For undergraduate and graduate psychology students who have a strong interest in applying their knowledge to real-world settings related to product design, computer science, engineering, statistics, business, or human resources, industrial-organizational psychology may be the ideal field.
According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, industrial-organizational psychology (I-O psychology) is the “scientific study of the workplace.” As one of the most rapidly growing branches within the dynamic and diverse psychology profession, I-O psychology focuses on applying psychological theories to organizations in an effort to increase workplace productivity, boost physical and mental well-being of employees, and ensure workplace safety. The following is a comprehensive overview of the branch and career possibilities to help determine whether industrial-organizational psychology is the right match for your professional psychology goals.
What Makes Industrial-Organizational Psychology Different?
With an overall goal of studying and understanding human behavior in the workplace, the field of industrial-organizational psychology is the only applied field of psychology centered on studying worker attitudes, evaluating companies, and conducting leadership training to improve organizational or labor relations. I-O psychology often includes developing employee training, creating employee selection assessments for screening job applicants, designing equipment to maximize performance, improving employee satisfaction through reward programs, and redesigning products to increase profits. With roots in experimental psychology and basic theoretical research, industrial-organizational psychology is focused on the major subject areas of product design, employee testing, performance management, job satisfaction, and diversity.
What Do Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Do?
Similar to clinical or counseling psychology, industrial-organizational psychology has both an academic and applied practice perspective. Many I-O psychologists work in real-world business application settings in positions dealing with worker productivity, human resources, assessment, employee training, and workforce development. Some choose to concentrate in specific specialty areas within the business sector for consulting opportunities, including human-computer interaction and human factors. On the flip side, other I-O psychologists work in research or academic positions at universities or private institutions to conduct research that will better understand behavior in the workplace.
What Training is Necessary for Becoming an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?
While there are a number of universities nationwide that offer bachelor’s degree in I-O psychology to start entry-level positions in human resources, the majority of industrial-organizational psychologists have furthered their education to the master’s level. Since those with an advanced degree have more diversified career opportunities to work in consulting, government, business, and private sector research positions, it is strongly encouraged that graduate students achieve at least a Master of Arts or Science in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. For those interested in pursuing an academic research role at a university, it is usually required that job candidates have a doctoral degree in I-O psychology for consideration.
Overall, industrial-organizational psychology is a thriving field that is concerned with the study of workplace behavior to apply principles to make improvements in organizational development, marketing and sales, employee training, human resources, product design, and more. Not only does the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that industrial-organizational psychologists are among the highest paid in the psychology field with a mean annual salary of $98,800, I-O psychology is also the fastest growing with projected growth much faster than average at 53 percent before 2022! Therefore, if you have a passion for research, statistics, and finding practical applications for psychological findings to the business sector, it is a perfect time to begin working towards a fascinating career in the area of industrial-organizational psychology.