How Long Does it Take to Become an Industrial Psychologist?

how to become an industrial organizational psychologist

Industrial organizational psychology is a relatively new field.  This exciting specialty area applies psychological principles to behavior at work. Industrial psychologists, also known as organizational or IO psychologists, study and analyze employee behavior.

Industrial psychology is an applied branch of psychology.  It utilizes psychological theories to resolve occupational issues. Industrial organizational psychologists are scientist practitioners.  They research actionable strategies to promote positive organizational change. Industrial psychology professionals use empirical-based findings to make recommendations.  They find ways businesses can improve their workplace.

An industrial organizational psychologist can help an organization:

  • create an empowering, fair work climate
  • support employees to feel engaged and appreciated
  • assess training and development needs
  • implement training programs
  • conduct job analyses
  • improve employee satisfaction and retention
  • increase worker productivity

Industrial psychologists implement interventions to crush poor corporate practices.  They can improve organizational effectiveness.

Here is an overview of what industrial psychologists do and how long it takes to become one.

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What Industrial Psychologists Do

An industrial psychologist’s job duties vary depending on where they’re employed. Some organizational psychologists work in academia to teach.  They may also do in-depth organizational behavior research. Others work on-site in corporate offices and human resources departments. An increasing number work as self-employed consultants and travel to client businesses.

Industrial psychology professionals can aid any organization with a workforce of 10 to 10,000. I O psychology jobs are prevalent in diverse sectors including:

  • manufacturing
  • medicine
  • finance
  • advertising
  • construction

Whatever the industry, their main goals are to boost employee performance. Industrial psychology professionals do this by observing human behavior in work settings. They understand organizational culture.  They customize corporate programs to meet the needs of a company’s unique employees. Industrial psychologists can specialize in many different areas including:

  • Talent development and training
  • Hiring selection and recruitment
  • Labor relations and negotiation
  • Job analysis and performance assessment
  • Equal opportunity and workplace diversity
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Organizational development
  • Industrial management consulting

As a result, industrial psychology professionals often have varying job descriptions. Industrial psychologists may be asked to:

  • create training programs to combat workplace issues, such as sexual harassment or bullying
  • develop better interviewing procedures to hire suitable job applicants
  • mediate difficult workforce conflicts amicably
  • evaluate performance
  • lead equal opportunity initiatives to thwart workplace discrimination
  • develop employee motivation strategies to retain top talent
  • organize team-building trips and retreats to better employee engagement and improve job satisfaction
  • recommend changes for executives to prioritize worker mental health
  • create workforce analytics systems to gather data insights on employee productivity
  • assess the job performance of an employee considered for a promotion

Industrial organizational psychology is very different than clinical psychology.  The field doesn’t confine practitioners to the traditional couch therapy sessions. They play pivotal roles in addressing real-life workplace situations that impair employee well-being.

Skills Every Industrial Organizational Psychology Professional Must Have

Skills Every Industrial Psychologist Must Possess

Wondering how to become an industrial organizational psychologist? First, prospective industrial psychology majors should do an honest assessment of their skills. Not everyone is suited to enter the U.S. News & World Report‘s 20th best STEM job.

Industrial psychology professionals must be strong communicators.  They need the ability to properly convey their thoughts in public speeches. Shy introverts may struggle with giving board room presentations of their recommendations. Introverts are also good listeners who may be more observant of human behaviors at work.

An industrial organizational psychologist must read people’s body language and facial expressions. They study social interactions between coworkers or managers and staff. Industrial psychologists need negotiation skills to talk down escalated workplace dramas.  They focus on interpersonal relationships between employees.

Industrial psychology experts must have refined problem solving and critical thinking skills.  They need to find effective solutions to workplace issues. Industrial psychology professionals must know research methods to perform:

  • experiments
  • surveys
  • focus groups
  • employee appraisals

Analytical skills help organizational psychologists draw the right conclusions from their organizational studies.

Organizational psychologists in research or academia need a specific skill set.  Basic math and computer skills are important to run research data statistics. Industrial psychologists in faculty positions need to have teaching skills.  They also need to develop and deliver a quality course curriculum.

Industrial psychology professionals working in human resources need a different set of skills.  They need to:

  • evaluate job performance
  • assess employee behavior
  • participate in personnel recruitment
  • gauge employee satisfaction
  • conduct job analyses
  • understand organizational culture
  • learn the basics of employment law

All psychologists must have the utmost integrity to handle confidential employee or research subject information.

