Where do Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Work?

Job Settings for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Ten Places Where Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Are Likely to Work

If you’re studying to be an industrial-organizational psychologist, you’ve made an excellent choice. These psychologists are in high demand. Better yet, they are in high demand in a wide range of work settings and bring in an above average salaryAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the mean annual wage for an industrial organizational psychology professional is $113,320/year.  

This branch of psychology deals with human behavior and interactions in the workplace.  IO psychology is a recognized specialty area of professional psychology.  IO psychologists apply psychological principles to solve problems in the workplace.  Problems that might arise between:

  • workers
  • workers and management
  • workers and the physical work environment itself

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The ultimate goal of an industrial organizational psychologist is to make these interactions as smooth and effective as possible. This means you will work with others on:

  • improving communication and workplace behavior
  • minimizing and resolving conflicts
  • improving management techniques

Additionally, an industrial-organizational psychologist would be most likely to study the areas of:

  • professional competence
  • human behavior
  • industrial processes
  • operational practices
  • organizational development

IO psychologists can help improve how a company operates by identifying problems in these areas.

While the job settings for IO psychology professionals are varied, the same methods are used for bringing about positive change. For example, you will use quantitative research methods to determine the best practices for a company’s operation. As another example, you will develop educational programs that teach workers how to be more effective at their job.

Industrial organizational psychology professionals have a lot on their plate.  Their job responsibilities might include:

  • improving employee productivity
  • enhancing employee-employer relations
  • developing job applicant screenings
  • increasing the quality of the workplace

So where do industrial organizational psychologists work?  Knowing where an IO psychologist is likely to work could help you decide if this is the area of specialty for you. You can narrow down the field of potential job locations so you can focus your studies on applying industrial organizational psychology principles to specific workplace settings.

Let’s have a look at some the settings you can find industrial organizational psychology jobs.  

Corporate Headquarters

Corporate HeadquartersLarge corporations are likely to employ their own industrial organizational psychology experts in order to enhance the workplace environment. Additionally, IO psychologists are employed in this setting to increase employee satisfaction and make the processes and procedures in the company more efficient.

Businesses that are on the Fortune 500 list are likely to have their own in-house industrial-organizational psychologists. In this setting, psychologists are likely to work in the main office at the corporation’s headquarters. They may make observations and create recommendations for improvement after traveling to

  • satellite offices
  • manufacturing facilities
  • production or fulfillment centers 

Smaller companies might not have their own industrial psychology expert. In this case, they might hire an I/O psychologist that’s in private practice. In this situation, the psychologist would come on board as a consultant and deliver the same services as an in-house employee would. Ultimately, the goal is the same – to improve the manner in which the organization operates.

Labor Unions

Labor UnionsAnother job setting for industrial and organizational psychology is a labor union.

Labor unions promote and facilitate fair working conditions for employees. An industrial organizational psychology professional employed by a labor union may meet with workers and management to:

  • understand problems 
  • create recommendations or action plans for solving those problems
  • assist with the implementation of those plans

To do so, an industrial and organizational psychology expert might observe the working conditions in manufacturing plants and create an improvement plan. If a union feels that management is not listening, the IO psychology professional may work as a mediator to help the union and the company’s management come to a mutually beneficial resolution.

Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare facilities have to be efficient, safe and effective. This can be a challenge given the number of employees in big hospitals.

For example, a large university hospital could have thousands of employees.  All of them are essential to patient safety and care. An industrial organizational psychology professional who works in a healthcare facility like this might meet with different types of workers and observe the different processes and procedures that take place within the facility.

So, as an I/O psychologist in a hospital, you might observe the workings of the maternity ward. You might:

  • interview nurses in the ward
  • talk to the obstetricians
  • use those interviews as a springboard for identifying potential problems

If problems are uncovered, the next step would be to determine methods for resolving those problems. If, for example, there seems to be a lack of communication between the doctors and nurses on the floor, your solution might be to suggest workplace training that focuses on communication.

Additionally, you might make recommendations for improving efficiency in the maternity ward by consolidating tasks through the elimination of redundancies. As another example, you might promote a safer and more effective environment for mothers and babies by suggesting a change in the layout of delivery rooms.

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Government Agencies

While the terms “government” and “efficient” might not seem like a proper pair, many government agencies employ industrial organizational psychology professionals to streamline operations. This is true of agencies at all levels, from local to state to federal.

The tasks associated with working in this job setting are pretty straightforward. You would work with people both inside your agency and outside the agency as well. You might:

  • design research projects
  • carry them out
  • report the findings to your superiors

In addition to research and writing technical supports, you might be asked to monitor agency work to ensure it follows:

  • directives
  • guidelines
  • policies
  • laws

Promotions within the agency might also come down to your evaluations of employees and your recommendations regarding their ability to succeed in a higher position.

Manufacturing and Commercial Enterprises

You might wonder which type of psychologist would help to improve work productivity?  Industrial organizational psychology professionals can help manufacturing and commercial enterprises improve worker productivity!

In this type of job setting, an industrial-organizational psychologist might assess employee job performance. So, in evaluating the work of an assembly line worker, you might examine how many products they are able to advance through their station in a given period of time. If the worker’s output doesn’t meet company standards, you could work with that employee to help improve their workflow for increased productivity.

