The workplace is changing rapidly. A year and a half of working remotely, furlough, and a nationwide conversation about the minimum wage caused a big shift in the way that many people think about their work and career.
What exactly were those shifts? How does this mindset change affect workplace behavior or the decision to apply for a job in the first place? What can employees do to accommodate changing attitudes about working from home and make their place a desirable one to work?
The answer requires that we tap into the mind of employees - and psychologists are here to help.
But I’m not talking about just any psychologist. Industrial/organizational psychology is a field of study that deals with workplace behavior. If this combination interests you, you might want to consider a career as an industrial/organizational psychologist.
What does an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Do?
Industrial/organizational psychologists, also known as I/O psychologists or operational psychologists, use their knowledge of psychology and behavior to improve the workplace. They focus on issues ranging from communication to hiring to ergonomics with the goal of increasing satisfaction throughout a company.
Not all industrial/organizational psychologists focus on the same issues. While one psychologist may be hired to work in human resources and build a strong team for a company, another one may be focused on researching healthy workplace behaviors. I/O psychologists are even needed when designing and distributing ergonomic tools in the workplace, from furniture to technology.
Every company wants their employees to be happy, if not productive and efficient. I/O psychologists can tap into the mind of employees, understand what makes them tick, and share their insights with employers to change policy, culture, and overall workplace behavior.
Depending on where you go to school for industrial/organizational psychology, you might be able to get a nice job with a Master’s degree. Industrial/organizational psychologists don’t always work in positions with this exact name - they may become a “business development consultant” or a “change management professional.” As you finish your Master’s degree, you will probably have a better idea of what type of job interests you and whether or not you should continue with school.
Some, but not all, I/O psychologists do stay in school and obtain a doctorate’s degree. This requires more work, but it can increase your chances of asking for a higher salary or getting jobs that fit exactly what you want to do, study, or change in the workplace.
Good news for anyone who wants to pursue this career - it’s one of the best-paying psychology jobs that you can get! Private corporations who can afford to hire someone with this speciality see the value that they bring to the table. This means that it’s very possible to receive a six-figure salary. Of course, salaries will vary based on where you live, how long you’ve been working in the field, and what types of corporations or organizations you prefer to work with. These numbers will give you an idea of what you can expect on the lower and higher ends of the payscale.
IO Psychologist Reported Salary
Schools for Industrial/Organizational Psychology Degrees
In order to reach a six-figure salary, you’ll need to get a top education focused in I/O psychology. The following schools have some of the best programs in the country!
- Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)
- Appalachian State University (Boone, NC)
- San Jose State University (San Jose, CA)
- University of Nebraska (Omaha, NE)
- Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ)
- California Baptist University (Riverside, CA)
- University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
- University of Georgia (Athens, GA)
- University of Hartford (West Hartford, Connecticut)
Companies That Hire Industrial/Organizational Psychologists
I/O psychologists aren’t just working with C-suite employees of Fortune 500 companies. They might conduct research related to workplace issues, work alongside unions to develop healthy workplace policies, or lobby for better protections for employees. I/O psychologists may find themselves at any of these organizations:
- Commercial enterprises
- Colleges and universities
- Research facilities
- Healthcare facilities
- Labor unions and activist organizations
- State and local governments
Interviews from an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist
As you go through college, internships, and other milestones on your way to your career, you will hear from many industrial/organizational psychologists about why they chose this field and how they spend their days. But why wait? There are a lot of interviews with industrial/organizational psychologists online that you can both read and watch!
Read through what it’s like to go through an industrial/organizational psychology program or watch an I/O psychologist talk about a day in her life. Dive even deeper by searching through the I/O psychology subreddit to hear real questions and insights from I/O psychologists working in their field.
Don’t have much time? Take a quick five minutes to hear from multiple i/o psychologists about their careers and why they picked their field.
Famous Industrial/Organizational Psychologists
I/O psychology has only been around since the Industrial Revolution, but the psychologists in this field have clearly made an impact on the workplace and the world of psychology as a whole. We can thank psychologists like Max Weber and Hugo Munsterberg for starting the conversation about how we can apply psychological principles to the workplace.
But strides in I/O psychology did not stay in Germany with these names. Carol Dweck, for example, is well-known for her contributions to I/O psychology through her research on the growth mindset.
Arthur William Kornhauser is known for his focus on mental health and well-being, especially when it comes to labor unions.
Gary Namie is the founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. His research shows not only that bullies exist off the schoolyard, but they are also found in most workplaces. By identifying bullies and targets, people can stand up to bullying at work and prevent the dangerous effect that this has on employees.
Angela Duckworth, author of Grit, has used her knowledge of psychology to understand what it takes to reach your long-term goals, both in and out of the workplace.
Industrial/Organizational Psychology Examples
As you know, there is a lot of ground to cover when it comes to improving the workplace and elevating employee well-being. So not all I/O psychologists do the same thing. On any given day, an I/O psychologist might be:
- Conducting assessments of employees to see where they can improve at work
- Consulting government officials on the effects of specific workplace policies
- Researching how different computer software improve productivity
- Teaching undergrad students about basic concepts in I/O psychology
- Working directly with an HR director to hire a strong team