How Long It Takes to Become a Psychologist?

You may be wondering how to become an organizational psychologist.  The journey to a career in industrial and organizational psychology begins with a bachelor’s degree.

The Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is a four-year degree.  You’ll need to earn a high school diploma or GED to apply.

Most colleges admit freshmen based on factors like:

  • academic grades
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • extra-curricular activities
  • community service

The first two years (60 credit hours) of a bachelor’s degree can be completed at a junior college.  Some students may take a couple classes before transferring to a larger university.  Other students complete all 60 credits and graduate with an Associate’s degree.

The grades you earn at a community college are important.  Four-year universities will look at these grades when they make an admission decision.  Good grades are also important for scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

There are benefits to earning an Associate’s degree from a two year college.  Associate degree 2+2 transfer paths at community colleges can save students thousands on tuition. Once admitted, undergrads declare a major. Industrial organizational psychologists degree options typically include:

  • psychology
  • human resources
  • organizational development
  • social work
  • business
  • management

Bachelor’s degrees have a 120-credit curriculum that lasts at least 48 months. Students take general education courses and courses in their major.  Many degree programs offer elective industrial and organizational psychology courses like:

  • Organizational Behavior
  • Employment Staffing
  • Performance Management

Some colleges offer formal industrial psychology bachelor’s degree programs.  These include:

  • San Diego State
  • Eastern Kentucky
  • Embry-Riddle

Industrial organizational psychologist requirements don’t end with a bachelor’s degree.  You’ll need to continue your education and complete a master’s degree.

The Master’s Degree

Industrial psychology is a professional-level career that demands at least a master’s degree. Most master’s programs take at least 18 to 24 months to complete.  So how many years of school to be a psychologist?  With the four years of a bachelor’s degree and two years of a master’s degree, the minimum time to become an industrial psychologist is six years.

A master’s in organizational psychology requires 30-48 credits rigorous coursework. Post-grads must fulfill prerequisite courses in areas like:

  • statistics
  • research methods
  • abnormal psychology

Master’s level industrial psychology concentrations bring together advanced field courses including:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Human Behavior
  • Organizational Development
  • Talent Management

Industrial psychology master’s degrees are available on campus or online.  Online programs provide students with flexible 24/7 digital access. Search the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) directory for graduate training.

Do master’s degrees always take one to two years?

Sometimes a master’s degree can take longer.  Part-time students can complete their degree in three to four years.  Graduate programs offer courses in evening or weekend formats over longer periods.  Industrial organizational psychology requirements usually include a capstone course or experience.  Depending on the type of capstone, students may spend more time on their degree with:

  • internships
  • consulting projects
  • thesis research in university laboratories

The Dual Degree

Industrial psychology majors can pursue different dual degree options. Dual degrees are post-grad avenues where students tackle two curricula at once. Dual programs may waive certain credits to make the degrees faster to get.  Dual degree programs are cost effective.  They allow students to earn two degrees together cheaper than when separated.

These dual degree tracks can take at least 36 months of full-time study. Content and capstone requirements are frequently doubled for a 50 percent longer timeframe. Popular dual degrees available for future industrial psychologists include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Management
  • Master of Science in Human Resources Management
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Education in Training and Development
  • Master of Industrial and Labor Relations
  • Juris Doctor in Labor and Employment Law

The Doctorate Degree

Industrial organizational psychologist schooling doesn’t end with a master’s for some specialized roles.  Industrial psychologists interested in university teaching or scientific research must complete a doctorate. There are two main industrial psychology doctoral degree types:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

A phd in industrial organizational psychology is research-based and scientific. The PsyD has an applied practice-oriented approach.

Some universities also offer a Doctor of Education (EdD) in industrial psychology.  This degree to emphasize teaching and employee training skills. Others provide a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).  This degree focuses on managerial leadership abilities.

All doctorates will add significant time to your career prep. Doctorates take at least 3-4 years after a master’s degree. Combining the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees equals a whopping 10-year commitment. Further confusing the question of how long is psychology school, CBS News reports the average doctoral completion time is 8.2 years itself. Doctorates can entail:

  • seminars
  • graduate assistantships
  • qualifying exams
  • fieldwork
  • a dissertation

Licensing Requirements to Work in Industrial Psychology

The topic of licensing often comes up in discussions about how to become an industrial psychologist.  Many jurisdictions require that anyone practicing psychology or calling themselves a psychologist needs to be licensed.  Licensure requirements differs from state to state.

