Industrial-organizational psychology is the field of applying principles of psychology – the study of thinking and behavior – to workplace situations. It probably comes as no surprise that degree programs in industrial-organizational psychology include coursework in both psychology and business. There are different degree options in the field of industrial-organizational psychology, and which option you choose can affect the perspective and level of advanced studies of your degree program.

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

Psychology Courses

Before you can master the challenges of applying psychological theories and techniques to a business environment, you should develop a thorough understanding of these principles and practices. A program in industrial-organizational psychology typically begins with studies in the foundations of both industrial and organizational psychology.

Industrial psychology is the branch of psychology that emphasizes recruitment, with a focus on identifying job requirements, finding qualified candidates and hiring, training and evaluating workers. Organizational psychology is a separate branch that focuses on relationships as they pertain to business performance, including areas such as management styles and employee motivation and commitment to the company. Together, these two branches of psychology help businesses and organizations apply principles of psychology to the entire business lifecycle and all aspects of business operations.

Certain subjects of study that are common in industrial-organizational psychology degree programs have a basis in mathematics or quantitative studies, including coursework in psychology research methods, methods of statistical data analysis and psychometrics, the study of the statistics behind psychological assessments and measurements. Courses that fit more traditional fields within psychology include social psychology, learning theory, behavior modification and small group theory and dynamics.

Most industrial-organizational psychology degree programs culminate in some sort of in-depth project or learning experience. At the master’s degree level, students can often choose between writing a master’s thesis or completing an internship.

Business Classes

As you look over the course listings in an industrial-organizational psychology degree program, you may notice that many of them sound like business classes, even if they are categorized as psychology or counseling coursework. The classes in personnel selection procedures, work attitudes and motivation, performance management, organizational development and leadership theory that you find in an industrial-organizational psychology program approach familiar topics from a psychology perspective.

Students of industrial-organizational psychology also benefit from coursework in business communications and law. You might choose to study organizational communication, crisis communication, or public and organizational relations so that you can help the businesses you work with communicate more effectively internally and externally. Your professional recommendations as an industrial-organizational psychologist must align with business laws and regulations about recruitment and workplace treatment. You can become familiar with the relevant laws by taking courses in compliance with public regulations, workplace dispute resolution and cross-cultural conflict resolution.

You may find that industrial-organizational psychology programs offered out of a school of business emphasize more business and quantitative coursework than those that operate out of a psychology department.

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

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Degree Options in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology is one of the few specialties of psychology that does not require a doctorate, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of course, that doesn’t mean that no one in this field chooses to pursue a doctorate. In fact, the split between education levels is nearly even, with 47 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists holding a master’s degree and 48 percent holding a doctorate. Another five percent of industrial-organizational psychologists have post-doctoral training in addition to a degree. Although some colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in industrial-organizational psychology, graduate study is still required for most jobs in the field.

How do you decide whether a master’s degree or a doctoral degree is right for you? Generally, master’s degrees can qualify you for entry-level specialist roles in industrial-organizational psychology, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), but for more opportunities exist for job candidates with a doctoral degree. You can continue working in the field, particularly in non-management tracks in roles like expert individual contributor, without pursuing your Ph.D. or Psy.D. in industrial-organizational leadership. However, you will likely need a doctorate if you want to advance to a leadership role or boost your salary. Starting salaries for industrial-organizational psychologists with a doctoral degree are $16,000 than those with only a master’s degree, according to the APA.

Earning a doctoral degree in industrial-organizational psychology typically requires three to six years of study, according to U.S. News & World Report, while the 30- to 40-credit master’s degree programs in this field require two years of study.

Additional Resources

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

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

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

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