrial and organizational psychologists apply psychological research to the workplace in order to improve employee satisfaction and facilitate productivity. Others conduct research in order to study the dynamics of employee-employer interaction, workplace productivity, and hiring strategies.

I-O Psychologists in the Workplace

These psychologists work in all types of businesses, large and small. They observe and analyze existing programs, methods, and behaviors; develop plans to improve areas of weakness and bolster strengths; and foster change through training, coaching, and creating policies and procedures.

They focus on a variety of factors:
• Productivity
• Work/life balance
• Company morale and motivation
• Working styles
• Workspace environments, office ergonomics
• Management and leadership strategies
• Human resources

Based on their analysis and the issue they are trying to resolve, they might:

  • Revise human resources policies (such as paid time off, work hours, sexual harassment guidelines)
  • Develop hiring procedures and goals
  • Conduct employee training about problematic issues
  • Provide executive and leadership coaching
  • Create behavior-based safety (BBS) policies to reduce accidents and injury

I-O Psychologists Who Conduct Research

Some I-O psychologists concentrate on research. They study a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Stigmas in organizations (e.g., sexual orientation, religious beliefs, race)
  • Sexual harassment
  • The role of personality traits in the hiring process
  • Behavior analysis
  • Employee burnout and turnover
  • Generational changes in worker attitudes
  • Barriers to employment of disabled workers
  • Effective personnel selection and training methods
  • Fostering leadership qualities in managers

As a researcher, you might work for the government or an academic institution.

Salary and Career Outlook for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists

Employment outlook and salary range for I-O psychologists varies widely, based a variety of factors: level of education, years of experience, type of job, and location and size of the employer.

What Can I Earn as an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist?

In May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean annual wage for industrial and organizational psychologists was $109,030.

The BLS also notes which industries offer the highest mean wages for I-O psychologists:

IndustryAnnual Mean Wage
Scientific Research and Development Services$149,780
Management of Companies and Enterprises$111,270
Local Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals (OES Designation)$106,750
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services$95,470
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools$70,360

According to the BLS, the Washington DC metro area has the highest concentration of I-O psychologists, and also has the highest mean wages ($132,930) of any metropolitan area.

Career Outlook

Job openings are expected to increase between 9% and 13% by 2024.

In May 2018, the BLS cited these industries and sectors as having the highest employment numbers of I-O psychologists:

  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
  • State Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals (OES Designation)
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises

How Do I Become an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist?

You must have a doctorate to become an I-O psychologist. However, with a master’s degree, you may be able to work in a number of entry-level positions in I-O psychology. You will not actually be an I-O psychologist, however, until you get your doctorate.

The typical steps to becoming an I-O psychologist include:
1. Bachelor’s degree, with coursework in psychology, statistics, business
2. Master’s degree
3. Doctorate
4. Clinical experience
5. Licensure

Getting a Master’s Degree in I-O Psychology

To get into a master’s degree program in I-O psychology, you must have a bachelor’s degree. Other admission requirements might include:

  • A minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00 or higher)
  • Course work in introductory psychology
  • Course work in statistics (with a grade B or better)
  • Scores on the general or psychology portion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) test
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts from all previous institutions
  • A written statement describing your areas of interest in psychology, preparation for graduate school, and career goals
  • C.V. or resume
  • Internship, practical experience, or on-the-job training

Many I-O master’s programs are designed as two-year programs. A typical course load may include two courses in the fall and winter semesters and one course in the summer.

Courses in an I-O master’s program may include:

  • Advanced Statistics
  • Organization Theory
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Psychometric Theory
  • Research Methods in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Training and Employee Development
  • Job Analysis and Performance Criteria
  • Organizational Staffing
  • Testing in the Workplace

The final requirement is a capstone or thesis project. Each I-O psychology program has its own guidelines for what a thesis should contain, and how it should be structured.

With a master’s degree in I-O psychology, you have a number of entry-level career opportunities. You might work in human resources, consulting, government, or in the private sector. Because the demand for I-O psychologists is growing, more and more universities are offering master’s degrees in I-O psychology.

Getting a Doctorate Degree in I-O Psychology

Students wishing to complete a doctoral degree in I-O psychology must complete coursework, take comprehensive examinations, and write a dissertation. Typically, this takes from two to four years, with completion of the entire doctoral degree in five years.