There are plenty of jobs in the industrial and organizational psychology realm that do not require licensure.  Most individuals with a master’s degree in industrial psychology work in a related area like:

  • organizational development
  • human resources
  • performance management
  • training and development
  • consulting

These roles most likely would not require licensure.  Industrial psychology grads in these roles don’t work in a clinical setting or consider themselves a psychologist.

If you decide to pursue licensure (and your job or title require it), you’ll need to know the requirements.  Licensing is a post-graduation process run by state regulatory boards to ensure practitioners’ competence.  You’ll need to earn a doctorate degree from a university accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).   Candidates need to verify about 1-2 years of supervised field experience. Doctorates with built-in, year-long internships would satisfy. Companies with great I/O psychology internships include:

  • Procter & Gamble
  • Ford Motors,
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Google
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Tesla

Even the National Security Agency (NSA) has a 12-week paid internship to build experience.

What’s the next licensing step for industrial psychologists?

Taking the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). This licensing exam is required for all psychologists in the United States and Canada. Industrial-organizational psychologists will submit an application and a $600 exam fee. Once accepted, individuals must take the EPPP within a 90-day window at a Pearson VUE center.

As of June 2020, the EPPP is a two-part exam that evaluates knowledge then skills. Of the 225 multiple-choice questions, 175 questions count toward the EPPP score. Each testing appointment lasts four hours and 15 minutes.

Afterward, industrial psychologists receive their licensing exam scores in 10 days. Scoring below 500 on the 200-800 exam range will require a retake. A maximum of four retakes are acceptable for a 12-month span. Many states require continuing education units (CEUs) for psychologists to stay licensed long-term.

For 50+ years, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) has also awarded specialty certification for industrial and organizational psychology professionals to become trusted corporate consultants. The Organizational & Business Psychology certification unsurprisingly comes with another exam. Industrial psychologists need qualifying academic coursework and doctoral-level experience. Supervised fieldwork hours must total 4,000 or two years full-time.

Most test takers are actively engaging in APA Division 13, which is the Society for Consulting Psychology. Candidates presently pay a $125 application fee, $250 practice sample review fee, and $450 exam fee. Unlike the computer based EPPP, this exam is oral like a job interview. Industrial psychologists must display competence in nine key areas including:

  • Executive Coaching
  • Job Selection
  • Performance Appraisal
  • Organizational Surveys

Certified individuals can reapply in 15 years to receive the coveted “Senior Option.”

Some industrial psychology professionals will earn certification from the American Board of Organizational Business Consulting Psychology.  This voluntary credential validates competency and commitment to the field.

Current Career Outlook for Industrial Psychologists

Industrial psychology is a small, yet mighty field specialty. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the employment of industrial psychologists will increase 2 percent this decade. By 2028, the number of industrial psychologists will surpass 5,000. In comparison, the hiring of clinical and counseling psychologists will rise 10 percent for 12,300 new jobs. All other psychologists will see 10-year growth of 2 percent for 1,100 specialized positions. Industrial psychologists are needed to help businesses boost productivity and workplace morale.

Which industries are hiring industrial psychologists the most?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for industrial psychologists in management consulting services will soar 22 percent. Industrial psychologists will see 4.8 percent more jobs in research and development. Colleges and universities will also need 8.4 percent more industrial psychologists on staff. An estimated 81.8 percent of industrial psychologists will be self-employed by 2030.

In May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that industrial psychologists had a mean annual wage of $113,320. The 610 industrial psychologists received average hourly pay of $54.48. The top 10 percent brought home a median income of $168,300. The bottom 10 percent of industrial psychologists had median earnings of $63,750. Most fell between the $79,590 and $135,070 salary mark.

Hourly wages ranged from $30.65 to $80.92. The top paying industries for industrial psychology include:

  • Local Government- $160,180/year
  • Scientific Research and Development Services- $122,660/year
  • Employment Services- $110,210/year
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools- $110,070/year
  • State Government- $91,950/year

California was the top-paying state with mean industrial psychologist compensation of $123,090. Across metropolitan areas, Los Angeles had the best paid industrial psychology jobs with an annual mean wage of $136,940.

Pros and Cons of Choosing an Industrial Organizational Psychology Career

Is the time it takes to become an industrial psychologist worth it? It’s important to be sure about organizational psychology before spending 10+ years preparing for the career.

