Industrial Organizational Psychology

Modern looking corporate buildingIndustrial organizational psychology—also called organizational psychology, I/O psychology, employment psychology, occupational psychology, and business psychology—is the field of psychology dedicated to studying people’s behaviors within organizations, particularly in the workplace.

What Is Industrial Organizational Psychology?

Currently, industrial organizational psychology may center around better understanding employees in a particular workplace. Psychologists who specialize in this area of study may be consulted about topics such as recruiting new employees, improving workplace morale, training, and effective management practices. Other industrial organizational psychologists may work with marketers and focus on consumer behavior.

Human resources may be one of the most common areas of focus for those who study industrial organizational psychology, and according to the American Psychological Association, the highest paying industrial organizational psychology jobs are in management and consulting. A few common characteristics of industrial organizational psychologists include strong communication skills, good analytical ability, accountability, and, though it may seem obvious, excellent organizational skills.

Topics Studied in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Industrial organizational psychologists study a wide variety of workplace-related behaviors, including:

  • Factors that contribute to workplace loyalty and employee satisfaction
  • Job burnout
  • Workplace bullying and sexual harassment
  • Workplace organization
  • How the workplace can affect the behavior of individual workers
  • Assessments of individual capabilities including standardized tests designed to help people pick appropriate careers
  • How best to structure organizations, build teams, and foster workplace harmony
  • How the workplace affects psychological and physical health
  • Factors that affect job performance
  • Effective employee training methods
  • How to choose effective managers

Some large corporations now employ organizational psychologists to help develop policies that ensure a productive, healthy workplace. Organizational psychologists may also be part of human resources departments where they may evaluate employees and make recommendations that improve the workplace environment.

Industrial Organizational Psychology Jobs and Professions

Some common positions that utilize degrees in I/O psychology include:

  • Professional development specialist
  • Organizational consultant
  • University professor of industrial organizational psychology
  • Human resources professional
  • Behavioral analyst
  • Optimization consultant

According to the American Psychological Association, industrial organizational psychologists earn a median annual salary of $80,000. U.S. News & World Report reveals that the lowest-paid industrial organizational psychologist may make around $52,000 per year, while the highest-paid may make up to nearly $159,000 annually.

Psychologists have studied behavior in the workplace for decades, and some of the most famous psychological studies have occurred in this field. The Hawthorne studies found that employee behavior changes when employees are studied, partially because employees are treated differently as a result of the study. These studies provided some of the earliest insight into organizational behavior and workplace psychology.

How to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Individuals who wish to start a career in industrial organizational psychology typically start by obtaining an undergraduate degree in psychology. While not all universities offer bachelor’s degrees in I/O psychology specifically, a few do, including Purdue University, Notre Dame College, and Eastern Kentucky University. As the field grows in popularity, more undergraduate opportunities may become available in this area of study.

Industrial psychologists typically obtain advanced degrees—usually a master’s followed by a doctoral degree. Some schools offer degrees designed to train future psychologists in I/O psychology, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is the organization within the American Psychological Association dedicated to studying workplace behavior. Some top-rated industrial organizational psychology graduate programs may be found at Michigan State University, Bowling Green University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

After completing an advanced degree, career prospects in I/O psychology become more accessible. According to ZipRecruiter, some common entry-level positions in I/O psychology include marketing and sales management, policy analyst, and private sector positions such as industrial engineers.


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Last Updated: 05-29-2019

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