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How to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Anywhere there are people, there are bound to be challenges. Sometimes those challenges are good, such as helping someone find the perfect role to meet their skill level and desired focus area. Sometimes those challenges are not so good, as when teams clash or executives can’t decide on a path forward for the company. In either case, it can help to have advice from a professional.

For this reason, the relatively new field of industrial/organizational psychology has arisen. Also referred to as industrial-organizational psychology with a hyphen rather than dash, or just I-O psychology, this niche discipline helps companies, corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions and other large organizations to find the best solutions for their needs.

If you think these focus areas might fit your career aspirations, you could bee well suited to industrial/organizational psychology. In order to determine if this position is for you, it’s helpful to read more about what this field is, what an I-O psychologist does, how you become on and more. Read on.

What Is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist?

Industrial/organizational psychology, “is characterized by the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the work place,” explains the American Psychological Association (APA). “The specialty focuses on deriving principles of individual, group and organizational behavior and applying this knowledge to the solution of problems at work.”

As Verywell Mind explains, there are two major aspects of I-O psychology: “First, there is the industrial side, which involves looking at how to best match individuals to specific job roles. This segment of I-O psychology is also sometimes referred to as personnel psychology.” Psychologists working in this role might help individuals find jobs best suited to them, develop their performance standards, measure their performance and help them adjust their roles as necessary.

Then there is the organizational side, which “is more focused on understanding how organizations affect individual behavior. Organizational structures, social norms, management styles, and role expectations are all factors that can influence how people behave within an organization.” Those who specialize in this realm might help an organization do many things.

What Does an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Do?

The exact role an industrial/organizational psychologist plays will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • What type of institution they work at, from a school to a Fortune 500 corporation to a startup that only has 100 employees but lots of challenges
  • The nature of the company or organization’s work
  • Whether they wish to focus on the industrial side or the organizational side
  • The types of employees there, from interns to salespeople to managers to executives
  • The type of workers as designated by the demands of their industry, from laborers to government employees, academics to community health workers and so on

Industrial/organizational psychologists play a huge variety of roles, including:

  • Recruitment and placement of individuals at the organization
  • Training and development or current and incoming employees
  • Setting of performance metrics and measurement of those metrics
  • Quality of work life at organizations
  • Mediation and otherwise helping teams and employees get along
  • Structuring of environment, workflow and interaction between employees
  • Consumer behavior and marketing

What Is the Job Outlook?

For all psychologists, the job outlook is currently quite positive. Psychologists make on average $79,010  per year or $37.99 per hour, and the job expectancy is growing at a rate of 14 percent between 2018 and 2028. In other words, psychologists who graduate from respectable institutions have no trouble finding employment, either on their own or with large organizations.

SEE ALSO: Salary Outlook Ph.D. vs Psy.D. Organizational Psychology

According to the APA, I-O psychologists specifically can expect to make considerably more than this: “Overall, the median annual salary for I/O psychologists is $80,000. The highest earners can make $250,000 or more each year.”

What Type of Degree Do You Need?

It’s hard to say for certain what type of degree you should get if you want to become an industrial/organizational psychologist. You will need at least a master’s degree to practice psychology on your own. Although you can help with psychology research teams or work in psychology clinics with just a bachelor’s degree, it isn’t legal to run your own practice or work one-on-one with patients unless you have at least a master’s. In some states or organizations, you will need a doctorate.

SEE ALSO: Top Online Ph.D. Industrial/Organizational Psychology

A number of factors will influence the degree level, such as:

  • What state or jurisdiction you intend to practice in
  • The requirements of your organization
  • Whether you want to work under a supervisor or be your own boss
  • Your focus area, e.g. the type of institution at which you want to work, the work it does, the people it employs, etc.

If you opt for a doctorate or doctoral degree, you once again have two choices:

  1. The PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy: This degree is intended for people who want to remain in academics, researching psychological principles, running studies, publishing papers and teaching. Though you will likely work with people as part of research, this won’t be your main focus.
  2. The PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology: For those who want to work in the field on a constant basis, this is the better option. The PsyD will prepare candidates for one-on-one work with patients, working with people in groups, and even navigating challenging situations in the workplace. If you want to be a successful I-O psychologist, this is probably the best degree.

A common degree course would be, for

What Does the Coursework Include?

As The Chicago School explains, these programs “prepare graduates to assume leadership roles in today’s global and multicultural business environment … Business psychology professionals utilize assessment and intervention skills to help organizations solve problems, enhance performance, and manage the complexities of today’s business environment. They often develop and administer management systems such as performance management, training, organizational development, change management, employee selection, and organizational-wide surveys.

Typically, coursework for industrial-organizational psychologists will take many of the foundational courses needed to work efficiently in a business environment. To this end, I-O psychologists learn a mix of psychological and business principles. These include:

  • Psychological foundations of thought
  • Treatment and intervention approaches
  • Management principles
  • Training and organizational development
  • Change management

… and more. Before committing to a program, make sure you check with the admissions department at your prospective schools and learn more about the coursework, so you can find the program that truly applies to you.

How Do You Get a License?

Getting a license requires:

  1. Completing a program
  2. Taking and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), accepted in all 50 states
  3. Completing supervised clinical hours after graduation, in some cases

This will also depend on where you want to work and for whom, so look into that well ahead of time. That way, you can make the best possible plans for your new career in industrial/organizational psychology!

References

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Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Editor-In-Chief

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.