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How do I Become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

Industrial-organizational psychologists visit businesses to provide direct counseling to employees as well as consulting services for management. They analyze issues that affect productivity, profits, and worker attitudes, and devise strategies on how to improve them. A person who wants to become an industrial-organizational psychologist is usually required to obtain at least a master's degree in the specialty from an accredited university. Previous experience in business and counseling settings can be very helpful in landing a job with a consulting firm, large corporation, or government office.

An individual who wants to become an industrial-organizational psychologist can gain a fundamental understanding of the profession by enrolling in a four-year bachelor's degree program. An undergraduate usually takes several courses that cover general psychological principles, historical research findings, and practical applications in counseling settings. Many students who plan on pursuing industrial-organizational psychology careers choose to take additional classes in business administration.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, an individual can begin applying to accredited graduate schools that offer degrees in industrial-organizational psychology. By researching different schools online and visiting campuses in person, a prospective student can learn about tuition, admissions requirements, and what each program has to offer. A guidance counselor at the student's undergraduate school can help him or her organize application materials and settle on a graduate program. Admissions coordinators usually receive many more applications than available spots, and they typically select students with the strongest grades, recommendation letters, community involvement, and personal essays.

Once an individual is accepted into a school, he or she can meet with department advisers to design a degree plan. In order to become an industrial-organizational psychologist in most settings, a student needs to complete a two-year master's program. Some people choose to further their understanding and credentials by pursuing a four-year doctoral degree. A student typically spends the first half of a program in standard classroom settings, receiving detailed lectures about industrial-organizational principles. The latter half is dedicated to practical internships and independent research about relevant topics.

A graduate can choose to become an industrial-organizational psychologist at a specialized consulting firm or a large company that staffs full-time mental health experts. Most new psychologists work under the supervision of established professionals for several months or years to learn practical skills. Many countries require professionals to pass written licensing exams upon the completion of supervisory periods to confirm their knowledge of legal, ethical, and practical matters. Earning a license allows a person to officially become an industrial-organizational psychologist, free to practice independently.

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Discussion Comments


Can this specialty be used to study an organization from the inside without the knowledge of co-workers and supervisory staff?

Like in an undercover setting?


Sunny27 - I know that most management consultants that I have seen have an MBA in business administration with significant management experience.

The MBA helps because many of the management consultants are brought on board to reduce costs and eliminate unnecessary jobs.

Through the use of sophisticated business calculus equations management consultants can determine the optimal productivity levels thereby recommending which jobs should be eliminated.


Subway11 - This is a really interesting field and many people really want to know how to become an industrial organizational psychologist because it is a field that most people can relate to.

There are many aspects to enhancing productivity in a workforce which makes this a fascinating subject.

Understanding motivation and how making small changes like adding additional lighting or buying more ergonomic furniture for the employees will often yield a spike in their productivity which is important to note.


I know that when I was in college my management professor was an industrial organizational psychologist.

He had a PhD in psychology from Princeton. He specialized in increasing workplace productivity and wrote a book called, “Making the Workplace a Worthplace.”

He said that as a consultant he traveled constantly and was always intrigued by how people felt about their jobs.

He added that more than half of Americans disliked their jobs and proof of this is when Americans refer to Wednesday as hump day which makes it half way through the work week.

He felt that fact that Americans had to refer to the middle of the week as ‘Hump Day” in order to get through the week was proof of American’s disdain for their jobs.

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