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Industrial and Organizational Psychologist: Career Requirements

Helping an organization's workers become more satisfied and productive and its management be more effective are two key functions that industrial-organizational psychologists perform in the workplace. Those who wish to enter this field usually start by obtaining a master's degree in psychology.

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Career Requirements for an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is a specialized field that applies the principles of psychology to human interactions and behavior in the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychologists are involved with employee training and development, human-resource planning, organizational structure and consumer behavior. The field of industrial-organizational psychology is one of the fastest-growing careers in psychology, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which reported a projected growth in jobs of 53% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov).

Education Requirements

The entry-level degree for employment as an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist is a master's degree in psychology, often with a specialization in industrial and organizational psychology. A typical master's program takes two years of full-time study.

Typical courses focus on the psychology and techniques of leadership and organizational structure and selecting, evaluating and developing employees. Students learn how to apply psychological principles to helping a business manage its employees, manage change, build teams, resolve workplace issues and improve communication with customers. Research techniques and statistical analysis are also part of a typical master's program.

Many master's degree programs also require or encourage students to complete I-O internships in businesses or other organizations. Some have requirements for completing original research in an area of I-O psychology and writing a thesis based on the research. Other universities substitute a comprehensive exam for the thesis.

Although a master's degree is the standard for most I-O psychologists, some go on to complete a doctorate in psychology, with specialization in industrial-organizational psychology. This path is typically taken by those who wish to do research and provide consulting services to a range of organizations. States typically require a doctorate for I-O psychologists who practice in a clinical setting.

Licensing

Because the majority of I-O psychologists are employed by businesses for positions such as manager/director of human resources, training and development, employee relations, organizational development and the like, they typically do not need to obtain a state license to work. However, if they also want to have a clinical practice or if they wish to use the title 'psychologist,' they will probably need to obtain a license from the state or states in which they work. Licensing requires a doctoral degree, a minimum amount of clinical experience and successful completion of an exam. Licensing requirements vary from state to state.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is usually a requirement for psychologists licensed by a state board. I-O psychologists who don't need to be licensed use continuing education to advance in the field. Additional knowledge and skills can result in promotions or attract more consulting clients. I-O psychologists take graduate-level university courses, attend professional conferences and conduct original research as part of keeping up with advances in the field.

Salary Information for an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded a median annual salary of $80,330 for industrial-organizational psychologists in 2013. The highest paying industries at that time were scientific research and development services, health practitioner offices, company and enterprise management, employment services and elementary and secondary schools, per the BLS.

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