I-O psychologists are specialists in the science of assessment, intervention, planning, execution, and tracking in organizational operations including human resources, administration, marketing, management, and sales. Common professional I-O specialties include human resource (HR) planning, hiring and benefits, workplace culture and environment, retention and leadership development. I-O psychologists may work as consultants that address specific issues – sexual harassment, disabilities, absenteeism – or to oversee the planning and execution of enterprise-wide change.

About the Industrial Psychology Degree Program

It takes at least seven years following high school to complete the I-O doctoral degree necessary for licensing and certification. Practitioners in business may find I-O positions after completing a master’s degree. Psychologists seeking a research or teaching career or professional licensing go on to complete doctorates. To become licensed, I-O psychologists must complete a supervised doctoral/post-doctoral internship (6-9 months) and pass the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

Students without any college experience typically begin by earning a 120-credit bachelor degree in psychology or industrial psychology. Some begin by completing a two-year 60-credit associate’s degree in psychology and transferring to a four-year school. Following graduation, career aspirants move on to completing a master’s degree in I-O psychology or in general psychology with I-O concentrations. Masters programs typically require 42 semester credits completed between two and three years. Doctoral degrees take from three to five years to complete, depending upon whether the student enters with a master’s degree in-hand. Doctorate programs may also require students to complete a practicum or internship lasting up to nine months.

Associate Industrial Psychology Degree Programs

Psychology students beginning at the two-year, associate degree level will most-likely find AA or AS degrees in general psychology as a starting place for academic preparation. The programs are useful in allowing students to complete two-years of general arts and sciences education coursework required for a bachelor’s degree at lower tuition costs. A combination of coursework in psychology and business can provide the basic foundation for students moving on to a four-year degree and, ultimately, a graduate psychology program. Associate programs also allow students to test the waters in psychology before committing to five additional years of schooling.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Industrial Psychology

The bachelor’s degree in general or I-O psychology allows students to sample the range of disciplines within the field while completing a four-year degree providing a bridge to graduate school and licensing. Programs take from two to four years to complete, depending on the previous coursework a student has completed in general education and psychology at the associate level. Degree requirements vary, but students should take advantage of internship or volunteer opportunities to gain experience. Many graduate programs weigh new applications by previous coursework and practical experience.

Program outcomes:

Students gain skills research and assessment skills in psychological practice.

Graduates have a fundamental knowledge of psychology, business management, organizational development, human resources, operations, and finance.

Graduates have participated in projects requiring outside research and/or internship experiences.

Students demonstrate research and communication skills through senior projects.

Graduates are prepared to undertake graduate work in business or industrial/organizational psychology.

I-O Bachelor’s Degrees by Career Focus

Because of the growing development of the I-O field, colleges and universities offer a choice in curriculum leading to a related degree. For example, schools may offer bachelor degrees through their business department with a focus in I-O. There are also dedicated bachelor degree programs offering a BS or BA in Industrial Psychology. More programs tend toward offering a four-year degree in business or psychology with an emphasis or minor in I-O studies. For students planning to enter graduate school, making a decision between a business psychology practice and a scholarly research profession can be instrumental in informing the curriculum choices in the major. Students should conduct their own research into entrance requirements for graduate school to ensure they’re following their chosen career path.

Graduate Degrees in Industrial Psychology

At the graduate level there are two major types of programs. The master’s degree in I-O prepares students to work as practitioners in business settings. The doctorate prepares students to conduct research or teach. Consequently, graduate degrees in I-O can vary dramatically in academic focus, clinical experience, research requirements and career orientation. Grad school students must ultimately decide if they want to be a scientist, practitioner, educator, consultant, or in a role combining those specializations. Does the applicant want a degree program that focuses on internships and field work or should they sequester themselves in libraries of studies and evidence-based literature?

At the master’s degree level, I-O students can pursue an MS, MA, or MBA degree. The MBA is generally regarded as a business consulting/management degree, whereas the MS or MA degrees are best suited to prepare practitioners and scientists. Students can earn a single degree, a degree with research focus, or even a Master’s in Organizational Development in conjunction with a joint MBA business degree.

At the doctoral level students can choose the program that matches their career goals in teaching, research, or practice. Common degree pathways are:

PsyD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology – General Practice

PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership

PhD in Business Psychology

The following chart breaks out the general details of graduate degrees leading to careers in I-O psychology:

Degree Completion Time Units Degree Earned Graduation Requirements Professional Focus Entry Requirements
Master’s

3 years

<60

MS, MA, MBA in: Industrial-Organizational Psychology Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior Organizational Management

Coursework, practica, comprehensive examinations, internships, thesis.

Broad, in-depth exposure to the research and practitioner fields in I-O Each state sets licensing requirements. Graduates without certifications may work in business environments / organizations.

