Skip to content

How to Build a Career in Industrial Organizational Psychology?

Industrial organizational psychology (1)

At the end of the day, the most important resource a company has is its people.  Every company has its organizational culture, and that’s why HR leaders try as much as possible to create worker personas to understand the employees’ behaviors, relationships, and interactions in the workplace. Through profiling, the management can improve communications, make decisions with the employee in mind, and design programs tailored to the various workforce segments.  

a human hand with an atomic structuire

Understanding employee behavior is a crucial role of the HR manager. Still, they may hire an industrial organizational psychologist to help them understand employee behavior and develop effective strategies that improve internal processes and activities like recruitment, training and development, employee performance and motivation, and organization development and structure. But what is I/O psychology? 

This article is an introduction to the field of industrial organizational psychology, covering the basics of the study and whether pursuing a career in the field is worth it.  

What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology? 

Industrial organizational psychology (also referred to as I/O psychology) is the scientific study of human behavior in the organization or workplace. The specialty is based on concepts derived from individual, group, and organizational behavior and applies that knowledge to solve organizational problems.  

Some workplace issues or processes in which industrial organization psychology applies include: 

  • Recruitment  
  • Selection and placement  
  • Training and development  
  • Performance measurement  
  • Quality of work life 
  • Workplace motivation and reward systems 
  • Work structure and human factors
  • Organizational Development
  • Consumer behavior  

Specialized knowledge in the science of human behavior in a company commands in-depth knowledge and training in career development, decision theory, human performance, human factors, small group theory and process, job and task analysis, criterion theory and development, and individual assessment. 

Additionally, an industrial organizational psychologist must be knowledgeable in ethical considerations as well as statutory, administrative, and case law related to the processes and activities in an organization. 

What are the 3 Major Fields of Industrial-Organizational Psychology? 

The specialized field of industrial-organizational psychology is made up of three distinct subfields. Each of the three areas has a different focus. When they come together, they cover the various aspects of workplace activities that impact the safety, efficiency, and performance of individuals and the entire organization.  

Industrial Psychology 

Industrial psychology primarily focuses on workplace processes, such as recruitment, training, and employee retention. Suppose a business hires an I/O psychologist to help address gaps when preparing a new hire; in that case, the psychologist (not a psychiatrist) will work with the company’s managers and HR leaders to determine the roles and responsibilities related to the job position.  

An I/O psychologist serves in the recruiting teams, reading applications and evaluating candidates during interviews. They may design employment tests that can help gauge whether a candidate possesses the right skills, characteristics, and interpersonal skills for the job and the company culture.  

Examples of employment tests in I-O psychology as indicated by the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology include: 

  • Cognitive ability tests 
  • Personality tests 
  • Physical ability tests 
  • Integrity tests 
  • Job knowledge tests  

Organizational Psychology  

Organizational psychology, as a subfield of I/O psychology, mainly studies organizational behavior or relationships at work. It encompasses employee well-being, how they relate with their jobs, colleagues, managers, and the organization as a whole, and their impact on company performance.  

The management’s words, actions, and impressions hugely influence worker satisfaction and company culture. Therefore, evaluating the management style and leadership strategies implemented in an organization is part of organizational psychology.  

Like other social groups, company culture is grounded on certain social norms, role expectations, and hierarchical and organizational structures. Organizational psychology also studies these elements and how to optimize them to improve corporate culture.  

Human Factors Psychology  

Although human factors psychology doesn’t fall under an I/O psychologist’s job title, it plays a crucial role in making an organization functional and efficient. Human factors psychology focuses on how humans interact with tools, equipment, systems, and procedures involved in their work.  

If an employee works at a station where the height of the desk, chair, and computer doesn’t allow them to work comfortably, their productivity goes down because of these factors. Similarly, if their work tools and devices don’t work intuitively, they derail an employee’s progress. In summary, poor interactions between human workers and the tools and systems that help them undertake their jobs create serious safety risks.  

