A master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology is one of the highest-paying master’s degrees you can earn. While the degree is important, it takes more than an education to make you successful in this career field. For industrial-organizational psychologist to be the right career fit for you, you should possess certain personality traits. Some of the best qualities for an industrial-organizational psychologist include an analytical nature, an aptitude for solving problems, a conscientious personality and openness to experiences.

An Analytical Nature

Do you naturally ask questions about what you observe? Do you aim to better understand events and situations that involve complex factors? If so, you might have the kind of analytical nature that, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), makes for a good psychologist. For industrial-organizational psychologists specifically, understanding the intricacies of a workplace problem, environment or procedure requires you to analyze all of the different aspects of the situation.

The technical skills of analyzing data in different ways, such as according to statistical and mathematical principles, can be taught. However, someone who is naturally inclined to scrutinize the information they are presented with and investigate further when they realize they don’t yet have the complete picture has an advantage in this area.

Analytical skills are often associated with numbers, but industrial-organizational psychologists don’t only analyze quantitative data. They also use qualitative methods of research, including observation, interviews and focus group dialogues, to gather data.

A Penchant for Solving Problems

When you look at the goals of endeavors in industrial-organizational psychology, they typically boil down to one overarching theme: solving a problem. There may be problems of productivity or efficiency, problems of recruiting and developing talent, problems of evaluating worker performance, problems of employee motivation or problems of quality of life in the workplace, according to the American Psychological Association.

If tackling a new problem sounds less like a headache and more like an opportunity, a career in industrial-organizational psychology might be a good fit. This isn’t a career path for people who prefer to sweep problems under the rug and avoid them. Part of an industrial-organizational psychologist’s job is to identify problems, and the factors that contribute to or complicate them, in specific ways. The goal isn’t to criticize but instead to construct a solution that addresses these factors and challenges.

O*NET identifies the type of problem-solving work required of industrial-organizational psychologists as “complex problem solving” due to the numerous factors involved, the need to gather all relevant information, and the multiple solutions to consider.

A Conscientious Personality

What Personality Traits Are Best for an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

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Researchers have studied the personality characteristics of successful industrial-organizational psychologists. One of the most important personality traits they have found is conscientiousness. To really do well in an industrial-organizational psychologist position, you need to be a diligent person who doesn’t cut corners and who makes every effort to perform tasks to the best of your ability. Otherwise, it is too easy to miss subtle but important details that will determine whether the solutions you come up with work.

For example, a conscientious industrial-organizational psychologist may start a project by speaking with managers and administration. However, this interaction only provides the industrial-organizational psychologist with a partial view of the situation that comes from these limited perspectives. A conscientious industrial-organizational psychologist will gather more data, such as the insights of workers, and then develop a solution that addresses the full scope of the challenge. An industrial-organizational psychologist who lacks the personality trait of conscientiousness might neglect to interview all parties in the workplace who contributed to or are affected by a procedure or situation. The solution they come up with might not fix the problem because the data on which it is based isn’t comprehensive.

Conscientiousness affects how industrial-organizational psychologists prioritize their work, organize a project and manage their time in this role where supervision is so minimal.

An Open Mind

To be a good industrial-organizational psychologist, you need to be open to different experiences and perspectives. The factors that contribute to a challenge in the workplace aren’t always what you would expect. Different people involved in the situation might have very different views of why things – like productivity, workplace culture, rules and procedures – are the way they are and how to fix them. It’s your job to listen with an open mind and understand all of the different factors involved in any workplace situation that you’re working to address.

Active listening, which includes listening with complete concentration and asking questions and reiterating important points, is one of the most important skills for industrial-organizational psychologists, according to O*NET.

Additional Resources

What Does an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Do?

Is There a Good Area to Study as an Undergrad to Prepare Me to Become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

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