5 Interesting Industrial-Organizational Careers to Consider
The field of industrial-organizational psychology examines the strategic behavior of firms, market competition, and employee and consumer behavior. I/O psychologists consider topics like recruitment of employees, employee training and development, and group theory as primary to their research and job-related tasks. These are wide-ranging areas in which to study and work, to say the least.
But the benefit of that is that there is also a wide range of interesting careers in this field. Whether you’re looking for an entry-level position, a career as an executive, or something in between, you can find a job in industrial-organizational psychology that fits just about any level of education and expertise.
Below are some examples of industrial-organizational careers you might consider as you head to college or look forward to your graduation.
Human Resources Manager
A human resources manager is typically responsible for recruitment, onboarding, and training new employees. Additionally, they will often oversee benefits administration, handle employee relations, supervise payroll functions, and handle policy implementation at their place of employment.
Furthermore, human resources managers usually handle affirmative action complaints and ensure that the business or organization for which they work are compliant with employment laws and regulations.
Of particular interest in today’s workforce is identifying the unique knowledge, skills, and talents of employees and prospective employees. This is important because it allows employers to pair employees with jobs that are best suited for their abilities, thereby increasing the likelihood that the employee has success on the job.
Of course, the more successful an employee is at their job, the more likely they are to be happy in their position, motivated to work, and stay with the company for a longer period of time. This benefits the company as well – the happier employees are, the more productive they will be, which reduces costs. Likewise, the longer employees stay with a company, the less turnover there is and the fewer expenses there are for things like recruiting and training new hires.
So, working as a human resources manager, you can have significant impacts not only on the individual success of employees but also on the actual bottom line of a company.
The term “human resources manager” is sort of a catch-all term for a number of different careers in human resources. Some of the most common human resources manager positions include:
- Payroll managers – Payroll managers oversee employee compensation and ensure that paychecks are processed in a timely fashion.
- Recruiting managers – Recruiting managers are responsible for recruiting new hires. They are traditionally in charge of hiring new employees and managing a team of recruiters as well. Much of this job is about competition for the best employees with other companies. As a result, recruiting managers must devise effective strategies that allow the company to be competitive for the best employees.
- Employee relations managers – Employee relations managers usually deal with labor-related issues like contracts, benefits, and wages. They might oversee labor-related complaints made by employees. They usually oversee grievance procedures as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), qualified candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree for this position. In some cases, a master’s degree in human resources, I/O psychology, or a related field is necessary to compete for the best positions.
In terms of skills, human resources managers need effective verbal and written communication skills, strong interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and the ability to work independently.
As of May 2020, the median annual income for a human resources manager was $121,220. The pay range – which varies based on education and experience, among other factors – extends from a low of $71,180 up to more than $200,000 per year.
A very broad definition of a project manager is someone that initiates, plans, executes and controls projects from start to finish.
Two of the most important aspects of project management are managing costs and sticking to timelines. This makes their position one of extreme importance to businesses and organizations. If a project goes over budget or extends far past a timeline, it could mean a significant increase in the output of time and money.
A project manager typically meets with stakeholders to clarify specific requirements of the project before it begins. They delegate tasks to junior associates, analyze the performance of employees, and keep track of short- and long-term goals.
Additionally, project managers make adjustments to the budget and timeline based on financial analysis, inspect work done to date, and continually develop leadership skills.
Qualified candidates usually need a bachelor’s degree, though in some cases, a combination of education and work experience might qualify you for a position.
Project management requires a unique set of skills. You need to have excellent communication skills and be able to manage a team. You should have strong analytical and problem-solving skills, be decisive, have the ability to resolve conflicts and be able to manage a budget as well.
According to Northwestern University, the median salary for project managers in 2017 was $116,000. The pay range extends from a low of $90,000 to a high of $140,000. Again, where you fall on this continuum depends on education and experience, among other factors.
Market Research Analyst
A market research analyst gathers and analyzes data on consumer behavior to help companies market their products. To do so, a market research analyst uses surveys, focus groups, and interviews to gather information on consumer preferences. This data is then used to help companies create effective product introductions, modifications, and marketing campaigns.
Other job responsibilities include:
- Forecasting sales trends
- Evaluating the effectiveness of marketing strategies
- Using statistical software to analyze data
- Prepare and present detailed reports to superiors and clients
Given these job duties, it’s important for market research analysts to have excellent analytical skills. Additionally, you should have strong written and verbal communication skills, a deep understanding of statistics, and some measure of training in information technology.
