What is Organizational Psychology?

Industrial-Organizational(IO) Psychology, this area of psychology concerns interactions between people in the workplace

When most people think of psychology, they picture a person with a notepad looking down on a troubled individual lying on a couch. In reality, this captures only one tiny segment of the field of psychology. One of the least known, yet most used and currently relevant, areas of this field is Industrial Organizational Psychology. This article will provide an organizational psychology definition and explain how to pursue a career in I/O psychology.

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What is Organizational Psychology?

By definition organizational psychology is the area of psychology that concerns human behavior and interactions between people in the workplace. It is often referred to as Industrial and Organizational Psychology or I/O psychology, I/O psychologists apply psychological principles and practices to solve issues and improve morale between superiors and staff, as well as between coworkers. They assist human resources professionals in hiring the right employees and treating them properly when letting them go. They help bosses:

  • place their staff most efficiently
  • motivate their employees
  • create positive workplace cultures

They help businesses create success by organizing structure and studying consumer needs and wants.

I/O psychology studies how people behave in work environments, including leadership styles. Understanding different leadership styles can help organizations improve:

  • productivity
  • job satisfaction
  • overall employee well-being

I/O psychologists can help organizations assess and develop effective leadership styles and strategies to maximize their potential.

Organizational development and organizational psychology are both fields that focus on improving workplace environments. Organizational development tends to focus on broader, systemic changes Organizational psychology focuses more on individual and group behavior within organizations.

How I/O Psychology Works

I/O psychologists accomplish these tasks in a number of ways. They introduce reward systems, both internal and external, to help motivate employees. Internal reward includes things like praise. External reward includes things like bonuses and benefits. The Global Institute for Research & Education explains that according to Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation, employees who are motivated work more efficiently.

I/O psychologists conduct a wide variety of surveys. They use them to find out customer demands and satisfaction. They are helpful in assessing:

  • employee morale
  • goals
  • opinion

I/O psychologists are especially interested in opinions and attitudes employees are not comfortable divulging directly to their superiors.

Indutrial Organzational Psychology Settings

There are many settings in which to work as an I/O psychologist. Here are the most common:

  • They might be on the staff at a specific company, working only for that company.
  • They might work for an organization that sends I/O psychologists to multiple workplaces. These organizations might conduct a wide variety of tasks, or they might focus on one type in particular.
  • They might set up a private practice and work under contract with companies they form partnerships with.

Educational Path For Industrial Organizational Psychology

Those who find this information to be an inspiration for a future career should start by earning a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. From there, it might be advisable to apply to masters in io psychology programs. Some may even go on to earn a doctorate in industrial organizational psychology, depending on opportunities and career goals. Someone who simply wishes to move to an advanced position within their current organization might be satisfied at the bachelor’s level. Some plan to earn a master’s degree or doctorate in order to break into a whole new career or go into:

  • private practice
  • research
  • teaching at the college level

Industrial organizational Psychologists work settings

Work Settings for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

An I/O psychologist typically works in an office. However, they may tour a production or manufacturing work area in order to observe the workers doing their jobs. They may hold meetings in conference rooms or conduct observations in cafeterias and other parts of a workplace.

The typical work settings of I/O psychologists include:

  • production and manufacturing facilities
  • human resources departments
  • corporate headquarters
  • colleges and universities
  • scientific research centers or laboratories

An I/O psychologist may also work in a government agency. A few spend 50% or more of their time traveling to satellite work locations. These individuals usually have a home office at the corporate or agency headquarters.

Six Specializations of Industrial Organizational Psychology

Specializations of Industrial-Organizational Psychology

There are six specializations of industrial organizational psychology. These are:

  • employee motivation
  • employee testing
  • leadership
  • product design
  • workplace diversity
  • workplace performance

An I/O psychologist who specializes in employee motivation works on psychological principles that motivate people to do their jobs better or faster. In the employee testing specialty, the psychologist administers tests to determine which worker is best for which role in a company. Those who specialize in leadership typically train managers on good management techniques and help executives hone their leadership skills.