Is Industrial Psychology a Good Career? 

It’s worth noting that the minimum academic requirement for becoming an industry and organizational psychologist is a Master’s degree. That means you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree and write a Graduate Record Education (GRE) before proceeding to your Master’s program.  

Still, a Master’s in I/O psychology is among the highest-paying fun jobs. In fact, the average national median annual income for an industrial-organization psychologist is $96,270. Your yearly income may vary depending on several factors: specialization in the field, years of experience, location, and other variables. Furthermore, you have a huge earning potential as an I/O psychologist. If you manage to scour up your career and rank among the top 10% of industrial and organizational psychologists, you can expect upwards of $193,000.

a female industrial organizational psychologist being applauded by her peers

What are the Five Roles of Industrial Psychology? 

An industrial psychologist works with a company’s HR department to observe worker behavior in the office, assess organizational processes, workflows, and activities, and identify career development opportunities. The following constitute the primary subject areas of industrial-organizational psychology: 

  • Recruitment, selection, and placement – I/O psychologists assist the HR department with developing an effective recruitment process, establishing the roles and responsibilities of a job, and selecting the right personnel for the job.  
  • Employee training and development – Industrial psychologists conduct job analyses to determine the skills, abilities, and talents required to perform a specific job effectively and efficiently. Those insights are valuable in designing skill development and training programs. 
  • Employee satisfaction and work-life – This area deals with employee satisfaction, motivation, safety, health, and well-being. In that respect, an industrial psychologist will evaluate employees’ satisfaction and happiness levels and look for ways to improve the work environment and bring a work-life balance, if need be.  
  • Performance management – I/O psychologists help companies establish the metrics to assess employee performance. They do that by identifying skill gaps and providing feedback and recommendations. A company’s management will use the information obtained from these assessments to determine remuneration and promotions.  
  • Organizational development and management – This role of industrial psychology has a lot to do with organization structure and performance. A company will leverage the expertise of an industrial psychologist to determine how efficient, profitable, and productive the organization is and provide guidance on matters associated with company culture and structural changes within the organization.

What are the Principles of I-O Psychologists? 

Many principles of industrial and organizational therapy are based on the following: 

  • Social psychology 
  • Learning; and  
  • Motivational concepts
  • As mentioned earlier, I/O psychologists examine employee satisfaction and motivation. It’s much harder for employees to show up for a job they hate than one they love. When staff demonstrates a positive attitude towards their job, their creativity, persistence, and helpfulness are enhanced. Job satisfaction also improves overall job performance.  

Additionally, staff morale and interaction play a key role in employee engagement. When we are connected to the company’s mission and the people of our organization, we feel more engaged in our work. Industrial-organizational psychologists have discovered that engaged employees share similar attributes that include: 

  • Being an integral part of something significant 
  • They know what’s expected of them 
  • Fulfillment in their work 
  • They shared the same opportunities to learn 
  • They had access to the tools and resources they needed to perform their work 
  • They had regular opportunities to undertake what they do best 

Becoming an I/O psychologist is a satisfying and highly-paying career. You help companies and organizations understand employee behavior and how their interactions and relationships improve company culture. With their specialized knowledge, industrial psychologists help companies create the most effective management strategies and conducive work environments that motivate employees to undertake their jobs enthusiastically to fuel company growth.

If you’d like to further your studies and graduate without worrying about the huge tuition fees associated with higher learning, enroll in University of the People (UoPeople).

University of the People (UoPeople) is the first nonprofit, tuition-free, and American-accredited online university that offers international students easy access to higher education. UoPeople provides a range of academic programs that include certificates, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs in various fields, such as Business Administration, Health Science, and Computer Science. Students enrolled in UoPeople can also pursue Master’s degree programs in IT, Business Administration, and Education. With its tuition-free approach, the university guarantees students that they’ll graduate debt-free, knowing they’ve acquired the knowledge and excellence to become leaders in their respective fields. 

Apply now and become part of our growing global community.