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What Is Industrial/Organizational Psychology?
The workplace can be a frustrating place for many employees and CEOs alike. In order to keep a place of employment running like a fine tuned machine, it often takes the efforts of many individuals.
In many ways, this is where industrial and organizational psychology comes in. This branch of psychology is the study of the workplace environment, organizations, and their employees. Technically, industrial and organizational psychology - sometimes referred to as I/O psychology or work psychology - actually focuses on two separate areas that are closely related. Some professionals might liken it to yin and yang - one can't exist without the other.
The industrial side of industrial and organizational psychology generally focuses on the individuals and his relationship to the workplace. This might cover such things as job analysis, employee safety, employee training, job performance measurement, and employee hiring systems.
The organizational side of industrial and organizational psychology, on the other hand, focuses on the organization and workplace as a whole. Increasing productivity and maximizing the performance of n organization as a whole is often covered under this area of industrial and organizational psychology. For example, professionals concerned with this aspect of I/O psychology will often look at how an organization might affect a worker's individual behavior. This might include studies on interpersonal relationships in the workplace, as well as workplace environments and organizational policies.
Both sides of industrial and organizational psychology became prominent during two different points in history. Industrial psychology, for example, came about during the first World War. Theories and techniques of this type of psychology were applied in order to assign soldiers to jobs and duty stations that suited them best.
The foundations of organizational psychology were largely influenced by what was known as the Hawthorne studies, which were performed in a Western Electric plant in Hawthorne, Illinois, during the 1920's and 1930's. Western Electric officials performed a number of experiments in which they raised and lowered the levels of light to see if the workers in the plant would become more or less productive. Researchers concluded that during the experiments, workers' productivity increased whether the light levels were raised or lowered. After World War II, psychologist Harry Landsberger studied these findings and concluded that the levels of light had nothing to do with increased productivity. They became more productive because the presence of the researchers at the time of the experiments made the workers feel as though someone was interested in their work.
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What Are the Education Requirements to Become an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist?
As with any other psychology career, an industrial and organizational psychology career requires several years of schooling. Many aspiring industrial and organizational psychologists start their careers by earning bachelor's degrees in general psychology. A handful of colleges and universities in the country, however, do offer four year bachelor degree programs in industrial and organizational psychology.
Because there are very limited job opportunities for industrial and organizational psychologists holding only bachelor’s degrees, though, the majority of these professionals will also go on to earn advanced degrees. Those with master’s degrees in this area will often be able to start their industrial and organizational psychology careers in entry level positions. Those with Ph.D.'s, however, will usually be considered for even more employment opportunities in this field, and they will have an edge over the competition.
What Do Industrial/Organizational Psychologists Do?
Some of the main responsibilities of an industrial and organizational psychologist are to study the results of existing research or conduct original research. In order to conduct original research, an I/O psychologist might use a number of different methods. He might observe employees in action or conduct surveys, for instance. An I/O psychologist might also study workplace policies and other similar documents.
By looking closely at the results of research done on workplaces and organizations, an industrial and organizational psychologist might be able to solve any number of problems. For instance, he might be able to:
- increase productivity in the workplace.
- develop screening procedures for new applicants.
- increase the quality of a workplace.
- counsel unhappy employees on personal and work related matters.
- help rewrite company policies so that they benefit everyone involved.
While working, industrial and organizational psychologists will typically work closely with a number of different people. This might include business owners, CEOs, supervisors, and employees.
Where Do Industrial/Organizational Psychologists Work?
An industrial and organizational psychologist might work in several different areas and all different types of organizations. They might work in blue collar organizations, like factories, plants, and construction sites. They might also work in white collar organizations, such as office buildings.
Many industrial and organizational psychologists work directly for companies in human resources departments. Others, however, might work as independent consultants, coming onto the scene only when they are needed.
What Is the Salary for an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists earned an average salary of $111,150 as of May 2019.
I-O psychologists working for scientific research and development companies earned an average salary that far exceeded their colleagues in other industries, at $162,590. Average salaries for I-O psychologists in other industries included:
- Local governmental agencies: $110,700
- Companies/enterprises: $101,600
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $96,000
- State governmental agencies: $72,100
Additional Resources and Further Reading
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics - 19-3032 Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
- Alliance for Organizational Psychology
- Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- O*NET OnLine - 19-3032.00 - Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
- YouTube.com - Industrial / Organizational Psychology