Psychology Major Careers: Industrial Organizational Psychology « Psychology Majors

Psychology Major Careers: Industrial Organizational Psychology

Careers for Psychology Majors in I/O Psychology

2012 Career Outlook for Industrial Organizational Psychology



Put simply, industrial and organizational psychology looks at human behavior in the workplace. It’s often referred to as I-O psychology or even just ‘work psychology’. It’s one of the lesser-known fields, and many I-O Psychologists find themselves continually explaining what they do, even to other Psychologists!


Industrial psychology looks at how an individual relates to their place of work. Organizational psychology looks at the functioning of the organization as a whole. By using scientific research methods combined with an understanding of psychological principals, I-O Psychologists are able to solve workplace problems and improve the quality of work life for everyone.


Professionals in this field often focus on making the workplace more pleasant for employees. Not only does this make for happier employees, but it also makes for more productive employees. Therefore, it’s a win-win situation for both the employee and the organization. The clear, measurable value that an I-O Psychologist adds to a workplace is quickly gaining increased recognition.  Not to mention the work-satisfaction that many I-O Psychologists report. Work is such a big part of many people’s lives, that by making it more pleasant, they’re able to contribute to a person’s overall wellbeing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most recent report has found that I-O psychology is the fastest growing occupation in the US. They report an anticipated growth rate of 53% between now and 2022. It should be noted that being one of the smallest occupational fields, with approximately 1600 professionals, only a relatively small number of job increases are need to produce such a large percentage.


Industrial and Organizational Psychologists have a huge variety of projects they can undertake – basically anything that relates to people in a workplace setting. Consequently, I-O Psychologists may have a diverse range of job titles.  Just some of their areas of focus include:

  • Employee performance and efficiency
  • Hiring and recruitment, including developing interview/screening procedures for potential new staff
  • Counseling unhappy or disgruntled employees on both personal and work related matters
  • Reviewing company polices so that they benefit both the organization and the employees
  • Talent management and coaching, including executive coaching
  • A wide range of assessments and research
  • Training development and delivery
  • Organizational development, leadership and workplace values
  • Work-life balance
  • Personality in the workplace and working styles
  • Employee satisfaction and morale


As an I-O Psychologist you can work either in academia or in practice settings. If you work as a practitioner, you may choose to work as an employee or as an independent consultant (just over one third of I-O Psychologists are self-employed). Wherever you work, many I-O Psychologists report that each day is different, and balancing a number of different projects all with various deadlines is one of the common challenges.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report found that the median annual pay for I-O Psychologists is $83,580 a year and the mean annual pay is $98,800. The 2012 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Salary Survey Report found that for PhD graduates, the median starting salary was $78,000. Pay varies widely, with factors such as experience, level of qualifications and location being contributing factors. For example, the highest median income for I-O Psychologists with doctorates was in Manhattan, and came in at a whopping $160,000.


So how do you become an I-O Psychologist? An undergraduate degree in psychology, or majoring in psychology is a good first step. A small handful of universities even offer undergraduate degrees in I-O psychology. Industrial and Organizational Psychologists also require either a masters or graduate degree. Many have both, and I-O Psychologists with a PhD tend to earn more and have more job opportunities open to them. There is currently an increasing number of applicants to masters and PhD programs in I-O psychology, reflecting it’s increasing popularity. However the rigorous qualifications are one of the reasons that despite growth, the field will be likely to remain relatively small.


As always, make sure you research you local certification and licensing requirements. Registration to practice as an I-O Psychologist varies between states and countries; however a masters or doctoral degree are generally required. You may also be required to pass an exam, and to demonstrate a number of hours of work in the field.


If you’re interested in working as an I-O Psychologist then try and gain a wide range of work experience throughout your studies and beyond. By gaining as much experience in work place settings as possible, the content will be become applicable as you learn it.


Furthermore, if you are based in the US and are an undergraduate or graduate student looking for more information, then you may like to consider becoming a Student Affiliation member of SIOP. Formal associations are a great way to find out more about a profession. SOIP is a Division of the American Psychological Association (APA) and an Organiszational Affiliate of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). You can see more about what they have to offer at



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