What Can I Do with an Industrial-Organizational Psychology PhD?

Getting the best performance out of employees has been the central problem of management since – well, since there have been employees and managers. At any rate, motivation has been an issue since long before there was a concept like industrial-organizational psychology to explain how employees and workplaces operate. Almost as soon as psychology began forming as a discipline, psychologists began working on the central questions of industrial-organizational psychology: what motivates employees? How can workers cooperate effectively? What accounts for differences in performance between employees? As an industrial-organizational psychologist, your job will be answering those sorts of questions, and developing ways to apply your insights to the workplace.

What Does an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Do?

While traditional psychologists generally focus on the mental health of individuals, I/O psychologists focus their research and practice on the main human resources issues that affect workplaces of all kinds. That means problems like how to measure performance, how to train new employees most effectively, how to motivate employees to do their best work, and how to keep happy offices and workplaces. To do that, industrial-organizational psychologists do research. They may work to develop and administer personality tests, design programs to improve employee morale and motivation, and study the effectiveness of particular policies and managerial processes.

Trained as scientist-practitioners, I/O psychologists don’t spend all of their time in research; their findings are intended to be actively tested and implements in the workforce. That means that most industrial psychologist jobs are in the field, actively working with organizations and businesses. Industrial-organizational psychologists go into a workplace, study the employees and their environment, and determine what kinds of issues need to be addressed. Then, based on their expertise in current research and theory, I/O psychologists will suggest training options, develop ways for organizations to measure their effectiveness, and even directly coach employees.

Where Can I Find Industrial Psychologist Jobs?

The first step, of course, is an industrial-organizational psychology degree. Many I/O psychologists begin their careers with a master’s degree in the field, but that’s generally the entry level for industrial-organizational psychology. If you are already in the field and want to qualify for higher levels of authority and leadership, an online Industrial-Organizational Psychology PhD will set professionals apart on the job market. While there are many options out there, the best choice for a prospective I/O psychologist is a program accredited by the American Psychology Association; currently, more than 350 psychology programs have APA accreditation, running the gamut from large research universities to small regional colleges, liberal arts colleges, and specialized psychology schools.

Because I/O psychology is a speciality that works primarily in other workplaces – that is, not with individual patients, but with groups and organizations – the requirements for an industrial-organizational psychology PhD can be quite different from a traditional PhD. No-dissertation PhDs are more common in a field like I/O psychology, usually substituting applied research projects instead. Some programs may not even require GRE scores for industrial-organizational psychology PhD applicants.

Industrial-organizational psychologist jobs may be in corporations, government, non-profits – anywhere that there are workers who need to work together. Some industrial-organizational psychologist jobs are direct employment; a large corporation may employ I/O psychologists full-time. In other cases, an I/O psychologist may work for a consulting firm, or as an independent consultant. Industrial-organizational psychologist jobs can vary from industry to industry, but the basic principles are always the same – making work life better for employees, and getting the best performance for employers.