How to Become a Business Psychologist

Overview

Business is big business in the United States. The United States is home to a vast number of corporations employing countless people. It should be no surprise that the concept of how to make businesses run as efficiently as possible has spawned many books and motivational speakers.

More and more, business psychology is an important part of every CEO’s life. This branch of psychology is also called industrial and organizational psychology, and is vital to business because it helps to recognize factors that create success such as company culture, work/life balance and motivation.

What Does a Business Psychologist Do?

A business psychologist studies a unique branch of psychology and does not have the same responsibilities as a traditional psychologist. They do not normally see individual patients but an entire company can be their “patient”. They are similar to the human resources (HR) department but are more focused on the workplace while an HR specialist has more of a legal and financial focus.

Business psychologists study the workplace and employees to learn how to best motivate employees as well as improve conditions and therefore make the business run smoothly and successfully. They counsel clients, usually the business owners, in order to enhance work performance through improved practices in hiring, employee feedback, training and management.

There are two kinds of business psychologists; a researcher and as an advisor. It is possible to work on both sides of the field.

As a researcher, they run studies on how to optimize the workplace. The can gather data needed to study their theory from:

  • Questionnaires
  • Focus Groups
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Case Studies

The research side for a business psychologist can be done at the work place, an independent office, or even a University where they might also be on faculty. As faculty, they would be responsible for lectures and mentorship in addition to their research tasks of: grant writing, research, and publication.

A business psychologist who worked as an advisor, takes the theories proven by research and advises on how to run the company. The can help find problems within a company and devise a plan on how to correct the issue or develop a training program for the employees. They can even determine the best way to physically set up the office. A business psychologist can be employed by the company or be brought on as a consultant. Some of the specific things they can do are:

  • Talent Management
  • Training
  • Leadership Development
  • Human-Machine Interaction
  • Employee Interaction and Morale
  • Design of Work Environment

In addition to these specific areas, the business psychologist can also evaluate the business and its practices to make sure they are in line with the core principals of the business. If they do not line up, then they can put together a plan of action on how to realign the practices or see if the core principals needs to be modified to fit the current business model in place.

Related: What Can You Do With a Business Psychology Degree

What are the Requirements to Become a Business Psychologist?

Background

A background in business is important for this type of psychology career – many business owners decide to return to school in order to become a business psychologist. Others choose this path because they have a genuine interest in improving the lives of workers and general health of business.

School and Grad School

Business psychologists often only need a master’s degree, unlike other psychology careers. However, a Ph.D. may have a competitive edge in the search for a position.

A future business psychologist must start at the college level in order to eventually gain an advanced degree. Most will choose to get a BA in psychology, though a working knowledge of business also important so some choose to pursue a business degree. Any degree will get the student into graduate school with the right GRE scores and personal statement.

Students can go straight into a Ph.D. program without a master’s degree but choosing a grad school is not easy. The choices can be overwhelming, either for a master’s or doctoral program, with different schools having great name recognition but the wrong programs for business psychology. It is important to do research in order to find the correct school to pursue a career in business, aka industrial and organizational, psychology.

  • Ask around: Professors or professionals in the field can help a student pare down the list of appropriate schools to apply to. Professors might have insight based on personal experience with their own business psychology doctorates. Professionals can also be helpful fountains of information about which schools have the most name recognition in the industry.
  • Use the internet: Search for information, but don’t fall prey to adds discussing an online doctoral program. Investigate potential schools’ websites for specialized programs in business psychology, and what they can offer for the student. The website will have information about letters of reference, typical GRE scores and other information necessary before deciding to apply.
  • Talk to admissions counselors: After you’ve determined to apply – make contact with the school. Talk to admissions or professors to learn about school culture and the specialized program that will help lead you toward a career in business psychology.

Internships

An internship is key to success in business psychology, not only because it gives valuable experience in the field, but also because it is required to complete an advanced degree. There are many more internship candidates than actual positions, and each one must apply the same way and hope to get the internship that year or they must wait until the next round of interviews.

To get an internship, candidates must apply and interview at several possibilities and then rank those organizations at appic.org. The student will be given an internship (or not) based on the rank they were given by the places which they applied. Students must take the internship they are offered.

Entry Level Jobs

A recently graduated student can begin working at his internship, if they decide to keep the position. They might also work for a company that consults with businesses about how to operate better and keep employees more satisfied. Some business psychologists may eventually become motivational speakers for the business community, coaching management about how to encourage the best possible working conditions.

Licensure Hours

Any psychology Ph.D. candidate typically must complete 3,000 hours of supervised practice. However, requirements may vary from state to state.

Where Does a Business Psychologist Work?

A business psychology can work in a variety of places. They can work in a corporate setting where they advise employers to optimize productivity or have their own practice where their services are contracted out to smaller companies. What they do can look a lot like the human resources department but they are focused on how the company should be run and be staffed while HR is more focused on the legal and budgetary side of the employees.

On the other side of the field, they can also be in a research setting as they develop and test theories about how to optimize the workplace. This can be done within a workplace or off site depending on the type of data they are gathering.

A third place a business psychologist can work is in an academic setting where they would be teaching classes on the subject and conducting research.

How Much Does a Business Psychologist Make?

The average business psychologist makes $94,720,according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ranging from $55,330 per year to as high as $143,950. It is one of the best paying specialized psychology fields. As businesses are dealing with the outcome of the great recession, the outlook for business psychology careers is only improving.

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