What is Industrial and Organizational Psychology?

Industrial and Organizational PsychologyIndustrial and organizational psychology is a specialty within the field of psychology, meaning that those who practice it attend school for specific certifications and must adhere to a set of standards within the profession. The American Psychological Association defines industrial and organizational psychology as the “scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the work place.” In essence, Industrial-organizational psychologists or “I/O psychologists” help improve the work environment for businesses, nonprofits and other formal places of employment using their training in psychology.

Improving the Workplace

Industrial-organizational psychologists set out to improve the workplace. They may administer tests, offer guidance on policies and procedures, advise management on different projects or analyze data to offer insight into a company’s practices. They’re usually hired on a contracted basis rather than as in-house employees because their work may be short term or focused on a specific need. For example, I/O psychologists may assist in the hiring and on-boarding process to ensure that candidates fit within an organization’s overall system and setup. They’re also concerned with quality of life for employees, job optimization, performance evaluation and market strategies. These specialists can apply psychological theories to specific situations in order to resolve disputes, enhance productivity, help businesses market to their target audience and accomplish long-term objectives. This branch of psychology is as practical as it is theoretical, making it a desired commodity among successful organizations.

Education and Training

Those who want to become industrial-organizational psychologists would need to earn at least a master’s degree in psychology with a focus on this concentration. Many graduate programs exist for this purpose, and some are offered online to make things easier on working professionals. Courses in graduate-level psychology programs cover a variety of topics, including individual and group behavior, statistics, experimental methods and research, and abnormal psychology. In addition, I/O psychologists may find it useful to have a background in business, nonprofit organizations or other similar setups since their practices will primarily involve work-related issues. Most graduate programs include clinical work or a practicum experience that would provide further training in this specialty. Certification requirements would vary by state, but practicing psychologists would also need to maintain their credentials after graduation.

Demand for I/O Psychologists

In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed I/O psychology as the fastest-growing occupation in the United States. This was largely because the field was relatively small compared with other jobs. At the time, there were about 1,600 practicing industrial-organizational psychologists in the country with an expected increase of around 900 jobs by 2022, according to ABC News. The most recent list of rapidly growing jobs doesn’t include I/O psychologists, but it remains a growing specialty because of its impact on businesses. The average salary of an I/O psychologist was nearly $84,000 in 2014. As mentioned above, the extensive training and clinical practice necessary to become certified usually garner a higher starting salary than other types of jobs.

Industrial-organizational psychologists are hired for several reasons, including workplace efficiency, employee motivation and fulfillment, effective hiring processes, and marketing. They take a practical approach in analyzing data and developing strategies for improving organizations. The field of psychology is always expanding to include a broader audience, and industrial and organizational psychology is one specialization that seeks to support businesses, employees and the demographics that they serve.