What Does an Industrial Organizational Psychologist Do?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The study of human behaviour provides opportunities to specialize in many areas, such as educational, forensic, or developmental psychology. A thriving area of psychology specialization is industrial or organizational psychology. Learning about the duties of an industrial organizational psychologist can help you decide if this is a career you wish to pursue. In this article, we discuss the job description of an industrial organizational psychologist, identify the steps to working in this profession, and uncover the skills, working conditions, and average earning potential of this job.

What does an industrial organizational psychologist do?

If you're interested in a profession that deals with human behaviour, you may wonder, "what does an industrial organizational psychologist do?" Industrial and organizational psychologists study dynamics and behaviours within the workplace. This field of psychological study, also called I/O psychology, focuses on the interactions, management, and conduct of individuals, groups, and entire organizations. They work with businesses, corporations, offices, and industrial work environments to provide mental health support for employee satisfaction and productivity. An I/O psychologist consults with business owners to create and improve positive working environments.

Some of the primary duties of an industrial organizational psychologist include:

  • increasing business efficiency and productivity

  • improving job satisfaction for employees

  • studying the behaviour of consumers

  • evaluating data to analyze the effectiveness of workplace programs

  • conducting research work environment studies to assess the way organizations function

  • developing psychological tests, interviewing techniques, and rating scales for hiring practices and employee promotion

  • identifying training and development requirements within an organization

  • counselling employees regarding job performance, career-related issues, and workplace skills

How to become an industrial organizational psychologist

There are several steps to consider when becoming an industrial organizational psychologist, including several levels of educational requirements. Each province regulates the profession of psychology, which requires certification and licensing before you can practice. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree in psychology

The first step to becoming an industrial organizational psychologist is to complete a bachelor's degree. Many post-secondary facilities across the country offer a bachelor's degree in arts or science, majoring in psychology. The four-year undergraduate program prepares you with the basics of psychological theories and methodology. In addition, social sciences, math, and statistics lay a foundation for psychology, while human resources or business administration classes help provide further insight into industrial and organizational development.

Related: Jobs You Can Do With a Psychology Degree

2. Complete a master's degree

Once you complete a bachelor's degree, you can apply to graduate school to complete your master's degree. Within your master's degree program, you can get a master's degree in arts (M.A.) or a master's degree in science (M.Sc.) focusing on I/O psychology. During your two-year program, you learn about research methods, advanced statistics, along with specialized training in organizational and industrial psychology. As a graduate program student, you also typically complete a significant project to defend in front of a committee.

Once you complete your master's degree, you may practice psychology in certain provinces, depending on the regional regulations. In some regions, you can work in various settings with a master's degree, such as schools, government healthcare centres, or mental health facilities. For example, you may work as an assessment psychologist, research administrator, or consultant.

Related: How to Become a Psychologist in Canada

3. Consider gaining work experience

After earning your master's degree, you may consider gaining work experience before pursuing a doctoral degree. This can provide exposure to psychological work in real-world situations, allowing you to practice your skills and techniques. In addition, this time is helpful to build your professional network of other mental health providers and potentially meet a mentor who can help you shape your career. Finally, depending on the province you live in, this work experience may apply towards your supervised internship required for licensing.

4. Complete a doctoral degree

Many professionals continue their academic studies to complete a doctoral degree. As an industrial organizational psychologist, you can pursue a Ph.D. in either experimental or clinical psychology. During this educational time, you complete various courses, with most of your time dedicated to individual research. You use this research to write your doctoral dissertation before defending your paper to a panel of experts.

Doctorate programs are highly competitive to ensure students receive maximum benefit from the experience. Students applying to doctorate programs can increase their chances of selection by completing internship programs, volunteering in research studies, and maintaining a high grade point average (GPA) in their master's degree classes.

5. Complete supervised work experience

Many provinces require psychologists to complete supervised work experience or internships before receiving their license. The number of hours of clinically supervised experience depends on each jurisdiction, so ensure you check with your local association in the province you are practicing in.

You also want to focus your internship experience on your area of specialization, such as industrial work environments or corporate settings. Alternatively, you can focus on specific organizational practices, such as hiring and recruitment, or operational management psychology. For example, in Alberta, they require candidates to complete a minimum of 1,600 hours of supervised practice before taking the licensing exam.

6. Pass provincial licensing exams

Once you meet all your province of practice requirements, you can apply to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP. Most areas across North America use this standardized test to ensure that psychologists have the necessary education, experience, and skills to provide proper mental health services. Depending on your region, you may also take other courses or exams on topics such as professional ethics and the legal requirements of psychologists. Upon passing the EPPP test, you can apply for a license to practice in your home province. You are now an I/O psychologist.

What skills does an industrial organizational psychologist need?

A competent industrial organizational psychologist needs a combination of skills to perform the duties and responsibilities of their position. Some of these skills include:

Program design

An I/O psychologist can help organizations to create and design workplace programs. These programs can comprise employee training and development, new employee onboarding, or workplace policies and procedures. Based on the company's needs, the psychologist can provide suggestions and guidance for creating or improving programs that help employees be more productive, have higher job satisfaction, or improve talent retention.

Related: 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They are Important at Work

Emotional intelligence

As with any specialty in human behaviour, a successful I/O psychologist has developed emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, manage, and navigate the emotions of yourself and those around you. This is a critical skill when working to improve employee happiness, productivity, and effectiveness. Identifying challenges and obstacles while remaining emotionally stable is vital to providing leadership and direction to others in a business environment. An I/O psychologist may respond to potentially sensitive topics and require emotional intelligence to ensure that all parties feel heard and understood.

Problem-solving and critical thinking

Successful I/O psychologists are keen problem-solvers and have exceptional critical thinking skills. Businesses hire them to identify problems within the organization and develop viable, long-term solutions. For example, if an organization is experiencing a high employee turnover rate, it can hire an I/O psychologist to identify the core issue. The psychologist may conduct employee interviews, study current hiring and onboarding practices, and evaluate the corporate culture to determine the underlying problem. They then provide consultation into various changes the organization can make to improve employee retention.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

What are the working conditions of an industrial organizational psychologist?

Industrial or organizational psychologists work in a variety of settings. Most often, they work in an office or research environment. You can find I/O psychologists working in human resources departments, consulting with organizational management and executives, or as independent consultants or coaches. Other I/O psychologists work as researchers in colleges, universities, or other academic facilities to continue developing their theories. The working hours of an I/O psychologist depend on their employer, with most working a standard workday during the week. They may require overtime or occasional evenings or weekends.

Average salary and outlook

The average salary of an industrial organizational psychologist varies depending on geographic location, company, skills, experience, and work setting, such as a research facility, private practice, or corporate worksite. According to Indeed Salaries, the national average wage for an industrial organizational psychologist is $55.76 per hour. The career path of an industrial organizational psychologist looks vital for the next several years.

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the availability of psychologist jobs over the next three years looks fair to good across the country. They expect a shortage of qualified candidates to fill an increase in positions in the next 10 years. This makes becoming an industrial organizational psychologist a great profession.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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