What Jobs Can You Get With a PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology?

What exactly is an industrial organizational psychologist? Industrial organizational (I-O) psychologists use their vast insight into human behavior to solve problems within the workplace and to improve productivity. This specialty field uses psychological principles and research methods to improve quality and productivity in all types of work environments. I-O psychologists work to solve workplace problems such as low morale, poor management, and low productivity, to name just a few. They also work with company leadership on things like organizational development, policy planning, employee screening, and training. Industrial organizational psychologists work to improve the workplace by applying principles and theories that have been sharpened through years of research. 

You might be wondering, “What can I do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?” Check out our list below of work possibilities in this exciting and growing field. 

What can I do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?

1. Behavior Analyst

An industrial organizational psychologist’s main role as a behavior analyst encompasses assessing problematic behavior in employees. I-O psychologists focus on measurable and observable employee conduct, and they develop strategies to change their behavior. By considering environmental factors and other influences in the workplace, the analyst can understand and predict behavior to help achieve company goals. These analysts may work directly for a company or in research to study employee behavior and influences, with the goal to improve employee behaviors that would affect productivity and retention. Through the analysis of previous research, the analysts present action plans to improve efficiency in a wide variety of businesses. In addition to employee behavior, I-O psychologists analyze consumer behavior trends to help companies understand what drives consumer decisions. 

2. Human Resources Executive or Manager

Many with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology find satisfying work in Human Resources (HR). These professionals may work in HR with responsibilities such as training employees, mediating conflicts within the workplace, assessing and evaluating employee performance, interviewing potential employees, and hiring new employees. The I-O psychologist working in HR works to maintain or develop a culture of teamwork, respect, growth, and efficiency that benefits the employee and employer. The HR executive plans and coordinates HR initiatives throughout the organization. They create an environment with policies in place to attract top talent and retain valuable workers to help the organization meet its goals. Other roles of someone with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology working as a HR professional may include things like helping companies adjust to new management during company reorganization or mergers, being a liaison between employees and upper management, firing employees, and developing programs to improve employee satisfaction. Consider this career if you are asking the question “What can I do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?”

3. Executive Coach

With a PhD in industrial organizational psychology, you have the answers that companies seek when it comes to the direction of a company and development of employees. Executive coaches typically consult with high-level executives to expand their managerial and organizational skills and help move their company forward. Executive coaches work with individuals and teams to analyze their company’s direction and improve their company’s performance. This important role may include working with mid-level management and lower-level employees to develop and encourage ownership and get ideas for changes in the organization. Regardless of the level of the people they’re working with, the executive coach works to assess workers, encourage professional development for workers, improve job performance, and develop strategies to achieve work-related goals. 

4. Engineering Psychologist

What can you do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology? Here is another option. Engineering psychologists typically work on understanding the physical work environment and human interaction with new technology and innovations. These professionals apply I-O psychology principles to provide organizations with recommendations for designing people-friendly workplace environments that make the workplace safer and more enjoyable. Engineering psychologists may also analyze consumer interaction with products and places by collecting and interpreting data on user experiences. This analysis can drive change to improve work spaces, interaction with technology, and interaction with consumer products, which in turn can increase profits for a company or industry. 

5. Policy Officer

I-O psychologists in this position are experts that assess the effects of organizational policies on productivity and performance within the organization. These policy officers respond to needs for change in policies within an organization and keep meticulous records of both these changes and their outcomes. Policy officers can work in a very wide range of industries, including media, lobbying, and government or corporate campaigns, among others. Through the application of I-O psychology principles and theories, policy officers are able to give accurate and persuasive advice to a variety of sector policymakers in a timely fashion. They can be counted upon to identify and develop strategic policies for the organization. 

6. Research Psychologist

Someone with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology may gravitate toward research, and work as a research psychologist may turn out to be a satisfying role for those who are trying to answer the question, “What can I do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?” Research settings can include colleges and universities, governmental agencies, military organizations, large or small businesses, and non-profit organizations. Researching company-wide practices to improve quality, productivity, and employee satisfaction can be a satisfying job as an I-O psychologist. Using this research to develop effective policies and procedures that increase productivity and worker satisfaction can pave the way to profitability. Researchers may look at individual employee behavior, small groups within the organization, or the entire organization. Research psychologists may also write articles for academic journals and magazines. 

7. College Professor

Academia is yet another professional option for someone with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology. College professors are highly trained professionals. If you are interested in this field, you may want to research industrial organizational psychology graduate programs rankings to help you locate top industrial and organizational psychology graduate programs. College professors may teach, do research in their field, write, or do a combination of all three. Typically, an academic career in industrial organizational psychology follows time working in the “real world” with a job as a professional industrial organizational psychologist. College professors draw on their professional experience to enrich the classroom environment. A work history of 5-10 years as an industrial organizational psychologist will be sure to provide sufficient background to be meaningful in the classroom. Teaching courses in business, psychology, and business research to the next generation can be a satisfying job for someone with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology. 