Additionally, I/O psychologists in the manufacturing and commercial spaces train and motivate the employees. As an example, you might develop a training program for new hires that helps them understand company policies and goals. Another example would be helping the business hire the most qualified employees for specialized jobs by creating a screening protocol for job applicants.

Industrial-organizational psychologists in this job setting might also research consumer behavior. Doing so will help the company understand the types of products or product features that the buying public wants. Likewise, they might conduct research on ways to improve the ergonomics of the workplace in order to cut down on on-the-job injuries.

Recruitment Centers

Recruitment CentersUsing their training in organizational principles, an I/O psychologist can work in recruitment centers to screen job candidates for positions.

Whether they work for an independent recruiter or are contracted by a specific company, I/O psychologists that recruit job applicants to approach the job in much the same way. They might:

  • develop interview questions or techniques to screen applicants
  • evaluate an applicants’ skills to see how well they fit for a particular job
  • train others in recruitment techniques

Other tasks revolve around the screening process. For example, you might develop structured interviewing techniques or pre-screening tests for job applicants. You might also create executive assessments to determine which recruits might be the best fit for management and executive positions.

Colleges and Universities

Many industrial organizational psychology professionals work in academic positions and research. In that setting, they may conduct research on:

  • consumer behavior
  • worker behavior
  • management activities

Conducting scientific research involves writing research proposals in order to secure funding for a specific project.

Those projects are then carried out under the banner of the college or university where they are employed. The goal of scientific research is to contribute to the greater knowledge-base of industrial organizational psychology. An additional goal is to have the research published in a peer-reviewed journal.

At colleges and universities, I/O psychologists might also act as consultants on specific projects. In this capacity, you might work full-time as a college professor, but also lend your expertise to a non-profit organization that needs your services to streamline how their organization is run on a day-to-day basis.

In the college or university job setting, an industrial organizational psychology professional may also teach students. Their classes could include topics such as:

  • labor relations
  • unions
  • organizational structures

To be a college or university teacher in this field, you would need at least a master’s degree, and often must have a doctoral degree.

Marketing Firms

Where do I/O psychologists work?  They can work in the field of marketing!

In addition to traditional tasks like conducting research and improving workplace conditions, industrial organizational psychology professionals in this field work with consumers.

Part of this work is consumer research. For example, you might evaluate the buying behavior of a specific demographic, like stay-at-home dads. In evaluating how target markets spend their money, you can better inform marketing professionals when, where, why, and how they should market their products to that target market.

Additionally, you might research consumer behavior based on their:

  • geography
  • marital status
  • age
  • family size

Breaking down consumer behavior into small categories like this gives a lot of firepower to marketing firms for getting their products and services front and center with consumers.

Human Resources

Human Resources are a Job Setting for Industrial-Organizational PsychologistsWhether in a large multi-national company or a small, locally-owned business, you’ll find that their human resources department is often staffed with an industrial-organizational psychologist.

Just like in many of the other job settings listed here, I/O psychologists in a human resources setting have many duties that revolve around employee recruitment and retention.

Many industrial organizational psychologists spend a large part of their job in human resources:

  • developing applicant screenings
  • creating pre-employment tests
  • testing interview questions 

But so too would working with current employees. For example, you might help resolve a conflict between two employees that are not getting along at work. You might be asked to evaluate employee training procedures.  An industrial organizational psychology professional in human resources could help the employees understand the root of a problem using:

  • conflict resolution skills
  • team building
  • motivational interviewing techniques

They would equip employees with the tools needed to resolve the problem.

In some cases, you might be asked to terminate employees as well. Though this is a difficult task, your training as a psychologist can help you deliver the difficult news in a professional and supportive manner.

Private Practice

As noted earlier, sometimes industrial organizational psychology professionals work in private practice. In this case, they often consult with businesses and other organizations to provide their unique services to their clients.

Working in private practice as an IO psychologist certainly has its advantages. You can choose who you work for. You can also determine your work schedule, to a degree. While you will likely need to accommodate occasional work requests from clients on nights and weekends, your private practice can most often operate on a traditional 8-5, Monday-Friday schedule.

Another aspect of being in private practice is this – you can do it with just a master’s degree. While many of the job settings on this list require a doctorate (or at least strongly recommend one), working for yourself means that you don’t necessarily have to have a higher degree. While there are plenty of bachelor’s degree programs in IO psychology, you’ll really need a master’s degree to work in the field.

Which Job Setting is Right for You?

When answering the question, “Where do industrial psychologists work?” you’ll notice there are many commonalities between these job settings for industrial organizational psychology professionals.

Your daily routine might be a little different in a human resources department than in a manufacturing facility, but at the end of the day, your tasks remain relatively the same. Your goal is to enhance the workplace, and with an education as an IO psychologist, you have the means to do just that.

Often, when deciding where to work, we focus on things like:

  • the salary
  • how far the commute is
  • the working hours

And while these are all important, it’s also necessary to choose a job setting that feels right. In other words, making a lot of money working in a place you hate to be is not going to be as rewarding as earning a little less money in a job setting you love.

With the information presented above, you should have a clearer picture that answers the question, “Where do IO psychologists work?”  Use this information to guide your educational path.  It will help you make an informed decision about:

  • continuing your education
  • getting work experience
  • finding the ideal job setting 

Sean Jackson

B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming

M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming

B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts

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