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Industrial/Organizational Psychology

When trying to understand whether or not a company operates well or not, there are many variables to take into consideration. Conflict resolution, effective communication, professional competence, process evaluation and effective management are just a few of the components that a business has to get right if they want to be successful. In many cases, if one of these elements is not functioning properly, the root cause of this can be identified in employee selection, professional training, team interaction and information sharing. Industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists understand human behavior, and their role is to use this information to address the challenges that a business has to cope with.

As an I/O psychologist, you will use various evaluation methods and pieces of quantitative research in order to ensure businesses can identify and implement best practice. This will teach all team members to work better. To achieve this, they will take part in observation, looking at how different team members perform, as well as conducting surveys and more. This can be done to achieve a number of different things, such as creating screening procedures during recruitment, increasing overall productivity, improving the quality of the workplace as a whole, resolving work-related problems and so on.

What We Do

You will find I/O psychologists in any type of industry. This includes commercial enterprises, manufacturing, health care facilities, labor unions, government agencies and more. In many cases, they focus on a specific area of work, such as employee testing, leadership development, compensation, employee engagement, employee retention, workplace diversity, safety, creating a good work-life balance and so on.

Furthermore, they often work in academic or research positions. This is because I/O psychologists will almost always be a qualified trainer, assessor, facilitator, consultant and coach. In many cases, they are employed in the human resources department, although many are actually independent consultants who are hired to resolve certain specific issues in the workplace of organizations that hire them.

Some of the things an I/O psychologist is likely to do include:

  • Creating and implementing training programs while focusing on the principles of learning and understanding that every person is an individual.
  • Research various organizational structures, physical work environments, group interactions, communication systems, motivation and morale and use your research findings to assess how well an organization is functioning.
  • Create and deliver presentations that explain the findings of your research so that organizations can start to implement change.
  • Be an expert witness in employment lawsuits, providing testimony.
  • Study how customers react to and feel about new products or designs, whether or not advertisements are appropriate or not and more, using tests and surveys.

Why It's Hot

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conducted an income and employment survey in 2012. This survey demonstrated clearly just how hot the field actually is. Findings included the following:

  • The starting salary for an I/O psychologist is around $65,000 for those with a master's degree.
  • In most states, a doctorate degree is required in order to be allowed to call yourself a psychologist. Starting salary for doctorate educated I/O psychologists is $81,000, with those in the private sector earning as much as $100,000 per year.
  • The highest I/O psychologist earners can make as much as $250,000 per year.
  • It is a new field and demand is incredibly high across the country, with some states reporting growth of as much as 40%.

Work Environment

According to ONet, there were just 2,000 I/O psychologists employed in the country in 2012. It is expected to see a growth of 1,300 by 2022, which is a 22% or above growth across the board. Because it is such a new field of work, it is also a very broad profession with not many clearly defined duties. As such, you can expect to:

  • Get information through observation, reception, discussion and other methods.
  • Maintain, establish and develop interpersonal relationships by creating cooperative and constructive working relationships within a team, and ensuring these can be maintained in the long run.
  • Solve problems and make decisions based on evaluation of the problem at hand.
  • Analyze information and data to identify what the underlying principles, facts and reasons are for certain issues. A large part of your role will be to transform data into something that is understandable and readable.
  • Communicate with people both in and out of the organization for which you work. This includes being a representative or advocate of the organization towards government, the public and various other sources. Information exchange and communication can be done face to face, but also through other forms of communication.

How to Do It

In order to become an I/O psychologist, you will first need to obtain a bachelor's degree. This generally takes four years to complete. This is followed by a two year master's degree. In some states, you will then be able to get to work, although you will not be able to provide psychological treatment, for which you will need a doctorate degree. You have two choices when it comes to your doctorate: the Ph.D. or the Psy.D. The latter is the quicker of the two degrees and focuses mainly on clinical work and direct involvement. The Ph.D. is more suitable for those who want to work in research or who want to become lecturers at a university.

Most states will also require you to get supervised working experience. Usually, no more than half of this can be completed during your doctoral program through internships and residencies. Hence, you may want to choose a program that offers this. Always make sure that the program is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or another recognized body.

The final step is to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is a requirement for all psychologists. This test, which consists of 225 multiple choice questions, is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). To pass it, you must answer at least 70% of the questions correctly. The current cost of the test is $600, although this is subject to change.

Pros & Cons

There are a number of clear advantages and disadvantages to becoming an I/O psychologist. Looking first at the advantages, they include:

  • A lot of different career opportunities, even for those who only hold a master's degree.
  • Various career paths, such as working in consultancy, the private sector, education or the government.
  • The ability to be self-employed and thereby set your own hours.
  • An interesting and varied job in which you have the opportunity to drive real change.
  • Very high starting salaries, particularly for doctorate graduates.

At the same time, there are a few disadvantages. These include:

  • Frequent changes of projects and clients.
  • Having to take part in potentially tedious research.
  • A higher chance of burnout.
  • A lengthy education pathway, particularly for those who want to hold the recommended doctorate degree.

Career Path

The top industries for I/O psychologists are self-employed consultancy, scientific services, professional services and technical services. There are six key areas for this particular field, which is where you are also most likely to find work. These are:

  • Training and development, where you will determine the necessary skills to perform a certain job, as well as creating evaluation programs for existing training.
  • Employee selection, where you will assist businesses to choose the right employees for the job. This includes performing screening tests and role play to see whether or not a particular applicant is suitable for the position on offer.
  • Ergonomics, whereby you will design procedures to ensure equipment used by staff members minimize the chance of injury while maximizing performance.
  • Performance management, where you will develop techniques, including assessments, to see whether individuals are doing their jobs properly, and developing support for those who are not.
  • Work-life balance, whereby you will ensure employee engagement and satisfaction is raised, which in turn maximizes productivity. You may develop methods to make people feel their job is more rewarding or come up with programs that allow the workplace to increase overall quality of life.
  • Organizational development, where you will help improve organizations as a whole. The focus is often on increasing profits, improving organizational structures, redesigning products, developing new advertisements, measuring customer response and more.

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