In the product design area of I/O psychology, the organizational psychology expert works on the development of consumer goods. The workplace diversity specialty involves helping businesses with hiring practices that encourage a diverse workplace. They also offer employee training on diversity in the workplace. An I/O psychologist who specializes in workplace performance examines and implements ways to improve the processes and environment for more efficient and effective work.

Job Outlook for IO Psychologists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected rate of growth for jobs in I/O psychology is 4% between May 2021 and May 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations in the United States. There will be about 12,800 more jobs in all areas of psychology, including 100 industrial and organizational psychology. An organizational psychologist who has a lot of experience and training in quantitative research methods will have the best prospects of gaining employment.

Which Industries Hire the Most I/O Psychologists?

Most of these jobs are concentrated within five economic sectors or industries. Those include:

  • scientific research and development services
  • management scientific and technical consulting services
  • state government
  • federal government
  • management of companies and enterprises

These industries account for about 40% of all industrial and organizational psychology jobs.

States With the Most Jobs in Industrial organizational Psychology

The I/O psychology jobs are concentrated in just a few states. The states with the highest employment numbers in industrial and organizational psychology are:

  • California- 490 of these jobs
  • North Carolina- 70 of these jobs
  • Massachusetts- 40 of these jobs
  • Oregon- 40 of these jobs
  • Ohio- 40 of these jobs

Another way to look at the states with the most jobs in I/O psychology is by location quotient. Location quotient is calculated by the number of workers in all occupations divided by the number of industrial organizational psychology jobs. The states with the highest location quotients for I/O psychology jobs are:

  • California- a location quotient of 3.23
  • Oregon- a location quotient of 2.53
  • North Carolina- a location quotient of 1.67

Metropolitan Areas With the Most Industrial Organizational PsychologY Jobs

Metropolitan Areas With the Most Industrial and Organizational Professional Psychology jobs

Most jobs in industrial-organizational psychology are located in metropolitan areas. The highest total number of industrial organizational psychology jobs in the United States are in the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim metropolitan statistical area. The highest concentration of industrial and organizational psychology jobs is also in this area, with a location quotient of 2.88. Not many industrial organizational psychology jobs are located outside of metropolitan areas. There is not enough data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report concentrations outside of metro areas.

Median Annual Salary of Industrial organizational Psychologists

The median annual salary is the midpoint of all salaries of people in an occupation if they were placed on a line. Half of all workers earn less than the median amount, and half earn more than the median amount. The median annual salary of I/O psychologists was $139,280 as of May 2022.

  • The lowest-paid 10% earned $72,490 per year
  • The lowest-paid 25% earned $85,990 per year
  • The highest-paid 75% had a median annual salary of $209,630
  • The highest-paid 90% earned more than $210,030 per year

Mean Salary and Wage Growth for I/O Psychologists

The mean, or average, wage of all I O psychologists was $144,610 per year. The expected rate of wage growth is 3.7% per year, which is much faster than the national average wage increase.

Highest-paying Industries for I/O Psychologists

Some industries pay I/O psychologists more than others. The top-paying industry in which these psychologists work is scientific research and development services, with a mean annual salary of more than $162,000. Rounding out the top five-paying industries for I/O psychology jobs are:

  • local government- average annual salary of $111,700
  • management of companies and enterprises- average annual salary of $101,600
  • management, scientific and technical consulting services- average annual wages of $96,000
  • state government- average annual salary of $72,100

Top-paying States for IO Psychologists

The states with the highest rates of pay for industrial-organizational psychologists are:

  • California- $145,410/year
  • Pennsylvania- $91,530/year
  • Maryland- $70,600/year
  • Oklahoma- 62,490/year

When considering the pay, it’s important to compare it to the cost of living. The cost of living in Oklahoma is much less than the cost of living in California.

Top-paying Metropolitan Areas for I/O Psychologists

The metropolitan area with the highest average annual wage for I/O psychologists is Washington, D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, VA. This area’s average annual pay for these psychologists is $170,420. Keep in mind that this area also has a high cost of living. In particular, housing costs are 240% of the national average in the Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington metropolitan area. Transportation is 135% of the national average, and groceries are 114% of the national average. For example, the cost of living in Oklahoma City, OK, is 48% lower than the cost of living in Washington, D.C. If a person earned $170,000 as an industrial-organizational psychologist in Washington, D.C., a salary offer of just $88,000 would allow them to have the same quality of life in Oklahoma.

How to Become aN IO Psychologist

A person who is curious about corporate psychology and thinks this might be a good career fit for them should consider their personality traits and characteristics. Some of the key qualities that are required for success in an I/O psychologist job include:

  • integrity
  • analytical ability
  • communication skills
  • the ability to observe
  • interpersonal skills
  • patience
  • problem-solving skills

Most industrial organizational psychologists examine the data they collect and use it to draw logical conclusions, which is why they need analytical skills. They must also be able to communicate well so they can speak with employees or managers and describe their findings. Integrity is also necessary. Sensitive problems occur in the workplace, and they must maintain confidentiality of those situations and the people involved.

Every workplace has different personalities in it, and each place of work has a different culture. The I O psychologist should be good at working with people of all backgrounds and personality types. They should be able to observe attitude and behavior in an objective way. This includes understanding:

  • body language
  • facial expression
  • actions
  • interactions

Patience is a key virtue for an I/O psychologist. Conducting research and waiting for change can take a long time. These psychologists also need to be good at solving problems. They will have to:

  • design research studies
  • evaluate training programs
  • implement solutions to common workplace issues

Education Required for IO Psychology Jobs

Once a person understands the meaning of organizational psychology, the next step is planning the educational path to qualify for one of these jobs. A doctoral degree is required for an I/O psychologist. The options for this include a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. For an undergraduate degree, most industrial and organizational psychologists major in psychology, but some may study business, human relations or a related field. Statistics and research design methods are important courses in a program for I O psychologists.

Certifications for IO Psychologists

Most I/O psychologist jobs require at least one professional certification as well as state licensure to work as a psychologist. The available certifications include those from the American Board of Professional Psychology. Each state has its own licensing and registration requirements. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards offers a list of each state’s educational and professional guidelines.

In addition to the required degree, most I/O psychologists will have to:

  •  pass a state licensing exam
  • submit to a criminal background check
  • earn continuing education units

These requirements are necessary in order to maintain their license to practice as a psychologist.

Work Experience and Training for an I/O Psychologist

Work Experience and Training for an Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Before a person can practice independently as an I/O psychologist, they have to complete a clinical training program or internship. These training programs typically involve working under the supervision of a licensed practicing I/O psychologist. Each state’s requirements for training or internship hours are different. The training program may take place before the doctoral degree is earned or after the candidate graduates with their doctorate in psychology. If the training takes place beforehand, it often counts as credit toward the degree.

Work Schedules and Hours for I/O Psychologists

Familiarity with what is an organizational psychologist also includes knowing about the typical work schedules of the professionals who work in the field. Most I/O psychologists work 40 hours per week during business hours. However, an urgent situation in a workplace, such as an act of violence or a natural disaster, might require the psychologist to work evenings, weekends or holidays.

For I/O psychologists who work at a large corporation, they may have to travel from the corporate headquarters to satellite locations. This may also be the case for government psychologists who monitor workplaces and employees of multiple government agencies.

Concluding Thoughts

Organizational Psychology is a growing and relevant field. It is an excellent option for those interested in psychology but not wanting to work in the clinical setting. As long as there are companies with diverse individuals working on a common goal, there will be a need for organizational psychologists.

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