Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is the scientific study of working and the application of that science to workplace issues facing individuals, teams, industries, and organizations. The scientific method is applied to investigate issues of critical relevance to individuals, businesses, and society. Specialized knowledge and training in the science of behavior in the workplace requires in-depth knowledge of organizational development, attitudes, career development, decision theory, human performance and human factors. In addition, the specialty of industrial-organizational psychology requires knowledge of ethical considerations as well as statutory, administrative, and case law and executive orders as related to activities in the workplace.
The American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology lists the following among the typical practice areas:
- Training and development
- Compensation and reward systems
- Organizational change and development
Industrial/ occupational psychologists may work in an employee capacity for a single organization or serve as consultants. Some develop expertise in relatively narrow branches of the field. The Social Psychology Network lists professional associations and resources for I/O specialist in different practice areas (http://www.socialpsychology.org/io.htm).
Regarding education, most students will obtain an undergraduate degree in psychology or another field before progressing to a Master’s degree. There are numerous online degree programs at the Master’s level in psychology. For example, Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers several Online Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral programs in Psychology including both clinical and non-clinical specializations. Of course, there is a long list of on-campus schools offering graduate degrees in I/O and related field of psychology. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SOIP) has a wealth of information, particularly regarding graduate training programs.
Degrees in industrial-organizational psychology can be sought and conferred through a variety of departments, including psychology, business, management, and human resources. Common master’s degrees are M.A. or M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Human Resources or HR Management, Organizational Behavior, and Organizational Management. It’s also possible to get a Master’s in Organizational Development (M.O.D.) and get joint M.A./M.B.A. or M.A./J.D. degrees. Some master’s programs are combined with a bachelor’s into a five-year program. Most take one and a half years (including summer) to three years and require field work and a thesis. Ph.D. programs are typically four to five years.
The education process can take 6-12 years if you pursue a doctoral degree in this field. Is it worth the time and expense to earn your master’s or doctorate degree? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for I/) psychologist was $95,060 as of May 2015. This salary was based on those employed in the Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services. The greatest number work in the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California. Employment of psychologists is expected to grow 19 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024. Though the job growth may be enticing, there are only about 1,600 I/O psychologist in the country. Their job growth through 2022 is expected to be a mere 900 jobs.