First, let’s start off with the potential bad news about industrial psychology. Industrial psychology professionals:

  • wear many hats dealing with wide-ranging organizational issues
  • have a challenging task of rooting out systemic issues for a better work climate
  • encounter many people who are resistant to change and question their ideas
  • need to spend a significant amount of time and money to enter the career

The National Center for Education Statistics priced average annual graduate tuition at $16,435. Industrial psychology programs are extremely competitive.  Cohorts usually only accept 5-15 students. Organizational psychologists sometimes struggle to maintain a work-life balance. It’s common for industrial psychologists to clock in for 50+ hours per week and take job stress home.

On the flip side, becoming an organizational psychologist is emotionally and financially rewarding. Industrial psychologists can:

  • immediately claim a big six-figure salary after their doctorate
  • gain personal satisfaction from designing workplace policies that benefit employees.
  • have the flexibility to pick diverse sectors and specializations
  • appreciate a super-low unemployment rate of 0.5 percent
  • work in comfortable office settings and interact with top company exercises
  • spend more time talking to and observing people than looking at computer screens

Every organizational psychologist flexes their mental muscles to solve complex workplace issues. Unlike clinical psychologists, organizational psychologists can complete their master’s and sometimes doctoral degrees online. Industrial psychologists may enjoy being independent contractors and telecommuting from home. They get the best of two worlds by fusing business and human resources with behavioral health.

Related Resource: What Are Psychomotor Skills?

Scholarships to Help Become an Industrial Psychology Professional

Scholarships to Help Become an Industrial Psychologist

Questioning if you can afford to become an organizational psychologist? Thankfully there’s financial aid to reduce your tuition. There are also scholarships that include:

  • The APA Division 14’s Irwin L. Goldstein Scholarship awards a $3,000 scholarship that assists minority doctoral organizational psychology majors
  • The SIOP’s George C. Thornton Graduate Scholarship awards $3,000 for organizational psychology master’s graduates seeking their doctorate
  • The Lee Hakel Graduate Student Scholarship gifts $3,500 to top-ranking industrial psychology students who submit a 12-page dissertation proposal.
  • Since 2010, Centennial Mental Health Center has offered the $2,000 Future Professional Scholarship to undergrads in psychology bachelor’s programs
  • The Hogan Award for Personality & Work Performance has a $1,500 prize for doctoral organizational psychologists who author-related papers

Other scholarships and grants that support industrial psychologists include:

  • Joyce and Thayer I/O Psychology Graduate Fellowship
  • Mary L. Tenopyr Graduate Student Scholarship
  • Harry and Miriam Levinson Psychology Scholarship
  • M. Scott Myers Award for Applied Workplace Research
  • Roy Scrivner Memorial LGBTQ Research Grant
  • Psi Chi Honor Society Graduate Scholarship
  • Bill Bendiner and Doug Morgenson Scholarship
  • David Pilon Scholarship for Training in Professional Psychology
  • Ruth G. and Joseph D. Matarazzo Scholarship
  • Beatrice Ragen Edelman Memorial Scholarship
  • Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholars Program
  • Frank D. Payne Memorial Psychology Scholarship
  • Charles and Carol Spielberger Scholarship

Scholarships aren’t the only way to fund the long academic journey to organizational psychology jobs. Incoming industrial and organizational psychology majors should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This tax-based form determines one’s eligibility for government assistance. For example, the Federal Pell Grant could give up to $6,345 each year to bachelor’s psychology students. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) has a 2020 maximum of $4,000 to cover undergrad expenses.

Organizational psychology majors can carefully take out Graduate PLUS loans with a current interest rate of 7.08 percent. Borrowed funds up to $17,500 could be waived with programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Always file for the $2,000 Lifetime Learning Credit on tax returns.

Apply for organizational psychology jobs at companies with tuition assistance. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 50 percent of employers will pay graduate tuition. Graduate assistantships also give stipends in exchange for part-time teaching or research work.


Overall, organizational psychology is one of today’s hottest careers. Organizational psychologists have been following in Hugo Munsterberg’s and Walter Dill Scott’s footsteps since 1903. It’s been 110 years since the first organizational psychology book titled Psychology and Industrial Efficiency was printed. College students entering the field can carry the torch and develop new advancements to revolutionize business.

Getting into organizational psychology takes considerable effort though. Be prepared to spend at least six years in higher education. Top-level organizational psychologists commit 10-15 years to their education. Industrial psychologists have skills that are in high demand.

We hope you’ve learned how to become an IO psychologist.  Start searching for accredited colleges that can help you become an industrial psychologist.

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