Industrial and Organizational Psychologist Careers

What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Industrial-organizational psychology is a discipline that focuses on the workplace and the interaction between employers and employees. Much of the focus of industrial-organizational psychology is in two separate, yet interrelated areas. First, on the industry side, this field is concerned with individual employees and their relationship with their workplace. Second, on the organizational side, the focus is on the company as a whole, from the CEO down to the newest hourly worker.

The field of industrial-organizational psychology came about in a rather interesting way. During World War I, there was much focus on assigning soldiers to the duties that best suited them. Thus, “work psychology” was born and later became the industrial aspect of industrial-organizational psychology. The organizational component of the field emerged in the 1920s and 1930s after researchers studied worker productivity in a Western Electric plant in Hawthorne, Illinois. The results of their studies, which revealed that workers were more productive if they felt as though someone was interested in their work, laid the foundation for research and development into organizational management and improving employee productivity outcomes.

What Does an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Do?

Individuals working in the field of industrial-organizational psychology wear many different hats. Workers with a bachelor’s degree typically work in human resources-related positions, such as collecting and analyzing data to improve hiring practices, employee training, and workplace safety. Some bachelor’s degree holders may also work as test and measurement specialists, who seek to determine the specific types of skills required for an employee to successfully complete his or her job.

With a master’s degree, the job duties increase in both breadth and depth. Some industrial-organizational psychologists examine worker performance, intelligence tests, and personality tests in order to complete behavioral analyses. Other psychologists at this level in this field specialize in designing, implementing, and evaluating worker retention and reward programs. Still others focus on improving workplace productivity, worker job satisfaction, and recruitment of new talent.

At the Ph.D. level, the job duties of an industrial-organizational psychologist shift somewhat into more of a research-based role. Many psychologists at this level are research analysts, who engage in an examination of quantitative data in order to inform decisions regarding organizational projects, initiatives, and programs. In this capacity, industrial-organizational psychologists might organize focus groups to get a feel for public opinion about a company or a company’s products. They might also organize project teams to outline specific goals, or work with groups of employees to gain insight about their perspective on how the organization can improve.

Some industrial-organizational psychologists work independently as consultants. Psychologists working in this realm typically offer a wide variety of services to businesses and industries, from training members of management to resolving labor issues, to evaluating employees to recruiting new talent. There are also specializations in the realm of increasing diversity, both among the general workforce and among management. Some industrial-organizational psychologists consult with businesses on implementing multicultural awareness and anti-discrimination programs as well.

In organizational management positions, I/O psychologists tend to figure out the processes by which restructuring should occur in a work environment. In organizational management, they help implement new approaches and methodologies to lay the groundwork for new procedures.

What is the Employment Outlook for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists?

Individuals seeking a job as an industrial-organizational psychologist are in luck, as it is by far the fastest growing occupation in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Through 2022, industrial-organizational psychology is expected to grow by a whopping 53 percent.

The largest numbers of industrial-organizational psychologists work in the management, scientific, and technical consulting sector. State governments are the second largest employer. A distant third is scientific development and research, followed by public and private school systems and health practitioner’s offices. The job outlook for each of these industries is strong, particularly for the management, scientific development, and research industries.

The number of new jobs expected in the industrial-organizational psychology field depends heavily on geography. Massachusetts has the largest concentration of industrial-organizational psychologists of any state, and that is not projected to change. New York, Virginia, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania also have a strong presence of industrial-organizational psychology jobs and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

How Much Does an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Earn?

According to the BLS, industrial-organizational psychologists working in the scientific research and development field make by far the highest annual salary, topping out at over $53 per hour or $110,000 per year, as of May 2014.

Individuals employed as an industrial-organizational psychologist in an elementary or secondary school setting have the second highest average income in the field, at $39.98 per hour or $83,160 annually. Working in a management environment or as a consultant brings in, on average, $39.95 per hour or $83,110 per year. Industrial-organizational psychologists who work for state or federal government agencies can expect to make just over $36 per hour, which equates to a mean yearly salary of $74,900.

What Degree is Required for an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

Individuals that seek to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist should first pursue an undergraduate degree in psychology. This degree may prepare students for entry-level work in which they will be able to apply their knowledge of human behavior and get real-world experience that will be beneficial for later employment opportunities. Most undergraduate psychology programs are generalist in nature; however, more and more colleges are offering specialized bachelor’s degrees in industrial-organizational psychology.

Graduate programs in industrial-organizational psychology narrow the depth and breadth of training to focus on essential job-related skills in the industrial-organizational field. Some graduate programs are industry focused, that is, coursework prepares students to work more with individual workers, such as counseling unhappy employees. Other graduate programs focus on the organizational side, such as working with management to improve overall productivity of their employees. Regardless of focus, master’s degree programs in industrial-organizational psychology typically involve coursework in consumer psychology, workplace diversity, consulting, process improvement, and organizational effectiveness.

Master’s level psychology professionals generally find entry-level employment opportunities. In order to reap the greatest benefits of employment as an industrial-organizational psychologist, one must obtain a doctorate and licensure . Doctoral programs narrow the focus of studies even further to allow students to not only be consumers of information but creators of new knowledge as well. Most doctoral programs in industrial-organizational psychology have a scientist-practitioner focus, meaning, students’ training includes both scientific research as well as opportunities to develop clinical skills. Doctoral programs usually last from 3-5 years, with the first several years focused on completing required coursework, and the final two years generally focused on individual research.

In most states, licensure is required to use the title “psychologist”. Requirements for licensure generally include (but not limited to) a doctoral degree in psychology, supervised experience under a licensed psychologist, and passing licensure examination (some states may have additional requirements).

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