If you want to be an industrial-organizational psychologist, one of the highest-paying social science careers, then you might be wondering if a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is a good choice for you. A master’s degree is the right level of education you’re looking for to get started in this role – not to mention the highest level of education reported by 47 percent of the field, according to O*NET. However, most master’s degree programs in industrial-organizational psychology aren’t MBA programs, but rather, Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) programs. Having a background as an MBA certainly won’t hurt you, but how helpful it will be depends on whether you’re using it to replace, supplement or broaden your knowledge of this specialized area of psychology.
Can an MBA Replace Your Psychology Studies?
If you’re tempted to skip a graduate-level psychology curriculum entirely, then you may want to give some more thought to your overarching career plans. There are plenty of business roles you can pursue without a master’s degree in a field related to psychology. Students who majored in psychology as undergraduates often go on to pursue business studies at the graduate level, and they don’t need to choose a major related to psychology to do so.
Business fields like marketing, human resources, management and even finance can be a good choice for undergraduate psychology majors. The strong understanding of human thought processes and behavior and of the statistical methods used in research that you already have will help you succeed in these areas. However, earning your MBA in any of these specializations won’t equip you to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist. You’re going to need more advanced and specialized knowledge of this area of psychology than you were able to acquire as an undergraduate student.
Most undergraduate psychology programs are general in nature, so it’s unlikely that you will have learned enough about this specialized field of psychology as an undergraduate. You need some amount of specialized graduate-level psychology coursework.
Choosing an MBA Focused on Industrial-Organizational Psychology
MBA programs with a concentration in industrial-organizational psychology aren’t easy to find. The MBA in organizational psychology programs that do exist, however, offer a great way to combine your knowledge of psychology and business without requiring extra studies.
One big difference between an MBA in industrial-organizational psychology and a traditional master’s degree in the field is that it emphasizes the business aspect of this interdisciplinary career path. Since most industrial-organizational programs are offered by psychology departments, not business schools, this means that you will get a more comprehensive business education. Business students pursuing a concentration in organizational psychology primarily take classes in finance and management. They round out these studies with coursework in organizational culture and design, workplace motivation and group and team dynamics.
Unlike other MBA programs, however, the concentration on organizational psychology means that this degree path could potentially stand in for a traditional master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology. Ultimately, it depends on what you want to do with your education. There are many different pathways, functions and job titles you could pursue in this general field, according to the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Some career paths in this field, like senior executive roles, are more heavily skewed toward business, while others, like analyst and consultant roles, may require a more robust psychology background than you would have by pursuing an MBA instead of a traditional MA or MS in psychology.
If you didn’t study business as an undergraduate and are enrolling in an MBA program now – in industrial organization or another concentration – you may need to complete foundational courses in basic financial accounting practices and economic principles.
Dual-Degree MBA and Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology Programs
A dual-degree program that culminates in both a master’s in industrial-organizational psychology and an MBA could be your best option if you really do want to be an industrial-organizational psychologist but also find the idea of earning an MBA appealing. This program will be a lot of work, since you’re simultaneously pursuing two master’s degrees. However, you’re making a big investment in yourself and your abilities.
In a dual degree program, you will complete two sets of core courses. For your psychology degree, your required classes might include introductory coursework in industrial-organizational psychology, as well as personal psychology, experimental design and advanced research methods. Your MBA classes may cover topics that range from organizational leadership to corporate financial strategy.
Your graduate studies may culminate in a capstone experience, such as a research project or an industry internship. Depending on the requirements of your program, you may have to complete a separate capstone for each degree, or you may only have to do one capstone.