Industrial & Organizational Psychology

Industrial Organizational Psychology

Do you find yourself watching people, studying their actions and behaviors, and thinking that things would probably go better for them if they just did something differently? 

If so, you may have a career in industrial organizational psychology. 

What is an I/O Psychologist?

An applied science, those trained in industrial organizational psychology use their skills and education to scientifically study employees, workplaces and organizations. Industrial organizational psychologists are credited with the ability to bolster the success of a business, organization or other workplace, while at the same time, ensuring the satisfaction of the employees of those establishments. 

Over 80 percent of our adult lives are spent at work. Industrial psychologists use their training in research and human behavior to identify how employee behaviors and attitudes affect the productivity of those employees. They also can be valuable during the hiring process, by identifying how a potential employee’s behavior and attitude will affect their performance if hired. 

Other tasks an industrial organizational psychologist may be asked to perform include:

  • Providing feedback and assistance during training programs for employees;
  • Helping during transitional periods of change and development of a company – such as the hiring of a new CEO or manager, or downsizing of the company; 
  • Streamlining the hiring process by using observations about human behavior to help employers to select the best candidates for the job; and
  • Increasing the mental and physical well-being of employees in the workplace.

Industrial Organizational Psychologists have even been used by the military, to help determine which soldiers are best-suited for flying dangerous missions and for high-pressure jobs such as special operations forces. In 2003, the U.S. Army Research Institute, in conjunction with the North Carolina State University, conducted research that was later used to help best determine who should be selected for the prestigious Green Berets program. According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, “In a military environment, having the right people in the right place at the right time with the right skill set is not a nice thing to have, it is a necessity. In fact, it is a matter of life or death.”

Future Growth and Job Outlook

According to figures released in March 2012 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median salary for industrial organizational psychologists is $94,720. States with the highest levels of employment for this industry include Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Texas and Massachusetts. 

About one-third of all practicing psychologists in the United States are in the subfield of industrial organizational psychology. 

Educational Requirements

While there are a number of colleges and universities which offer bachelor degree-level programs for industrial organizational psychology, those interested in greater job opportunities and higher salaries may wish to consider obtaining a master level degree or higher. 

Graduates who possess a bachelor’s degree in I/O are eligible for jobs in the social services arena, which can include being a rehabilitation specialist, a career counselor or a case manager. Graduates with a master’s degree or doctorate degree in I/O can land jobs in human resources, government, as consultants or in the private sector. On average, those with a doctorate degree earn $94,000 annually. 

In order to qualify for a graduate program in I/O, candidates must generally possess a 3.0 GPA or higher from an undergraduate program. Due to the growing demand for industrial organizational psychologists, more colleges and universities are offering graduate degree programs in this field. New York University boasts one of the best graduate degree programs in this field. Its graduates work for such prestigious companies as American Express, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Metlife, PWC and United Healthcare. 

DePaul University’s College of Science and Health offers an M.A. /Ph.D. in organizational industrial psychology. Students who choose DePaul University’s program are encouraged to work in industrial/organizational settings located within the Chicago area, as the city offers a variety of opportunity for work in this field. 

To help select a program that best fits your needs, please visit our search engine and enter the pertinent information to help generate a list of schools. 


Article by Shari Berg, PsychologyCollegeFinder.org

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