Psychologist isn’t a career path you can attain with minimal time and training. An advanced degree is required for all psychologist positions. However, one particular role in this field, industrial-organizational psychologist, can be attained faster. Becoming an industrial-organizational psychologist requires candidates to complete an undergraduate degree, go to graduate school and potentially seek professional licensure. While you may be able to become an industrial-organizational psychologist in as little as six total years of college study, the process can also take a great deal longer if you must meet extensive licensing requirements or if you choose to earn a doctoral degree.

Undergraduate Studies for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

What does an undergraduate education look like for aspiring industrial-organizational psychologists? This career field combines the study of thought process and behavior with a focus on workplace applications and problem-solving. As a result, both psychology and business are popular majors among students who eventually want to work as industrial-organizational psychologists. Either undergraduate program of study can prepare students for their future master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology, but it’s important that students in either major at least take foundational coursework in introductory psychology and statistics.

The typical bachelor’s degree is often referred to as “four-year” degree program, because it takes four years of full-time study to complete the course requirements. Many students take longer than four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, especially if they switch majors.

Master’s Programs in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Although a doctoral degree is the minimum level of education needed for most psychologist jobs, the master’s degree is the typical education required for positions in industrial-organizational psychology, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

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Graduate coursework in industrial-organizational psychology often cover topics such as organizational behavior, personnel psychology, work motivation, occupational health, and research methods as it pertains to I-O psychology. Some master’s degree programs in this field also include classes on the history of this area of psychology, psychology as it relates to human resources and workforce talent selection and the psychology of leadership. Classes in research design, statistics and ethics are also common.

Many master’s degree programs in industrial-organizational psychology take less time than non-psychology master’s degree programs in counseling. While counseling master’s degree programs are often 60 credits, I-O psychology programs can require just 36 credits.

Do You Need a License to Become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

Every state in the U.S. has some sort of license requirement for psychologists in other fields, the BLS reported. Whether you need a license to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist is heavily dependent on your state’s regulations, according to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).

Why are the rules different for industrial-organizational psychologists than for other types of psychologists? SIOP’s policy on licensure asserts that much of what industrial-organizational psychologists do “is not subject to licensure” in the same way that the work of psychologists in other fields is.

Imagine the damage an unqualified individual operating outside the rules set by licensing boards could cause in fields like counseling, clinical and research psychology. Irresponsible behavior in these areas of psychology could worsen a patient’s condition or ability to cope healthily with stressors, and improper research methods and data interpretations could result in dangerously inaccurate data being reported and incorporated into patients’ treatment plans. However, SIOP maintains that unlicensed industrial-organizational psychologists “do not pose a threat of harm to the public” as unlicensed practitioners of clinical, counseling and research psychology would.

In states that do require industrial-organizational psychologists to be licensed, the requirements for psychologists in this career path often mirror the requirements for other roles in psychology. You may need a doctoral degree, extensive supervised internship experience and a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, according to the BLS.

Another point of debate over whether industrial-organizational psychologists should be licensed is that many psychologists in this field work often travel for their job and work in multiple states, requiring them to maintain active licenses in many states.

When Should I-O Psychologists Pursue a Doctorate?

Because licensing requirements affect what level of education you need to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist and how long you will have to go to school, it’s important for students to be aware of their state’s requirements throughout their career training. You should plan to pursue a doctorate if your intended career path requires that qualification for licensure. You might also want to earn a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology if you hope to take on senior-level responsibilities in business endeavors that include project management, mergers and acquisitions and brand repositioning.

How common is it to need a doctoral degree? The field is split nearly evenly, with 47 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists reporting having a master’s degree, 48 percent reporting a doctoral degree and five percent reporting post-doctoral training.

Additional Resources

How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist?

What Classes Will I Take for a Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

What Are the Benefits of Pursuing a Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

What Degree Do I Need to Be an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist?

What Should You Know When You Interview for a Job With a Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology?