Is Organizational Psychology a High-Paying Field?

Is Organizational Psychology a High-Paying Field?

Organizational psychology is the study of human behavior in group settings, particularly in the workplace. The interactions between workers and workers, management personnel and other management personnel, and management and workers are the milieu of the organizational psychologist. The dynamics are different than those between people outside of the workplace because of the intensely hierarchical structure in a workplace. The solutions for problems that develop at a workplace must therefore be tailored to that structure. Additionally, organizational psychologists must handle the processes of recruitment, training, and promotion within the company for which they work. They must not only be able to address the mental and emotional issues of the staff but also search for and point out any organizational biases that exist within the company and its policies.

Despite it being around for several years, many still consider organizational psychology relatively new and wonder if it’s a high-paying field. Like most careers, organizational psychology has the potential to be a very good paying field depending on the individual’s experience, training, and degree, among other things. Organizational psychology is a field that introduces basic psychology into the workplace to help find the best ways to have an organization run smoothly, be profitable and have a happy workforce. The success of an organizational psychologist equates to the success of the organization.

What is Organizational Psychology?

Is Organizational Psychology a High-Paying Field?

Also known as Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology, organizational psychology is a scientific study that involves psychology in the workplace with the intent to deal with workplace issues facing businesses, teams, and individuals. Their use of psychology allows them to determine the best employees for the company based on studies of their behavior and the place in which they work.

Organizational psychology involves researching a company and its employees, determining the employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and finding ways to best utilize an employee in a way that is beneficial to the company while keeping the workforce satisfied. The best way to describe I-O psychology is that it’s the study of workplace behavior.

Organizational psychology is a career that typically requires a master’s degree. While an individual with a bachelor’s degree may find entry-level positions in this field, the majority of the I-O psychologists must have master’s or doctoral degrees.

One of the chief areas organizational psychologists delve into is the theory of decision making in both stressful and not stressful situations. The idea concerns the choice between preferences and prospects. If there is an outcome that someone desires as “preferable” to another outcome, the simple decision would be to pursue the preferable outcome. The preferences might be hypothetical or even unattainable. The “real-world” choices would be the options. Frequently, the options are not desirable for the person making the decision, such as a compassionate boss being ordered to fire a certain number of people who don’t deserve to be terminated. The organizational psychologist would help both the manager faced with a Sophie’s Choice and the employees to be terminated.

For the day-to-day operations, organizational psychologists study that which makes the employees happy. For example, they might plan and recommend reward programs for employees who hit their goals or achieve great things. The ideas about what makes employees happy during such programs have changed over the years. Rather than just awarding money, gift cards, or other prizes, companies have found that including employees in decision making and recognizing their achievements are preferred. “Phil from accounting” might like to know that he has the faith and backing of the management when the time comes for project responsibility that leads to promotion.

Organizational psychologists also must study management, developing ideas about what it means to be a leader. “How to lead” is as important as “hitting the numbers.” Poor leaders drive high-quality candidates for positions within the company away, and no amount of money or perks can compensate for a lousy boss. Therefore, organizational psychologists help with retention of employees as well as their recruitment and training.

Organizational psychologists must also study the interaction between the organization and the public. Employees of a poorly perceived company, for example, might not be in a good emotional place. By helping the company improve its brand image, organizational psychologists can help improve morale within the companies where they work. The concept of job satisfaction cannot be discounted within any company. In many cases, the job satisfaction of the employees has a direct correlation with the survivability of the company. Certain high-stress businesses, such as call centers and retail outlets, have negative job satisfaction more often than other businesses. Organizational psychologists, therefore, must strive harder to achieve their desired results.

Career Outlook & Wage Potential

The growing economy is resulting in the creation of new and more jobs, which puts a demand for I-O psychologists to help booster employee morale and productivity. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology indicates that many companies are using the expertise of I-O psychologists to perform research and analysis on marketing and employee trends, which helps them develop tools they can use in the workplace.

I-O psychology is expected to be the fastest growing of all types of psychology and also a field that can offer excellent wages. Organizational psychologists work for private companies and government agencies, but the majority work for scientific research and development services. As of May 2017, I-O psychologists nationwide earned an average annual wage of $102,530 with wages ranging from $50,730 to $184,520 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The job outlook for organizational psychologists is robust. Indeed, it is destined to grow at three times the average rate of all jobs in the United States: 12.3% over the course of the next 10 years. Additionally, the wages of organizational psychologists are slated to grow at nearly five times the rate of inflation, meaning that the return on investment in an organizational psychology degree, particularly a graduate degree, is astonishing.

In some areas, the annual mean wage could be as high as $200,000. Even the lowest organizational psychology pay is greater than the median salary of the entire country. Government positions even pay much higher salaries than the country’s median wages.

What Does it Take to Become an Organizational Psychologist?

Is Organizational Psychology a High-Paying Field?

Organizational psychologists must begin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from a regionally accredited university or college. If the person has studied overseas, then the person must have earned the degree at a university or college that has the equivalent of American regional accreditation in the country in question. The degree can focus on organizational psychology but can also be in another field.

Organizational psychologists must also have a master’s degree. Often, the student studies a different but related field as an undergraduate and focuses on organizational psychology as a graduate student. Many jobs also recommend earning a Ph.D. along the way, as well, and the companies who recommend this often provide the funds for such studies if they are required.

Usually, a psychology bachelor’s degree comprises 120 or so credit hours that include core requirements, classes in the student’s major, and electives. Some schools also offer combined bachelor’s and master’s programs that the student pursues at the same time. Budding organizational psychologists should contact the schools where they would like to study to ask about the schools’ program requirements and any specializations within the field the students might pursue.

After completion of the degree, those seeking a job as an organizational psychologist will likely have to complete an internship to be able to land a choice position. Such an internship is not required, but the practical experience the candidates gain in such a position will be invaluable when pursuing a permanent job. Additionally, the candidates will also gain insight into the very things they studied during their classes, such as decision making, studying the emotional effects of meeting goals, and the like.

Many organizational psychologists also earn clinical credentials in the states where they live. That way, they can see patients and help prepare them for the business world while still performing their jobs within the companies where they work. Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to treat employees of their companies privately without creating a conflict of interest, but they could help those outside their companies.

What Affects Wages for Organizational Psychologists?

Is Organizational Psychology a High-Paying Field?

The wages for organizational psychologists can vary by many factors, including degree earned, experience, employer and location. Typically, higher wages are paid to I-O psychologists with higher degrees. For instance, an organizational psychologist with a master’s or doctoral degree will usually earn a higher wage than one with a bachelor’s degree. Another factor that plays a large role in wages is geographic location.

Wages can vary not just from one state to another but also from one city to the next. This can be demonstrated with the list below, which show the five top-paying states for organizational psychologists. There is a substantial difference between wages in Virginia and Massachusetts.

• Virginia – $123,640

• New Jersey – $107,950

• Pennsylvania – $91,140

• Florida – $79,010

• Massachusetts – $75,100

The highest-paying metropolitan area in the nation for organizational psychologists was the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV metropolitan division. I-O psychologists earned $125,830 as of May 2017.

Working as an organizational psychologist can be both challenging and rewarding at the same time, but it is a career that attracts many people today. The bonus of choosing this career is that organizational psychology can be a very high-paying field.

Years of experience come into play when it comes to how much organizational psychologists earn. Those starting out, although they will make less than their tenured counterparts, have the advantage of being able to learn from their seasoned peers. As they learn, they can apply the techniques they acquire to their jobs, often devising new strategies along the way. When companies notice that “the student becomes the teacher,” they might begin to compete for an organizational psychologist’s services. Learning on the job is always a good way to advance one’s career and boost both one’s salary and standing in the field.

Where one works is also crucial. As shown above, the salaries in different places are at different levels. Simple numbers, however, don’t take into consideration the prospect for advancement in the field. After all, the growth rate of 12.3% is for the country as a whole. In a place where the salaries are higher starting out, the prospect for advancement could be less than in a place where the salaries are smaller to begin with. Even starting out smaller, the organizational psychologists in a high-growth area might be earning more than others because they earn positions that are “higher up the food chain.”

Also, the kind of company for which an organizational psychologist works will affect the compensation. For-profit companies pay different wages than not-for-profit companies. Still, many people who have a passion for a certain cause will take a position with a nonprofit corporation. This harks back to the idea that motivational awards don’t have to be purely monetary to urge people to achieve great things.

While all companies use organizational psychologists, some categories of companies are prone to hire more of them. These include government entities, colleges and universities, consulting firms, and research institutions. The consulting firms will usually specialize in technical, scientific, and managerial development.

Building out one’s resume with additional skill sets is always a good idea. Organizational psychologists who have a computer background might be in high demand in technical, scientific, and research companies. The same holds true if the person specializes in quantitative research. Getting published in peer-reviewed journals won’t be a bad idea either.

If a person’s passion is pure research, instruction, or both, then earning a Ph.D. would be a great idea not only as a job requirement for such positions but also as an educational goal in and of itself. Having a Ph.D. will also provide budding professors with stability by starting them on a tenure track.


Organizational psychology will be a rewarding career choice not only because of the higher-than-average salary but also because of the way that organizational psychologists help shape the direction companies take. They are the great mediators in the world of business, striving to achieve balance and harmony between employees and employers.

They also “change the world” with their research, providing companies with fresh ideas that benefit all. The change they help bring about improves the lives of customers too. Their efforts can be the difference between success and dismal failure in any company.

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