How to Become an Occupational Psychologist [2024 Career and Schooling Guide]

Last Updated: May 22, 2024

If you love the working world, and would like to advance within a business or company, a career as an occupational psychologist might be a good fit for you. The career of an occupational psychologist closely resembles that of an organizational psychologist.

Occupational psychologists often work within a corporate setting. Some of the unique responsibilities of occupational psychologists include the management of any interaction between machines and humans.

What is an Occupational Psychologist?

An occupational psychologist is trained in applying psychological principles and theory in relation to workplace issues. Occupational psychologists work with both managers, business owners and individual employees.

Specifically, occupational psychologists are concerned with understanding how organizations and individual employees behave and function at work. They use the same skills as a general psychologist, but apply them to organizations.

By understanding how and why people behave a certain way in the work environment, occupational psychologists aim to improve the overall effectiveness of an organization. Improvement may be related to the training or retention of employees.

An occupational psychologist may also develop ways to improve the health and wellness of an organization’s employees.

An occupational psychologist may be brought in as a consultant to an organization to deal with a specific issue, such as employee morale.

In other instances, an occupational psychologist may work with organizational leaders to deal with multiple relevant business issues, such as organizational development, leadership training and employee work-life balance.

What Does an Occupational Psychologist Do?

Occupational psychologists use psychological theory and methods to help organizations and their employees. By using their psychological expertise, occupational psychologists can help organizations address and correct workplace problems and issues.

Although occupational psychologists may work for all types of organizations, they are most commonly hired by large companies that have many employees. In addition, organizations whose employees are often under a lot of pressure may seek the assistance of an occupational psychologist.

The specific job duties of an occupational psychologist may vary considerably based on the type of organization they are working with and the goals of the company.

Occupational psychology is a specialized niche, and occupational psychologists often utilize broader methods and techniques than are typically used in clinical psychology. For instance, occupational psychologists may find themselves developing programs to reduce employee stress or improve communication and leadership skills.

In other instances, occupational psychologists may work with organizations to help companies devise a recruitment and training program.

Related: How to Become a Market Research Analyst

In general, since the goal of an occupational psychologist is often to improve how an organization functions, psychologists may start by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the company. This may involve talking with employees, reviewing employment records and working with management to identify issues.

Once issues are identified, occupations psychologists work with organizational leaders to develop policies and strategies to correct problems and deal with challenges.

For example, an occupational psychologist may help a manager design a reward system that motivates employees. They may also suggest programs to improve employee health and wellness, such as smoking cessation classes or onsite exercise classes.

Occupational psychologists may also be concerned with helping organizations place employees in positions they are most suited for. This may involve administering personality and aptitude test to identify areas where an employee may fit best and excel at their job.

Why Do We Need Occupational Psychologists?

Occupational psychologists are needed to help organizations improve their effectiveness. An organization is only as good as its employees. Successful organizations benefit not only the company owners and employees, but that can also benefit entire communities.

Human resource managers or organizational leaders usually do not have the same expertise, education, and training that an occupational psychologist brings to the table. An occupational psychologist can play a vital role in everything from recruiting the most suitable employees to helping organizations develop insight into how to motivate employees.

Both companies and employees often benefit from the assistance of an occupational psychologist. For instance, with the help of an occupational psychologist, organizations may develop ways to improve employee job satisfaction. Improved satisfaction can often lead to increased productivity, fewer absences from work and better employee morale. B

y improving overall employee wellness and retention, it may mean less money spent on workplace injuries, training new employees and lost productivity due to work absences. Employees are happier and organizations may be more profitable.

What are the Educational Requirements to Become a Occupational Psychologist?

To become an occupational psychologist you must have at least a Master’s degree in psychology. However, most employers require a Ph.D. degree. Furthermore, doctoral degree in psychology is necessary in order to use “psychologist” title and practice independently.

Taking courses in business management, organizational psychology, mediation, and employment law is highly recommended. Often occupational psychologists hold both a counseling degree and a business degree.

The exact nature of the graduate programs for occupational psychologists varies from school to school. Generally, most schools expect undergraduate applicants to have obtained at least a 1300 on the GRE, and to have maintained a B average throughout all attempted undergraduate work.

Graduate education also commonly focuses on consumer psychology, professional consultation, diversity in the workplace, effective organizational skills, and the value of the human workforce.

What are the Work Experience Requirements?

Those seeking to become occupational psychologists are expected to gain work experience in many areas. They are generally required to complete two to three working internships, in which they must extensively study and manage people in working environments. During work experiences, occupational psychologists are expected to monitor the environment for accidents and safety.

An important element of work experience is successfully learning to identify which employees and situations are prone to accidents. Work experience also effectively exposes occupational psychologists to the administrative climate.

As an occupational psychologist you may conduct research on your working environment in order to increase overall productivity.

What are the Requirements for Licensure?

According to the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology, after meeting the educational and supervised experience requirements, potential occupational psychologists must pass a test moderated by the state’s board.

What Skills and Qualities are Needed for an Occupational Psychologist?

Occupational psychologists must have a variety of administrative, legal, and interpersonal skills. Occupational psychologists must possess an ability to learn quickly and charismatic/likeable personalities. They must be able to develop creative solutions.

They must also be innovators, good with people, patient, aggressive, and emotionally healthy. As an occupational psychologist, you must be empathetic and action-oriented. You must not be afraid of conflict.

Where Does an Occupational Psychologist Work?

Occupational psychologists typically work in the following environments:

  • Academic institutes
  • Private practice
  • Research firms
  • Large businesses
  • Leadership development centers
  • Human resource departments
  • Employee assistant programs
  • Government and private consultancy firms

What is an Online Occupational Psychology Degree?

As mentioned above, occupational psychology, which is also known as industrial-organizational psychology, is a field of study that focuses on the work environment. As a result, online occupational psychology degree programs prepare students to apply psychological theory to the workplace.

If participating in an online undergraduate occupational psychology program, coursework may focus on more general concepts. Students would take courses like general psychology, psychological statistics, and introductory courses in occupational psychology.

Like on-campus programs, undergraduate studies typically take four years to complete, although online students have the benefit of greater flexibility in terms of when they take classes and when they complete their studies.

At the graduate level, online programs take on a more specific and applied nature, with students delving deeper into workplace psychology. Applied industrial psychology, organizational development, organizational behavior and culture, professional ethics, and research methods are all common courses for online occupational psychology programs.

Typical online graduate programs in this field require 40 credit hours of coursework, however, that requirement can range from a low of 30 credits to a high of 65 credits. By and large, these programs also require a capstone project, practicum experience, or internship placement so that students have an opportunity to put their learning into practice in a real-world setting.

What is the Salary for an Occupational Psychologist?

As of February 2024, according to ZiprecRuiter, the average yearly salary for an occupational psychologist is $92,813. As education increases, salaries also increase.

Occupational psychologists who have achieved a Doctoral degree command significantly higher salaries. As of May 2021, According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average industrial psychologists make $49.29 hourly and $102,530 per year. As an occupational psychologist hired as a technical consultant, you may earn significantly more money.

Related Reading

Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Program outcomes can vary according to each institution's curriculum and job opportunities are not guaranteed. This site is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional help.