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Industrial and organizational psychologists (commonly called I-O psychologists) help businesses manage their workforces. This specialized field of psychology applies psychological theories and principles to organizations in order to help them increase their workforce's productivity by ensuring the mental wellbeing of their employees.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), I-O psychologists are needed more than ever before as business needs evolve due to technology, workplaces increasingly go virtual and regular 9-5 jobs are no longer the norm. The College Board reports that I-O psychologists need to be able to see different sides to complex organizational problems and be able to solve them practically by applying abstract ideas. Online industrial organizational psychology degree programs can help you enter this evolving field.
Online degrees in industrial and organizational psychology may suit individuals who are already working or prefer a flexible study format due to family and other commitments.
What do industrial or organizational psychologists do?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial and organizational psychologists study issues like workplace productivity, management styles and employee morale to help improve the quality of work life. Some of their duties can include:
- Helping top executives with policy planning
- Screening potential employees or creating job application guidelines for companies
- Counseling employees to help them positively maintain their work-life balance
- Helping employees learn new skills through implementing training programs
- Conducting market surveys
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Online associate degrees in industrial organizational psychology are rare, but online undergraduate degree programs in industrial organizational psychology can help you qualify for entry-level positions in the field. However, according to the BLS, I-O psychologists typically need a master's degree along with the necessary licensure to practice within your state. Typically, individuals who have earned their online graduate degree in industrial organizational psychology can be therapists. Doctoral or professional degrees can allow you to enter leadership positions, work in research and academia, or practice as I-O psychologists. Read on to learn more about online industrial organizational psychology degree programs in more detail at each level.
Online Associate Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
You may be able to study topics relevant to the field of industrial and organizational psychology as a part of a general associate degree program in psychology. This may act as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree program that focuses on industrial and organizational psychology.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
Online industrial organizational psychology programs at the bachelor's degree level can help you learn to apply the principles of psychology to business settings and understand how different types of individuals or processes can affect workplace culture.
Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: The curriculum of an online bachelor's degree program in industrial and organizational psychology usually combines general education courses, basic business concepts along with research methods and theories of industrial organizational psychology. Some topics you may study include:
- Introduction to management
- Employment and staffing
- Adult development
- Attitudes and motivation in the workplace
- Psychology of leadership
You may also have to complete a capstone project or an internship as a part of your degree requirements.
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
A bachelor's degree in industrial and organizational psychology can help you enter the workforce in departments like human resources or labor relations. Some job titles you may hold include:
- Corporate recruiter
- Credentialing coordinator
- Employee placement specialist
- Human resources generalist
You may be able to enroll in an online graduate degree in industrial organizational psychology immediately after should you wish to continue studying.
Online Master's Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
An online master's degree program in industrial organizational psychology allows you to explore the different aspects of I-O psychology in more depth than industrial organizational psychology undergraduate programs. You can learn to address different workplace issues practically using different concepts of psychology to effect positive changes in an organization.
Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Topics you study can allow you to explore work environments and the different factors that can have positive or negative impacts on their people and productivity. You can learn to assess employee performances, develop programs to improve morale and address complex issues like anti-discrimination and diversity. Some topics you may study include:
- Applied cross-cultural industrial/organizational psychology
- Business concepts for the organizational development professional
- Consulting for organizational change
- Ethics and standards of industrial organizational psychology
- Personnel psychology in the workplace
Depending on your program, you may have to complete a master's thesis or a capstone project.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
A master's degree in industrial and organizational psychology may allow you to obtain management-level positions across multiple different industries. Some potential job titles include:
- Employee development consultant or trainer
- Project coordinator or manager
- I/O practitioner
- Human resources manager
Online Doctoral Degrees in Industrial Organizational Psychology
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
Most doctoral industrial organizational psychology degree programs are highly research oriented which means you can learn to research and test new theories in I-O psychology and be a catalyst for change within the field.
Typical duration: Three to seven years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Master's degree
Typical coursework: Topics in an industrial organizational psychology doctorate online program can involve learning to improve the efficacy of workplaces through upskilling existing employees, hiring new ones and assessing organizational needs. You may also study topics like statistics and research methodologies to help you while writing your thesis. Some subjects you may study include:
- Advanced personnel psychology
- Job attitudes, measurement, and change
- Program evaluation
- Research in psychology
- Themes and theories of I/O psychology
Additionally, you may have to complete practicum sessions and/or internships.
Possible electives: Occupational health psychology; psychology of group dynamics; theory and practice of psychological coaching
Dissertation: Doctoral students are normally required to complete a dissertation. This can involve independently researching a topic in psychology, writing a doctoral thesis, and defending it to an academic committee.
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
A doctoral degree can allow you to devote yourself to cutting-edge research or academia. It can also make you eligible for high-level roles in businesses across both public and private sectors. Some job titles you may hold are:
- Director or vice president of human resources or organizational development
- Evidenced-based coach
- Organizational consultant (internal or external)
- Director of labor relations
- Director of training and development
Accreditation is an important process used by colleges and programs to demonstrate that their educational offerings meet or exceed professional standards needed today. Attending an accredited school is also important to students as it can be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid, scholarships and the transfer of credits. You may need to have graduated from an accredited school or program in order to be eligible for licensure as well.
Unlike other graduate psychology degree programs, the American Psychological Association (APA) does not accredit I-O psychology programs according to the Colorado State University. This is because the primary "client" of an I-O psychologist is a business or organization not an individual.
Accreditation can be regional or national with the accrediting bodies being recognized by the U.S Department of Education.
Specializations in Industrial Organizational Psychology
You may be able to choose a specialization while you are enrolled in a master's or doctoral industrial organizational psychology degree program. Some concentrations you may be able to choose from include:
- Consulting psychology
- Evidence-based coaching
- Human resource management
- International business
Certifications and Licensure
Professional certifications are not usually mandatory but employers may prefer hiring candidates with relevant certifications. Certifications in human resources, labor or management may also be looked on favorably by employers. Some certifications offered by professional bodies are:
- Board Certified Specialist in Organizational and Business Consulting
- Certified Employee Assistance Professional) Certification
Any I-O psychology professional who wishes to operate under the term "psychologist" needs to be licensed in all states of the country. While the minutiae of licensing requirements may vary from state to state, some commonalities include:
- A doctoral degree from an accredited university
- One to two years of supervised experience
- Passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
You can learn what your state's specific requirements are from your state's licensure board.
Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs
There are a number of different scholarships and grants available to eligible students of industrial and organizational psychology programs. Many universities offer tuition aid and waivers too. It can be a good idea to check with your college to see if you qualify for any. Some scholarships to help you get started include:
- APF Graduate Student Scholarships
- Psychological Science Research Grant
- SIOP Foundation Awards, Scholarships, and Grants
- University of Texas at Austin's Bess Heflin Fellowship
Other resources for those aspiring to work in the field of industrial organizational psychology
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- International Personnel Assessment Council (IPAC)
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)
Occupations and Career Outlook
According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) the changing nature of workplaces can mean that I-O psychologists may be needed to implement hiring processes that address diverse needs and retain employees while boosting workplace morale across industries.
The table below lists occupations related to the field along with average wages, projected employment and more using data from the BLS.