How to Become an Organizational Psychologist

What is an Organizational Psychologist?

Organizational psychologists examine how individuals and groups within a system interact, and how the system as a whole behaves as a result of the actions, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of the individuals and groups of which it is comprised. The information gleaned from examining these factors is used to improve the system, which is most often a place of work.

For example, a company that is struggling to recruit qualified workers might hire an organizational psychologist to develop a new recruitment plan that generates a higher quality and quantity of applicant. Likewise, a company whose employees are not performing to the best of their abilities would hire an organizational psychologist to devise a new workplace reward system that motivates workers to achieve a higher level of productivity. If a business is experiencing low employee morale, an organizational psychologist might be able to find the problem(s) creating low morale and develop strategies to improve it.

Research is also a primary task for organizational psychologists. They investigate many topics related to business, including: how to better train workers, factors that cause worker stress, consumer preferences, and organizational development. Doing so gives organizational psychologists the insight they need to create better workplaces so productivity and consumer satisfaction are also improved.

What are the Principles of Organizational Psychology?

Organizational psychology uses psychology principles to study and affect change within organizations and businesses. By scientifically studying workplace behavior in this way, it is believed that processes can be optimized and staff managed more effectively. This is achieved by focusing on the aspects of the organization that directly impact upon staff or that staff have a direct impact upon, and looking at how to make these as efficient and productive as possible. With that in mind, organizational psychology usually focusses on six areas across industry to achieve this:

  • Recruitment processes and candidate selection – development of candidate application and assessment. Focus is on uncovering traits and skills to ensure potential employees are a good fit for the organization or for a specific role.
  • Staff development and training – helping to craft and evaluate training materials and programs as well as analyzing what personal skills and qualities are needed to effectively perform certain roles.
  • Work life balance – aims to increase staff productivity by keeping motivation and engagement high. This may be done by working to improve the overall culture within the company or by observing specific and individual workplace interactions and relationships. This may also be concerned with identifying areas of conflict within the company and working to find ways to resolve them.
  • Performance management – developing tools and assessment to objectively measure staff productivity and performance, this can then be used to improve employee appraisal activities.
  • Development of the organization – often looking at company structure, aims and output to ensure maximized efficiency and, therefore, profits.
  • Ergonomics – working more with processes than people to ensure optimal performance whilst keeping staff safety as a priority.

It is clear that by employing psychological principles around, for example, human learning, motivation or perception, that organizational psychology can have a profound and positive impact upon business, both at a corporate level as well as for a company’s individual employees.

What Does an Organizational Psychologist Do?

A career as an organizational psychologist is unlike any other. Organizational psychologists play a specialized role in our society. Unlike many other types of psychologists, these professionals focus on groups of people and on problem solving within workplaces and other public places like airports, malls, and libraries. Organizational psychologists usually work to find creative solutions to problems relating directly to the workplace, or other public spaces.

Organizational psychologists must often shoulder the responsibility of finding creative ways to make workers more productive. According to Rutgers, organizational psychologists must also strive to create environments of fairness and impartiality, while also enhancing the relationships of those with whom they work. Delivering goods and services within the context of organizations which serve the public and private sectors are their chief responsibilities.

Organizational psychologists must manage others successfully, finding ways to motivate employees into peak performance.  They are often responsible for hiring new employees, for conducting leadership summits, and helping employees solve family problems. An organizational psychologist might also develop multiple surveys to help better understand and consequently improve the work environment. Overall, the organizational psychologist is concerned with the way people function in the workplace, and other public settings. In the private sector, they often consult with large corporations, as well as film and TV networks.

They also often help design the packaging for fast-food products, toys, cosmetics and other merchandise. They use their knowledge of human behavior to determine what social determinants and variables are likely to cause people to buy certain products. Organizational Psychologists use statistics often, in order to try and predict human behavior.

Why Do We Need Organizational Psychologists?

Organizational psychologists play a critical role in developing workplaces that are safe, productive, and which promote worker job satisfaction. It is this latter component – worker job satisfaction – that is often viewed as the most critical job duty of organizational psychologists.

By focusing their time on improving the workplace, organizational psychologists serve two very important functions. First, by implementing changes that make employees more satisfied with their job and their work environment, organizational psychologists can improve employee-employee and employee-employer relations. This, in turn, improves communication between groups, which reduces conflict and misunderstandings, improves work-life balance, and lends to the development of a safer work environment.

Secondly, by helping employees become happier with their job and work environment, organizational psychologists are also able to boost productivity. The organization thus benefits from having employees that are excited to come to work, as well as employees that are doing their job better and more efficiently. Such changes can be hugely impactful for a company’s bottom line, making it more profitable in both the short and long-term.

By solving an organization’s problems, be that poor worker morale, ineffective training policies, or misunderstandings between management and employees, organizational psychologists can have a real and lasting economic impact in a host of businesses and industries. As employee satisfaction and productivity improves, more work is done, more money is made, and both the company and its employees reap the benefits.

What are the Requirements to Become an Organizational Psychologist?

Education

If you would like to become an organizational psychologist, it is recommended that you earn an undergraduate degree in organizational psychology from an accredited institution. After successfully earning an undergraduate degree, it is recommended that you pursue a Master’s Degree and/or Doctorate Degree.

Some of the classes that organizational psychologists must complete include statistics, advanced statistics for the behavioral sciences, consumer psychology, advanced economics, group processes, calculus, and more. Many programs now require organizational psychologists to study employment and business law, as well as psychometrics.  Many schools also offer a thesis diversion-track program, which allows students to complete a thesis in place of one (out of two) internships.

Work Experience

With an undergraduate degree in organizational psychology, you might be required to complete a brief internship working in an HR department. For those with Master’s degrees and higher, internships might be available at both companies and universities.

What Skills are Needed for an Organizational Psychologist?

The personal skills required to be an organizational psychologist are similar to the skill set needed to be a clinical psychologist. Mediation abilities, acceptance of diversity, experience in human resources, and strong training and education in ethics and morality is often needed.

As an organizational psychologist you must have exemplary leadership abilities, as well as the ability to conduct administrative tasks like performance appraisals. You must enjoy working with people, and have the emotional stamina needed to deal with a variety of personalities within a business-like setting.

Where Does an Organizational Psychologist Work?

  • Military
  • Private businesses
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Mental health centers
  • Community treatment centers
  • Independent practice
  • Academic and research institutes
  • Government agencies
  • Government and private consulting agencies

What is the Salary of an Organizational Psychologist?

According to Salary.com, the median salary for an organizational psychologist “in the United States is $117,668”. The salary for an organizational psychologist varies according to the sector in which they work. Reportedly, organizational psychologists who work for large corporations sometimes make up to three million dollars each year.

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