Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Programs & Schools

People working at busy modern officeIndustrial/Organizational psychologists (I/O Psychology), sometimes referred to as occupational psychologists, have training and knowledge in the science of behavior in the workplace. They use quantitative research and evaluation methods to teach people how to work better within any organization, business or industry, non-profit, labor union, community and health organization, and in academic and research.

Individuals with a strong interest in psychological principles, as well as design, statistics, and engineering may find this an ideal field to explore.

Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Average timeline to earn a bachelor’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology – 4 years.

The majority of students wishing to pursue a degree in Industrial/Organizational psychology earn a bachelor’s degree in general psychology.  There are, however, a few colleges and universities that offer bachelor degree programs or concentrations in I/O Psychology. Career opportunities at this level are sparse, and most aspiring I/O psychologists will go on to earn an advanced degree.

Typical coursework at the bachelor’s degree level, includes:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Research methods
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Industrial/Organization Psychology

As an alternative to pursuing a bachelor’s degree, some students will choose to enter a bachelor’s/master’s program, or choose a business school that offers classes in industrial/organizational psychology, or human resources.

Master's Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Average timeline to earn a master’s degree in Industrial / Organizational Psychology – 2 years beyond earning a bachelor’s degree.

Many aspiring I/O psychologist will earn a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) degree in industrial/organizational psychology. However, it is possible to earn a bachelor’s in I/O psychology, and go on to earn a PhD (the most common advanced degree in the field), without first earning a master’s degree.  That said, earning a master’s degree will allow for increased opportunities for employment in business and in the field of I/O psychology.

Unless enrolled in a distance-learning or online course, master’s students can expect to spend most of their time in a classroom environment.  Most I/O programs at the master’s level also require students to take part in internships, practicums, and/or supervised training, as well as submit a written thesis.

Coursework at the master’s level, includes advanced study in:

  • Small-group theory and analysis
  • Research methods
  • Employee placement and selection
  • Organizational theory
  • Engineering and consumer psychology
  • Labor relations
  • Employee compensation and benefits

PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Average timeline to earn a doctoral degree in Industrial / Organizational Psychology – 4 – 5 years

Industrial/Organizational Psychologists who plan to work in academia or perform research will want to pursue either an I/O Psychology PhD or an I/O Psychology PsyD doctoral degree.  Earning a doctoral degree will also give aspiring I/O psychologists added opportunities for employment and a higher income.

Requirements for entrance into a doctoral program vary, depending on the college or university, but typically will include a baccalaureate degree in a closely-related field (preferably psychology-based), at least 15-hours of laboratory and coursework in psychology, a strong grade point average, and passing marks on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

An I/O psychology PhD typically places more emphasis on research and completion of a dissertation based on original research.  A PhD (most often considered a research degree) will grant a wide range of employment opportunities in healthcare, and for teaching positions at the college level.

The focus of research of a PhD in I/O psychology, includes:

  • applicant and employee assessment
  • management
  • leadership development
  • compensation
  • diversity
  • staffing
  • workplace safety
  • work-life balance

Still other I/O psychologists hold academic positions in higher education, are qualified as facilitators, assessors, consultants and coaches.

An I/O psychology PsyD will prepare graduates for work in government or private industry. Instead of a dissertation, however, a PsyD degree will require practical experience through supervised experience and internships, and examinations that emphasize applied training and research.

Common advanced coursework at the doctoral level, includes:

  • Issues in personal psychology
  • Quantitative methods in psychology
  • Study of small group behavior
  • Survey of industrial psychology
  • Work motivation
  • Psychological perspectives on organizational development

Career Guidance Post IO Degree

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, I/O psychologists earned a median annual salary of more than $90,000 in 2012.  The majority of industrial/organizational psychologists:

  • Worked for, or in management
  • Worked as a business consultant
  • Worked in scientific research and development
  • Taught or worked in colleges and universities
  • Worked in the offices of health professionals, or in healthcare

While location, industry and education play a major part in determining salary, according to a 2012 employment survey by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the starting salary for an I/O psychologist with a master’s degree was nearly $65,000 a year. The starting salary for graduates with a doctoral degree was $81,000, annually. College and university professors make nearly $70,000 annually, and I/O psychologists in the private sector earn approximately $100,000.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects employment in the field of I/O psychology to rise 35 percent from 2010 – 2020; much faster than average for all jobs. However, I/O psychology is a relatively new and narrow field of psychology, so employment can be limited, and also very competitive.

An interesting fact: Research by I/O psychologists is spearheading efforts to promote “team work” among the astronauts during NASA's planned 2030 trip to Mars.

Read about how to become an IO psychologist.

Certifications in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Certification is not required to work as an I/O psychologist.  However, many I/O psychologists will inquire into certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP) in order to show competence in the field.

As membership in professional organizations, such as the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) can show commitment and dedication to the field of I/O psychology, many individuals will become members for networking, employment opportunities, and for guidance from professionals in the field.

Licensing for IO Graduates

Licensing requirements for all I/O psychologists vary by state. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s policy states that many states only require certain areas of I/O practice to be licensed, as it is still under review if I/O practitioners are also psychologists. If it is determined that I/O practitioners are indeed psychologists, an individual would need to be licensed in the state in which he or she wishes to work. It would be wise for an aspiring I/O psychologist to explore licensing requirements, prior to seeking employment.

Online Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree Online

As industrial/organizational psychology programs have grown in popularity, I/O psychology programs offered online have also increased substantially. Although programs vary from school to school, most online programs require 38 credits to graduate, completed over four to five semesters. Most programs require internships, which are accessible in hybrid and blended programs, and a strong academic record.  Admission to most online programs also requires a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or a closely-related field. Some programs also require passing GRE scores, and/or the PST (Psychology Subject Test) prior to admission.