BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

A degree in industrial-organizational psychology: What is that good for?

A degree in industrial-organizational psychology might make sense if you are interested in psychology and human resources. It is a chance to make use of both of those interests in a way that can build your career.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is one of the fastest-growing fields in psychology with the need for professionals growing by around 13.3 percent by 2029. So, what can you do with a graduate degree in industrial-organization psychology? The answer is a lot more than you might realize.

Boost your personal and professional life with a graduate degree from Central Michigan University. 

Apply now


What is an industrial-organization psychologist?

Since I/O psychology offers insight into human behaviors in the workplace and how these behaviors affect the work being done as well as on the people, professionals in this area seek to use psychological practices to make a positive impact for the people and organizations they serve. The BLS states that I/O psychology professionals apply psychology to critical workplace functions such as:

  • Human resources
  • Administration
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Policy development
  • Employee hiring
  • Employee testing
  • Training
  • Organizational development

As an industrial-organization psychologist, you’ll find jobs available for those with a degree in every sector, public and private. They work in healthcare, manufacturing, law enforcement, business and public health. It is a role with tremendous flexibility because it focuses on workplace environments in every industry.

I/O psychologists are problem solvers. Their goal is to improve how the workplace operates while still enhancing the quality of the lives that make it work. They work to:

  • Help organizations hire more qualified employees
  • Find ways to motivate staff
  • Improve job performance
  • Increase workplace efficiency
  • Enhance organizational structure
  • Improve marketing strategies by providing insight into consumer behavior

An I/O psychologist takes the guesswork out of making a workplace run smoothly and without conflict.

How to become an industrial-organizational psychologist?

Working in I/O psychology requires you to have specialized knowledge through education. This career path starts with an undergraduate degree, preferably in psychology. Once you get your bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to consider graduate school.

You’ll need at least a master’s degree in I/O psychology to work in the field. A bachelor’s degree allows you to learn the principles of psychology. The master’s degree program provides the specialized training necessary to move ahead.

Many professionals will want to go further in their academic careers by getting a doctorate in I/O psychology. A doctorate program applies what you already know to practical applications and research methods. It is a critical step for those who want access to the best opportunities in the field. In addition, a doctorate program will often offer opportunities to gain real-world experience that you can apply to your career.


After completing a graduate degree, you will likely do an internship that will provide you with practical experience as an I/O psychologist. It is also an opportunity to specialize your knowledge further. For example, you could work in law enforcement or labor relations.


Some career paths as an I/O psychologist will also require you to get licensure. The requirements will differ from one location to the next. I/O psychologists may also work in more than one state. You can frequently work in another state for a limited time without obtaining a new license.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology may grant permission to work in another state for an extended period of time. However, it is critical that you understand the laws in your area.

Board certification

Professionals in I/O psychology can also obtain board certification from the American Board of Organization and Business Consulting Psychology. To obtain certification, you must complete a skills assessment and hold a doctorate from an American Psychology Association-accredited program.

Although board certification is not required, it can open more doors for you. In some states, it may also be necessary if you want to start a private practice.

11 Industrial and organizational psychology jobs

Earning an advanced degree is a considerable investment. So, what can you do with all that knowledge once you complete it? Consider 11 jobs that are perfect for an I/O psychologist.

1. Employee relations manager

An employee relations manager creates relations programs, policies and procedures relating to employees. They work to promote both productivity and employee satisfaction. They might handle things like performance reviews and goal setting. They might also deal with infractions and possibly job terminations. Sometimes, they manage a human resource staff as part of their job duties.

2. Instructional designer

An instructional designer can work in a number of industries from education to business to government. They could even freelance or consult. Their job is to create educational materials for learning and job training. For example, they may develop online courses or create training materials such as employee handbooks. Some companies use them to revamp their training process.

3.  Executive coach

An executive coach specializes in helping people at the top develop their leadership skills. It may be part of a training program for a Fortune 500 company. They may also work like tutors, helping someone looking to advance their career find a path to the top.

4. Behavior analyst

A behavior analyst helps others manage their behaviors using skill acquisition and adaptive training. Behavior analysts are found in a variety of settings. They work with children in schools and adults struggling in different environments.

They might help specific industries understand behavior. For example, they may play a role in law enforcement or work in the corrections system. They may be part of a local public health program. Any position that requires analysis of human behavior to create change might hire this I/O professional.

5. Organizational development manager

An organizational development manager oversees the development of procedures and policies that help improve a company’s performance. They often evaluate the company structure at many levels to make improvements. The focus is on the brand more than the workforce, though. They may make changes in training and work environments, but they are designed to improve the business as a whole.

6. Market researcher

A market researcher analyzes data to tweak marketing, business performance and factors that affect the sales of a product or service. They may work for the company or be hired independently to improve a brand's performance.

7. Public relations specialist

A public relations specialist helps to enhance the image of a brand. They often work as consultants, although large companies may hire them. They can work for individuals, too. For example, celebrities or politicians might hire one to help them through a reputation issue or to build their careers.

8. Human resource manager

As the human resource department head, an HR manager coordinates all activities that can impact employees. That includes benefits, training, hiring and disciplinary actions — they advocate for the workforce and the company to create solutions that allow the business to function.

9. Project manager

A project manager organizes and controls projects. They may manage large teams of individuals or work with a small group. Their job is to keep a project on track financially and on schedule while being a liaison for stakeholders.

Projects covers a broad area, which means project manager has roles to play in many industries. It might be community development, for instance, or the rework of a business network. These projects typically correspond with the manager's skills.

10. Consumer psychologist

A consumer psychologist helps companies understand their most critical asset — the buyer. They may work in any industry, from education to pharmaceuticals. Their job is determining which marketing messages best connect with the target audience.

11. Consultant

Someone with a graduate degree in industrial-organizational psychology could work as a consultant in almost any area of business, from human resources to safety. What sets them apart from other I/O professionals is they run their own businesses. Their clients bring them in to help better understand or manage behavior related to some nature of the industry, such as marketing or training. 

Not all of these career paths require a graduate degree in industrial-organizational psychology, but they demonstrate the breadth of occupations you could pursue with that education. 

Why choose CMU’s industrial-organizational psychology program?

If it sounds like an advanced program in industrial-organizational psychology is what you’ve been looking for, finding the right graduate program is key. Central Michigan University offers a master's degree and a doctoral degree in Industrial-organizational psychology.

These on-campus programs set you up for success by combining research with theory and practice to give you a well-rounded foundation. You will also have the chance to work on real-world problems in the field. In addition, you will do research projects and thesis papers and intern with a mainstream corporation.

After earning your degree in I/O psychology from Central Michigan University, you will be ready to apply the principles of psychology to workplace behavior and work in any of the fields listed here. The courses focus on the principles of personnel and cognitive psychology as well as group dynamics.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified:
The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.