What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Many students who want to become psychologists do so because they want to help their patients overcome mental health challenges so their lives can improve. But did you know there is a specialty of psychology applies psychological theories and therapy to companies and other organizations? This is industrial-organizational psychology and is often referred to as I/O psychology.

I/O psychology is growing in popularity as there is more understanding in the workplace that workers who are healthy psychologically and in the proper jobs for their skills are happier and more productive employees. (APA.org)

If you want to work in a field where you can enhance the well-being of employees and lead to a happier workplace, you may want to consider a career in industrial-organizational psychology. Below are details about a career in I/O psychology.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology Overview

I/O psychology is the scientific study of human behavior in the workplace and organizations. The industrial-organizational psychologist applies psychological principles to the workplace so that productivity and worker satisfaction is increased. An I/O psychologist may study worker attitudes and behavior, evaluate the effectiveness of the workplace, and perform leadership training. (Verywellmind.com)

Industrial-organizational psychology can be thought of as having two major parts. The first is the industrial aspect, which involves how to match applicants to certain job roles. This part of the field also is referred to as personnel psychology.

People who work in personnel psychology may assess the characteristics of employees and then match them to jobs for which they are best suited. Other functions that are in the industrial part of I/O psychology are employee training, devising job performance standards, and measuring how well employees do their jobs.

The organizational aspect of I/O psychology is focused on how the organization affects individual behavior. Management styles, social norms, and organizational structures are all factors that can affect how people behave in their workplaces.

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How Does Industrial-Organizational Psychology Help the Worker?

According to the book Psychology Applied to Work: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology, most psychologists in the field work in these areas that can affect workers in positive ways:

  1. Training and development: Determine the skills needed to do certain jobs as well as develop and evaluate training programs for employees.
  2. Employee selection: Develop assessments for employee selection to ensure that jobs are properly matched to employee skillsets.
  3. Ergonomics: Design procedures and equipment to improve employee performance and minimize chances of injury.
  4. Performance management: Develop techniques and assessments to decide if workers are doing their jobs well.
  5. Worklife: Improve employee satisfaction and increase worker productivity.
  6. Organizational development: Improve organizations through redesigning products, increasing profits, and enhancing the organizational structure.

The I/O psychologist also helps workers in the workplace in these ways: (APA.org)

  • Identify training and development areas that need improvement to enhance worker skills.
  • Optimize the quality of life at work so workers are happier and more productive.
  • Formulate and implement training programs and evaluate how effective they are.
  • Coach organization leaders and employees to work better as a unit.
  • Develop criteria to understand performance of organizations and individuals.

How Can You Become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

The first step to becoming an I/O psychologist is to obtain your bachelor’s degree in psychology. While job opportunities with a bachelor’s degree are possible, they are few and far between.

Most students who are interested in this field earn their master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology. A person with a master’s will usually be able to find an entry-level I/O psychology job to get their career started. Those who have a Ph.D. in the field will have many more employment opportunities in I/O psychology.

Some of the classes you may take in a Ph.D. program are: (Walden.edu)

  • Psychological Motivation at Work
  • Research Foundations
  • Advanced Personnel Psychology
  • I/O Tests and Measurements
  • Job Attitudes, Measurement, and Change
  • Ethics and Standards of I/O Psychology
  • Personnel Psychology in the Workplace
  • Leadership and Leadership Development

After you earn your Ph.D. and complete your dissertation, you will need to complete a year or two of post-doctoral training so you can earn your license in industrial-organizational psychology. Every state has its own rules for licensure. Still, you normally need your Ph.D., complete an I/O psychology internship, have at least a year of supervised experience, and pass the licensing examination.

What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?

All admissions offices for Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology programs have different standards. But most will require the following for you to be considered for admission:

  • College transcripts: You will need to have your bachelor’s and master’s degree college transcripts. It is difficult to be admitted into a Ph.D. psychology program, so you will need to have a good GPA of 3.0 or higher in most cases.
  • Letters of recommendation: Doctoral programs are very competitive, so you will need excellent recommendations from past employers and professors.
  • Prerequisites: If you have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, you probably will have the prerequisites you need to be admitted to an I/O psychology program. If not, you may need to take some prerequisite psychology courses before you can start the doctoral program.
  • Personal essay: How well you write is vital to be admitted into an I/O psychology program.
  • Application: Generally, applications for Ph.D. in psychology programs are online. Be sure that you submit the application by the deadline and provide all the information that they ask for.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

To become an I/O psychologist, you need to complete your master’s or doctoral degree in I/O psychology and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP. Passing this examination will allow you to work as an I/O psychologist in any US state. Getting your license requires earning your Ph.D., having enough supervised work experience, and passing the EPPP.

Is The Job Outlook for an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Good?

The job outlook for industrial-organizational psychologists generally mirrors that of other psychology specialties. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment for psychologists will rise by 14% by 2028, which is much faster than average. Employment of clinical and counseling psychologists will increase because of higher demand for psychology services in hospitals and mental health centers.

Companies are finding that it is more difficult to retain the best employees in a growing economy, so they are hiring more I/O psychologists to ensure that worker happiness and productivity is as high as possible. These psychologists are also hired because it is understood they can enhance company productivity and efficiency.

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Further Resources for Candidates in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Do you need more information about a career in industrial-organizational psychology? Here are some helpful resources:

Now that you understand more about the industrial-organizational psychology field, you just need to get started on your education!