8. Trainer

Someone with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology may find satisfying work as a corporate trainer. These trainers are expected to provide education to help develop a well-trained workforce within a company. Trainers may educate employees about their job role, job expectations, productivity, and other important information. While trainers often work with new employees during their initial orientation with a company, they also help guide employees through changes within the company, help with motivational strategies, and help bolster employees during corporate mergers or systems revisions and updates. This is yet another option for those seeking to answer the question “What can I do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?”

9. Public Relations Specialist

With a PhD in industrial organizational psychology, your understanding of complex human behavior can be very helpful in a public relations career. As a public relations specialist, your expertise helps companies understand what their customers want, helps companies meet their target markets, and helps companies and organizations develop and maintain a good public image. As a public relations specialist, you can expect to help identify customers’ needs, develop marketing messages that consumers can relate to, and evaluate public opinion. Mitigating any negative public responses to the organization will also fall to the public relations specialist. 

10. Industrial Organizational Psychology Consultant

With a PhD in industrial organizational psychology and professional experience in the field, becoming a consultant may be an excellent work path. Consultants can expect to meet with organizational leaders to discuss organizational development, employee training, staff evaluations, recruitment, management changes, and compensation issues, to name just a few topics. Consultants may have their own private consulting practice, or they may be employed by a consulting firm. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to earn a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?

PhD programs in industrial organizational psychology typically require between 60 and 69 credits. Full-time students can expect to complete this PhD program in three to seven years. This is typically not offered in an accelerated format. Programs usually have a specific amount of time that they must be completed in, so if you are completing this PhD degree on a part-time basis, consult your program to map out your academic progress within the timeframe needed. 

What should I consider when looking at a PhD program in industrial organizational psychology?

When looking at PhD programs in industrial organizational psychology, first confirm that the program and institution are accredited. This accreditation ensures a quality program that is respected in the workplace. Accreditation impacts eligibility for federal financial aid and credit transferability. The cost of the program is also a big consideration, with in-state and out-of-state tuition to consider, as well as possible financial aid from the institution. The specifics of the program, such as field experience, courses required, and time to complete the program should all be considered carefully. I-O psychology program rankings can be helpful when searching for the top industrial and organizational psychology graduate programs. 

Is it cheaper to pursue this degree online compared to on-campus?

This all depends upon the program. While some top I-O psychology PhD programs offer a special rate for online degree programs that is typically the equivalent of in-state tuition, many do not. Some top industrial and organizational psychology graduate programs offer a special discounted rate to students in the military, discounts for international students, or a flat rate for online programs. Check with your program of interest to find out the specifics of their costs for online programs. 

Is the field of industrial organizational psychology growing?

If you’re investigating occupations with strong employment outlooks, industrial organizational psychology may be your ticket. With an anticipated growth rate of over 13% over the next 10 years, industrial-organizational psychology is predicted to be one of the fastest-growing fields of psychology between 2020-2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

How much does a Doctor of industrial organizational psychology earn? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for an industrial organizational psychologist in May 2020 was $112,690. The lowest 10% of earners made $57,440, while the top 10% of earners made $192,800. Check out bls.gov for more information on wages and job outlook for this growing profession. 

What are common characteristics of people who pursue I-O psychology?

I-O psychologists typically deal with various areas of psychology. Social psychology, experimental psychology, business, and statistics are just a few areas that the I-O psychologist deals with regularly. People in this exciting field often enjoy the practical application of psychological research in the workplace. 

Where do industrial organizational psychologists work?

I-O psychologists can expect opportunities in a wide range of settings, including manufacturing plants, health care systems, education systems, labor unions, private agencies, and government agencies. I-O psychologists can also be consultants to companies needing their services. 

What kinds of things can an industrial organizational psychologist be expected to do on the job? 

These professionals are called upon to conduct psychological research and apply it within the workplace, train employees, work with HR on problem solving, increase business efficiency, help in company transitions, provide consultation on ergonomics to maximize performance, and enhance employee and employer quality of life. The I-O psychologist applies research in the workplace in a practical way. 

What are the professional organizations for industrial organizational psychologists?

There are a number of professional organizations serving industrial organizational psychologists, with the leading organization being the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). This active organization keeps members up-to-date through their publications, and it provides information on internships and job opportunities. In addition to SIOP, I-O psychologists may find the American Psychological Association (APA) useful. Other organizations that may be useful for those in this profession include: the Emotional Intelligence Consortium, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Society of Psychologists in Management, and Society for Human Resource Management. 

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By Carol Dolan BS RN BSN CDCES

May 2021

Carol graduated with her BS in Nutrition from Montclair State University and her BSN in Nursing from Rowan University. She is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) currently working with adults and children living with diabetes in both outpatient and inpatient settings.

This concludes our article answering the question “What can you do with a PhD in industrial organizational psychology?”