What is an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist?

The American Psychological Association (APA) states that an industrial-organizational psychologist is someone who scientifically studies employment-based organizations. This field of psychology strives to define and analyze the complex principles of individual, group and organizational behavior. The ultimate goal is to apply scientific knowledge to improve work spaces, resolve labor problems, increase employee efficiency and minimize human resource issues. Many academic and research settings will require a doctoral degree in industrial-organizational psychology.

Academic Qualifications

There are virtually no undergraduate degrees offered in this advanced and specialized field of psychology. Many universities do offer a Master of Science in Industrial-Organizational (I/O) psychology that provides them with a fundamental grounding in applicable theories and applications. Due to the fact that the field of industrial-organizational psychology encompasses a wide range of scientific pursuits and applied outcomes, most programs produce both researchers and practitioners.

After graduation, students will understand the values of both academic and applied research. They will be able to identify the practical needs of organizations and help them benefit from scientific methods and findings. Graduates will be able to translate theory into real-world skills, solutions and interventions. They should understand how to support human capital programs and talent management initiatives for a broad range of business audiences.

Career Specializations

Industrial-organizational psychologists may be generalists who help consult and help companies with common problems, but they may also be specialized practitioners who focus on certain areas. These typically include human resource fields such as personnel management, which includes appraisal and discipline, and turnover management, which includes hiring, screening and selection. These two fields often involve job analysis, performance metrics and productivity measurement.

Organizational training may focus on employee or management development. Pure psychology topics may include research design, statistical analysis and data collection. Academics often focus on survey design, analysis, administration, feedback and interpretation. General management topics include job motivation, satisfaction, productivity and team building. Most of these careers are in medium to large sized corporations, HR firms and research centers.

HR Consultant

Many HR consultants are actually trained psychologists with HR experience. They support the design, development and implementation of industrial-organizational tools and applications at work. For example, a company with high levels of turnover and employee dissatisfaction will help their employers with job analysis, workforce planning, competency modeling, program evaluation, workforce analytics and leadership development.

Companies that want to promote more internal staff into higher positions will focus on staff mentoring, career development, technical expertise exchanges and human capital administration. HR consultants must first establish effective client relationships to provide optimal solutions and support. They will use both new and established approaches and methods to identify and solve complex problems. They will implement research techniques to collect and organize qualitative and quantitative data.

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Industrial-organizational psychologists should have at least three to four years of experience in professional work environments with data analysis and advanced statistics. They should have excellent policy research, technical writing, basic consulting and workforce training skills. Employers will expect them to be prepared to contribute to multidisciplinary management teams through producing objective facts, scientific analyses, technical reports and peer-reviewed articles.

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