Applications and admission requirements for an I-O doctoral degree may include:

  • A master’s degree or higher (30 or more credits)
  • Generally, psychology majors or extensive backgrounds in psychology are preferred
  • A grade point average of 3.25 or higher
  • Scores on the general or psychology portion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts from all previous institutions
  • A written personal statement of professional goals and reasons for choosing the field of I-O psychology
  • C.V. or resume of educational and professional experience

A dissertation marks the end of an I-O doctoral program. A well-researched, well-written dissertation showcases your research and knowledge and the critical thinking skills you gained throughout the doctoral program.

Your final exam will be a defense of your dissertation in front of your supervisory committee, which is meant to prove your fitness for your doctoral degree. Each I-O psychology doctoral program has its own guidelines for what a dissertation should contain and how it should be structured.

A typical course list for an I-O doctoral program may include:

  • Consulting for Organizational Change
  • Research Theory, Design, and Methods
  • I-O Psychology Tests and Measurement
  • Personnel Psychology in the Workplace
  • Science and Ethics of Industrial Psychology
  • Quantitative and Computer Methods
  • Biopsychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Leadership and Motivation
  • Multivariate Statistics
  • Information Processing
  • Structural Equation Modeling
  • Cognitive Psychology and Social-Cognitive Psychology

Specific careers may require additional experience, training, and licensing beyond completion of an I-O psychology doctoral program.

Online Programs in I-O Psychology

Online industrial and organizational psychology master’s and doctoral programs typically follow the same course work as traditional schools and lead to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. An online format offers more flexibility for students with professional or personal commitments, such as child or family care, in addition to class schedules.

However, the hands-on component of these programs cannot be completed online. As you look into schools, make sure you understand the requirements and guidelines for this part of your education.

Licensure and Certification

Depending on your career choice, you might not necessarily need a license. If you want to be titled as a psychologist and pursue a degree that is heavily focused on providing psychological services, then yes, you will need to get a license. If you’re going into research or plan to pursue other areas of I-O psychology, then getting licensed is not usually necessary.

If you pursue a license, be aware that licensure of the title “Psychologist” or the practice of “Psychology” has specific requirements in almost every state in the U.S. and Canada.

These specifics have a few things in common:

  • Holding a Ph.D./Psy.D. degree from an accredited university
  • Being supervised, for a specific length of time, by a licensed psychologist
  • Getting a qualifying score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
  • Passing an oral exam conducted by the state board where you want to work (not required in California)

You may wish to get board certified through the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP) to widen your career options. If you’re interested in becoming an executive or leadership coach, look into accreditation through the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Industrial and Organizational Psychology Resources

  • Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Generally known as SIOP, this is the premier organization for both I-O students and professionals. The website offers a wealth of resources that can help you with choosing an I-O degree program, getting licensed, and finding a job. You’ll also find links to publications and resources that will provide you with the latest information in the field.
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, The official journal of SIOP, this publication addresses current issues in I-O psychology and presents the latest research in the field.
  • The Alliance for Organizational Psychology: On this site you’ll find information about local groups where you can connect with other professionals in your area. It encompasses not only psychologists in the United States, but in Europe as well. If you’re just entering the field professionally and want to find a mentor, this site is a valuable resource.
  • The Society for Organizational Learning, North America: This organization is made up of professionals and groups in a variety of fields connected to organizational learning. It provides a variety of resources, including podcasts, research findings, workshops, and others.
  • American Psychological Association: You can find news, information, and other resources about all fields of psychology at this site.


Q: Do you need a Ph.D. to be an industrial and organizational psychologist?
A: Although there are some career opportunities available to you with a master’s degree in I-O psychology, most advanced career paths require a doctorate degree. A doctorate degree will generally also lead to a higher salary.

Q: How much do I-O psychologists make?
A: The mean annual wage for industrial and organizational psychologists in May 2018 was $109,030. The BLS reports that the highest 90% of I-O psychologists earned an average of $192,150, while the lowest 10% earned an average of $51,350.

Q: How long does it take to become an industrial and organizational psychologist?
A: After getting a bachelor’s degree, you will spend an additional two years to earn a master’s degree plus an additional four to five years to earn a doctorate.

Q: Is industrial and organizational psychology in demand?
A: Yes! Job growth is expected to increase by up to 13% by 2024.

Q: What jobs can you get with a master’s in industrial and organizational psychology?
A: You could work in government or industry in human resources, data analysis, hiring and retention, talent management, employee and executive training, workplace safety, coaching, testing, and many others.

Q: When did industrial and organizational psychology begin?
A: The study of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology, formerly known as industrial psychology, originated in the United States in the early 1900s. I-O psychology grew rapidly after World War I and even more so after World War II.

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