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Industrial and organizational psychologists (called I-O psychologists) are behavioral scientists who specialize in human behavior in the work place. I-O scientists conduct research to derive principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior, train future psychologists, and work on staff at--or as consultants to--business, industry, labor, public, academic, community, and health organizations.

I-O psychologists can work in a variety of areas such as hiring and placement, training and development, organizational development and change, performance measurement and evaluation, consumer psychology and marketing, and engineering psychology. They create and utilize diagnostic tools to improve employees' satisfaction with their work and employers' ability to increase productivity. Most graduate programs follow what’s called the “scientist-practitioner model,” whereby students are trained in research as a solid basis for practice in the field. Therefore, most require internships or fieldwork as part of their programs.

Degree Information

Degrees in industrial-organizational psychology can be sought and conferred through a variety of departments, including psychology, business, management, and human resources. Common master’s degrees are M.A. or M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Human Resources or HR Management, Organizational Behavior, and Organizational Management. It’s also possible to get a Master’s in Organizational Development (M.O.D.) and get joint M.A./M.B.A. or M.A./J.D. degrees. Some master’s programs are combined with a bachelor’s into a five-year program. Most take one and a half years (including summer) to three years and require field work and a thesis. Ph.D. programs are typically four to five years.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do you want to be a scientist? a practitioner? Do you want to incorporate both (say, by consulting)? With this in mind, what do graduates of a given program tend to do?
  • Does the program provide equal weight to the “I” and the “O” or lean towards one?
  • What are the internship or externship requirements? Does the program help you find such opportunities?
  • How accessible are the professors?
  • Does this program include a business school? If so, how much collaboration exists between the business school and the I-O program?

Career Overview

Industrial-organizational psychologists can work in a range of positions at a range of places. Graduates of programs can pursue careers as management consultants, organizational development specialists, human resources generalists, executive recruiters, research analysts, and employee-assistance program administrators at business, industry, labor, public, academic, community, and health organizations.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Only those who’ve earned a Ph.D. are eligible to apply for licensure to receive the title of “psychologist.” Such licensure is conducted on a state-by-state basis and, in most cases, requires sufficient scores on both written and oral exams and a certain number of work hours supervised by a licensed psychologist. Young professionals in the field should consider which state they want to work in and keep up with ever-changing regulations about consulting and practicing across state lines.

Salary Information

In a 2000 survey conducted by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the average salary for those with a doctorate degree was $90,000 and $67,000 for those with a master’s degree. Respondents under 35 years old average $70,000. Ph.D. starting salaries are over $60,000.

Related Links

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
A division of the American Psychological Association. Provides information about graduate programs, jobs, licensure, research, conferences, and other activities within the field.

American Psychological Association
Covers wider psychological terrain and includes a link to gradPSYCH, the magazine of the American Psychological Association of Grad Students.

Society for Human Resources
News and information about the human resources profession.

Labor and Employment Relations Association
Provides information for and about practitioners as well as researchers.