Other skills and aptitudes that are beneficial for this position include:
- Ability to work well as a member of a team
- Leadership skills
- Critical thinking skills
Marketing research analysts usually work for consultant firms who are contracted to work for other companies. However, some large companies often have their own market research analysts on staff. Either way, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in marketing, information technology, statistics, psychology, or a related field.
As of May 2020, the median annual salary for market research analysts was $65,810. The pay scale ranges from a low of $35,380 to a high of $127,410. While the higher end of the pay scale represents a very good income, you can expect a lower salary at the beginning and middle of your career than you would get with some of the other careers on this list.
However, this career is predicted to have explosive growth through the end of the decade. In fact, the BLS estimates that employment of market research analysts will increase by 18 percent through 2029. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. So, while the pay might not be as good as some of the other jobs listed here, the prospects for jobs in the near future is very good.
Effectiveness consultants assess organizational design and workforce performance to maximize productivity and minimize costs. In this regard, they can have a significant impact on the output of money by a company for its workforce.
Effectiveness consultants often coordinate with executives, managers, and various other high-level stakeholders to develop and implement solutions that will achieve corporate goals. For example, if a company is suffering from reduced productivity on an assembly line, an effectiveness consultant might work with line managers to identify sticking points that are slowing down production.
This industrial-organizational career also involves conducting research on topics related to human resources. For example, you might investigate the educational and work experience of a company’s employees, and then make recommendations on ways to most effectively utilize those human resources.
Effectiveness consultants will even help various departments develop human resources policies and training programs. So, if new employees report that their training regimen is “boring,” or “too long,” or “too hard to understand,” an effectiveness consultant might work with other HR employees to develop a more streamlined and engaging training process.
Qualified candidates will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is often preferred. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a related area, you might be able to use that with a combination of work experience to qualify for a master’s level position.
Effectiveness consultants need to be team players, align interventions with organizational goals, have strong leadership skills, and demonstrate effective written and verbal communication skills to be successful. The ability to manage a team, resolve conflicts, and analyze problems is also important.
According to PayScale, the average base salary for an effectiveness consultant is $80,386 per year. The pay range extends from about $56,000 per year up to $133,000 per year.
Like the other careers on this list, the pay you earn has a lot to do with your education and experience. A person with a master’s degree and no experience has a reasonable expectation that they will earn more than a person with a bachelor’s degree and no experience.
For effectiveness consultants, experience has a lot to do with salary. In the first four years of employment, you can expect to earn around $67,000 per year. But after 20 years on the job, you might earn well over $125,000 per year.
Learning and Development Manager
Learning and development managers help organizations increase the value of one of their most important assets: their human capital.
To do so, learning and development managers need to assess gaps in employee performance and expectations and align employee skill sets with organizational goals. They develop and implement programs and learning strategies that can include seminars, e-learning, workshops, and individual career plans, the goal of which is to maximize the ability of an employee to do their job well.
In this regard, this position is a lot like the effectiveness consultant discussed earlier. The primary difference is that effectiveness consultants tend to take a macro or organizational view whereas learning and development managers tend to focus on the micro or individual view.
As part of their job, learning and development managers often need to maintain training budgets, procure training materials, and maintain good working relationships with consultants and vendors. Learning and development managers also are key in succession planning, or the process of identifying workers that will take the place of other workers that are retiring, transferring, quitting, and so forth.
Qualified candidates for this position typically must have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, psychology, education, or a related field. You will need to understand learning styles, multi-modal training methods, and leadership development. You should also have excellent written and verbal communication skills, the ability to work with a wide range of people of varying levels of education and experience and manage a budget.
The average reported salary for this job is $90,388. Depending on your education and experience, you might earn anywhere from $80,624 to $102,456 per year. Again, the more education and experience you have, the more you can expect to earn.
Which Industrial-Organizational Career is Right for You?
Building a career in the industrial-organizational field can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor. Most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree, but with experience, these entry-level positions can evolve into managerial or executive industrial-organizational careers.
However, don’t just set your sights on the minimum education required. These jobs are all about maximizing employee performance, so it stands to reason that you should explore all the educational and work experience you can to be as prepared for one of these careers as possible. With some additional education – perhaps a certification or an internship – and a few years of work under your belt, you could find that in a few years’ time you’ve worked your way up to a well-paying management position.
Of course, these jobs aren’t just about how much money you can make. Instead, careers in this field allow you to help other people become better employees, realize their potential, and help their employers meet their goals. These are satisfying careers, to say the least. The money you can earn is just a bonus!
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
Updated June 2021
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