How to Break Into Industrial Organizational Psychology

September 11, 2019

Industrial Organizational Psychology

Industrial organizational psychology professionals apply psychology to large organizations and the behavior of individuals and groups who work within them. The profession has risen in stature as companies search for better ways to both retain skilled workers and improve workplace efficiency.

Breaking into this field requires the combination of extensive education in psychological theory and practical experience in applying psychology to the workplace. Industrial Organizational (I/O) psychology professionals typically graduate from a Master of Science in Industrial Organizational Psychology program that offers them both.

What Do Industrial Organizational Psychology Professionals Do?

I/O psychology professionals take psychological theory and research methods and apply them to the workplace. They are experts in assessing issues such as worker productivity, how management styles and company culture impact productivity, and ways to improve employee morale. The goal in I/O psychology is to improve workplace productivity while creating a better quality of work-life for employees.

Because of their expertise, executives often tap IO psychology professionals for their knowledge to design workplaces, create employee policies, and develop training programs for both management and employees. Issues can include disparate training strategies, lack of motivation for employees and inaccurate job assessment techniques

Forward-thinking businesses see I/O psychology professionals as key to remaining a competitive company. Gina Possin, an assistant professor of psychology at Marian University, said that while I/O psychology has been around since the 1930’s it is a relatively new career field in many businesses.

“Businesses are realizing the benefits of using psychological principles, backed with statistical evidence and research, throughout the workplace to improve the lives and performance of employees and employers,” Possin said.

The Educational Path For I/O Psychology Professionals

The minimum required degree for an I/O psychologist is a master’s degree. Some also pursue a doctorate. Earning a graduate degree opens the door for I/O psychology professionals to work in many fields. They include healthcare, finance, manufacturing, government, and marketing and communications.

The Marian University master’s degree program in I/O psychology is offered online. It allows students flexibility in when they do schoolwork and provides a better balance between a professional career and graduate school.

The program allows students to develop strong skills in the areas that are key to success in I/O psychology. According to, these include:

  • Complex decision making and sound judgement
  • Critical thinking
  • Systems analysis and evaluation
  • Deductive and inductive reasoning
  • Problem sensitivity
  • Fluency of ideas
  • Research
  • Data analysis

Students in the program also develop social and global perspectives that reflect current ethical and legal standards. Students also must complete either a thesis or practicum experience.

Thesis vs. Practicum Experience

Marian University’s master’s program in I/O psychology offers students the option of either writing and presenting a thesis or completing a series of practicum courses.

The practicum requires 225 hours of on the job experience that culminates in a portfolio of work samples. The thesis project involves proposing, designing, implementing and analyzing research on a topic in I/O psychology.

In general, a thesis track is better for those who want an academic career or a position in research. The practicum is more beneficial for those who want an applied career in the field.

Thesis topics can include any workplace behavior or system such as:

  • Motivation
  • Leadership
  • Job satisfaction
  • Organizational commitment
  • Organizational citizenship behavior
  • Reward systems
  • Hiring practices
  • Training
  • Diversity
  • Workplace bullying
  • Social loafing

As for practicums, many companies need interns. Marian University also contacts area businesses to let them know students are available for a practicum. If students are already in the workplace, Marian University can develop a practicum project that students can do in their current job.

I/O psychology, while not a new field, is one that is growing as employers try to make workplaces more efficient and more welcoming for employees. The skills learned in a master’s program prepare graduates to excel in this rewarding career.