What Do Industrial Organizational Psychologists Do?


This illustration shows some of what industrial/organizational psychologists do in their jobs.

Most adults spend 40 hours a week—or more—at the office. That’s half of our waking hours Monday through Friday. So it makes sense that employers and employees alike would want to make that time as efficient and harmonious as possible.

And it’s industrial/organizational psychologists who help create that productive, pleasant workplace. They are the problem-solvers, making work more enjoyable and efficient.

I/O psychology is a marriage between the industrial side, which focuses on individuals and their relationships, and the organizational side, which takes a big-picture view of the workplace as a whole. In short, it’s the study of what works at work.

I/O experts possess specialized knowledge on a range of psychological topics, including:

  • How organizations and careers develop
  • How people make decisions
  • How consumers behave
  • How small and large groups operate

Then they apply that knowledge to solving workplace problems—everything from interpersonal conflicts to chronic stress to muddled chains of command. They help find the brightest recruits, train and coach employees, and offer advice on policies and practices that benefit workers, companies and the bottom line.

According to Carrie Hewitt, assistant professor of psychology at Elmhurst University, a typical day for an I/O psychologist could include recruiting and screening job applicants, setting up interviews, writing job postings, and training current employees.

But that’s just the human resources side.

There’s a lot of opportunity for people with this degree because it is so broad. Organizations go through changes. Throughout these changes, they want to think of their people and how to keep them productive and engaged.

—Carrie Hewitt, program director of the master’s in industrial/organizational psychology at Elmhurst University

Consumer preferences, customer satisfaction and market strategies can fall under the purview of an I/O psychologist. So can planning for new leadership or major changes within a company. I/O psychologists also take on a coaching role. They counsel employees, keep work teams motivated, identify employees with high potential, and develop performance measures.

“We fill that need organizations have to not only get people in the door, but to develop and engage them once they’re [at the organization],” Hewitt said.

What Do Industrial Organizational Psychologists Do in their Careers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of I/O psychology jobs to climb by 8 percent through 2026. I/O psychologists with a master’s degree earn a median salary of almost $102,000 a year.

More than half of I/O master’s graduates go into human resources, while others serve as consultants. I/O grads also can be found in administration, management and sales positions.

In today’s unpredictable and ever-changing jobs landscape, I/O experts are needed in fields from business and labor to nonprofits, academia and health care. They embark on careers in every industry and sector, taking positions as:

  • Personnel Directors
  • Instructional Designers
  • Talent Developers
  • Research and Management Consultants
  • Executive Recruiters

At Elmhurst University, most I/O master’s students land a job relevant to their goals within six months of graduation.

M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

At Elmhurst, we want our coursework to be immediately applicable to our students’ career interests. That’s why we focus on the critical knowledge and skills you will need when you enter the field.

Our two-year, part-time program follows a cohort model, so your classmates become your collaborators. Our professors are experienced in the most up-to-date research methods and practical applications.

Our classwork involves critical thinking, communication skills, real-world projects and organizational interventions. Nearly every I/O student completes an internship, which provides invaluable hands-on experience.

Many of the students in the master’s in industrial/organizational psychology program are relatively new college graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology. But we also welcome nontraditional students from a variety of fields.

If you have the desire to help companies and the folks who work there, Elmhurst’s I/O master’s program can get you on your way.

Interested in getting started?

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Updated July 19, 2019

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