Two years professional experience, honors bachelor’s degree, GRE or GMAT

PhD

5-7 years

9+

PsyD, PhD

Dissertation, comprehensive examinations, supervised internships (6-9 months).

Dissertation: research and field work.

GRE Psychology Subject Test scores, professional recommendations, bachelor or master’s degree in I-O.

Master’s Degree Industrial Psychology Programs

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), I-O psychologists must be competent in identifying organizational needs (training, operations, etc.), design programs to improve the quality of life among employees, evaluate existing and new programs, and coach workers and managers. Master’s degree programs in I-O provide specialized training in the factors that impact organizational well-being and productivity. These include studies in human factors, decision making, task assessment, career training and development, federal and state labor laws, negotiation, and consumer behavior. Graduates may seek positions in the field or continue on to completing their doctorate.

  • Icon-1 Time to Degree

    Three-five years

  • Icon-1 Total credits

    45-50

  • Icon-1 Program Outcomes:
    • Students are skilled in applying theoretical and research findings in the workplace.
    • Graduates fully understand the professional and ethical standards required in I-O research and practice.
    • Students have both the micro and macro perspectives in assessing and resolving workplace problems.
    • Graduates may pursue employment as business consultants and HR specialists.
    • Students have completed a competency-based, accredited graduate degree program the meets standards established by the I-O professions.

    Sample courses from the Master’s Degree in I-O Psychology Curriculum:[Design]

    Year 1 Year 2
    Research Methods in Social Psychology Psychology of Leadership
    Organizational Culture Executive Coaching
    Group dynamics Negotiation
    Advanced Research Design And Analysis Social-Organizational Psychology Colloquium
    Practicum in Leadership Strategic Change Management
    Assessment Techniques in I-O Intercultural Communications in Organizations
    Consultation Psychology Internship
    Independent Study Thesis

Doctoral Degree Industrial Psychology Programs

Students can apply for admissions to industrial psychology doctoral degree program directly from a bachelor degree program or master’s degree program in I-O — or in general psychology. Admission requirements vary by institution. For example, some doctoral programs will not accept applicants who already have completed their master’s degrees. Other schools will accept applicants holding bachelor degrees, but only if they deliver strong scores in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) psychology subject test.

The program of study at the doctoral level depends on the institution’s research or practice focus. The American Psychological Association has approved I-O doctoral standards created and maintained by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).

  • Icon-1 Time to Degree

    Three-five years

  • Icon-1 Total credits

    90 hours beyond the bachelor’s degree

  • Icon-1 Program Outcomes

    Based on SIOP recommendations, doctoral candidates should demonstrate knowledge and competency in 25 areas, including:

    • Consulting and Business Skills
    • Leadership and Management
    • Ethical, Legal, and Professional Contexts of I-O Psychology
    • The Fields of Psychology
    • History and Systems of Psychology
    • Personnel Recruitment and Placement
    • Research Methods
    • Statistical Methods
    • Data Analysis
    • Attitude Theory, Measurement, and Change
    • Career Development

Distinctions between the PsyD and PhD Degree

The type of doctoral degree in I-O can distinguish the career specialty of the graduate. The PsyD degree in I-O is a practitioner’s doctorate, preparing the psychologist for licensing and advancement in business roles. The PhD degree in I-O is designed for psychologists interested in university teaching and institutional research. Depending on the program, students will undertake supervised internships and complete a scholarly dissertation derived from independent or group research.

Doctoral Curriculum

Here is a list of courses selected from current doctoral degree programs in I-O psychology:

  • Job/Task Analysis, Job Evaluation, and Compensation
  • History and Systems of Psychology
  • Diversity Issues in Organizational Psychology
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Human Resource Management
  • Judgment & Decision Making
  • Practicum/Internship in I-O Psychology
  • Criterion Theory and Development
  • Workplace Motivation
  • Change Management
  • Organization Theory and Development
  • Supervision and Consultation
  • Independent Research
  • Dissertation

About I-O Psychology Licensure

Throughout the United States and Canada, it is illegal for someone to use the title and practice as a “psychologist” without a license. Each state and province sets and enforces its own set of licensing requirements. According to SIOP, the most common requirements for licensing include:

  • Completing a PhD or PsyD from an accredited institution.
  • Completing a state oral examination (except in California)
  • Earning a qualifying score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).
  • Completing a supervised professional I-O internship.

The ESPPP exam is comprised of 225 multiple-choice questions across eight content areas. For more information, visit the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Resources in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Whether students are new to the field or pursuing independent I-O practice and research, the following organizations, associations, and publications provide valuable information on emerging research, trends, licensing requirements, and teaching guides. They also create an avenue for networking and creating effective peer/mentor relationships.