Until you get to know the field of industrial-organizational psychology, it might sound dry, difficult or downright unwieldy. Most people don’t think of psychologists as working to improve business productivity, policies or leadership styles. Instead, they think primarily of jobs in clinical and counseling psychology. Although this small field consists of just 1,700 workers across the United States, there are plenty of benefits to pursuing this area of industrial-organizational psychology, such as earning potential, the acceptance of a master’s degree for entry-level qualification and the wealth of career options you can choose.

Income Potential in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Psychologists have a reputation for making a good living, but industrial-organizational psychologists are among the best-paying roles in the field. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median, or midpoint, wage of $79,010 for psychologists of all kinds. That’s over twice the $38,640 median wage for all occupations. Yet when you narrow down income potential to strictly industrial-organizational psychologists, the median salary rises substantially to $97,260.

In the most lucrative industries for industrial-organizational psychologists, average wages can easily reach the six-figure range. The average salary for industrial-organizational psychologists in local government roles is $106,750, the BLS reported. Industrial-organizational jobs in management of companies and enterprises pay an $111,270 mean role, and scientific research and development services pay psychologists in this discipline an average salary of $149,780.

Four of the five states with the best salaries for industrial-organizational psychologists pay six-figure mean wages, with $114,990 as Minnesota’s, $119,700 as New Jersey’s, $126,220 as Virginia’s and $149,820 as California’s.

No Need for a Doctorate

In most cases, you need to earn a doctoral degree, like a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), if you want to become a psychologist. Industrial-organizational psychology is the exception. In this field of study, a master’s degree is sufficient for entry-level job roles, according to the BLS.

You can still choose to pursue your Ph.D. or Psy.D. in industrial-organizational psychology, but this highly advanced degree path is optional, not mandatory. It means you get to choose on your own terms whether or not to pursue a doctorate and when it might make sense to do so. Although not required, doctoral studies remain popular among students in this career field.

Although 47 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists stopped their education at the master’s level, 48 list a doctorate as their highest level of education, and five percent also underwent post-doctoral training.

Plenty of Career Options

If you think selecting industrial-organizational psychology was the only big career decision you would have to make, you might be surprised at how vast and diverse this career field is. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology identifies four major career paths to choose from within this field: consulting, industry, government and academia. Some positions are strictly management track, others non-management.

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

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Industrial-organizational psychologists generally begin as individual contributors, such as consulting associates or project assistants, at the entry level. With experience, they can move on to expert individual contributor roles like expert, senior professional or senior consultant. At the manager level, industrial-organizational psychologists might hold job titles like team leader, project leader, program leader or director of human resources operations. At the “manager of manager” level are job titles like senior team leader, program director and senior manager. Executive roles might include senior executive, partner, director or chief human resources officer.

This may sound complex as it is, but even within these numerous career paths and job functions, there are other distinctions. Industrial-organizational psychologists may choose a generalist or specialist path. In industry and consulting, there are both research and project management paths to consider. In academia, all three levels of management are classified into a single management path, yet industrial-organizational psychologists are more likely to move back and forth between these different roles than in other paths.

Many industrial-organizational psychologists hold job titles that don’t include the term “psychologist.” Talent developer, instructional designer, personnel analyst, research consultant and organizational consultant are all job titles you can hold with a background in industrial-organizational psychology. You can also use your knowledge base as an industrial-organizational psychologist to work in human resources management, executive coaching, strategy development, change management and organizational effectiveness.

One way to begin narrowing down what you want to do in the field of industrial-organizational psychology is through evaluating the hands-on experience you gain completing an internship experience during college.

Additional Resources

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

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

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