Interested in I-O Psychology? Here’s What You Need to Know

I-O Psychology

How do teams of astronauts creatively solve problems? What makes a CEO, police officer, or teacher motivated? How do we recruit, hire, and retain the best performers for our workforce? How do we eliminate discrimination against women and minorities in companies? What can we do to keep our military service members safe and healthy?

These are all questions of interest to Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychologists, who use science to improve not only the effectiveness of organizations, but also life for employees.

Why is this a good field to go into?

I-O psychology is a rapidly growing field. Professionals in this area are highly sought after, experience flexibility in choosing the type of setting in which they work, and are generally compensated well. Most importantly, they engage in meaningful work that improves the lives of individuals, help organizations become more productive, and even contribute to national policy!

What does an I-O psychologist actually do?

These individuals use psychological principles and theory to study human behavior in the workplace. They consult, manage, teach, and conduct research with both small and large organizations and their employees. Common topics within I-O Psychology include:

  • Employee recruitment, hiring, promotion
  • Performance management
  • Leadership
  • Teams
  • Training and development
  • Work motivation
  • Job attitudes
  • Ethical and legal issues
  • Work stress and health
  • Organizational Development

Where do I-O psychologists work?

You might find these individuals working as professors or research associates at universities, where they conduct research, teach, and mentor students. They may also be in consulting firms or working internally for organizations or the government, where they advise clientele, conduct research, or lead human resources departments.

How do you become an I-O psychologist?

I-O psychologists generally have a master’s or doctoral degree from an I-O psychology program. These programs tend to reflect a scientist-practitioner model, meaning students are trained in both research and applied work.

How can I learn more about applying to I-O psychology programs?

The Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the primary I-O professional organization,  hosted a free, live webinar for interested students on March 22, 2016 via Google Hangouts. Check out the recorded session here. The event is titled: Everything You Want to Know about Graduate School in IO Psychology but are too Afraid to Ask! A panel of psychology undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to professors from master’s and PhD programs gave their advice on getting into graduate I-O psychology programs.

About the Author

Tori is an assistant professor in the Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology Program at Colorado State University. She recently received her doctorate in applied psychology from Portland State University, with a major in industrial-organizational psychology and a minor in occupational health psychology. Prior to that, Tori completed her BA in psychology at Whitworth University. Her research interests include the work-family interface, sleep and fatigue in relation to the workplace, and occupational stress interventions.