What Is I-O Psychology?

Woman working in the industrial-organizational psychology field, focusing on enhancing workplace performance.

Successful industries and organizations know that to remain ahead of the competition they need employees who can increase the organization's performance and productivity. To reach that goal and to stay focused on their employees' wellbeing, businesses seek professionals who are familiar with industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology to design, develop and evaluate training and performance initiatives.

What Is I-O Psychology?

I-O psychology is the study of human behavior in work settings. It's similar to other subfields of psychology in that it has an academic/research perspective and an applied/practice perspective. Some who work in the industrial-organizational psychology field prefer to focus on conducting research to better understand work behavior. Others prefer hands-on opportunities, such as helping companies select and train employees; helping organizations to change and innovate their policies; and helping businesses design and launch programs to enhance workplace performance. These hands-on opportunities are also informed by research, so it is important for those who work in I-O psychology to be well versed in the literature in order to provide evidence-informed recommendations.

Is I-O Psychology Right for You?

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers a Master's in Industrial-Organizational Psychology (IOP).

Those who pursue the online industrial-organizational psychology (IOP) concentration come to SNHU with varied professional and academic backgrounds. You may already have an undergraduate degree in psychology, business, human services, criminal justice or education. If you currently have a human resources-related job, the IOP concentration can help you obtain knowledge and skills in analyzing IOP research and applying the research and theories to your current work.

The course material in the online industrial-organizational psychology concentration is distinct from the other two concentrations offered in the master's degree in psychology program: child and developmental psychology and forensic psychology. The online industrial-organizational psychology concentration is centered on relationships between employee and employer, which is inherently fascinating when you think about how much time we spend in the workplace during our lives.

The psychological aspects of the relationship between employer and employee can either make an employee happy and productive, disgruntled and unproductive or something in between.

The online industrial-organizational psychology concentration gives you the opportunity to explore the different aspects of this growing subfield of psychology.

Jillian Palladino first started her online master's degree in psychology with a concentration in child and development psychology. She said, "After some thinking and experiencing, I realized the industrial-organizational program is better suited for me." Palladino graduated with the master's degree in psychology with a concentration in IOP in 2016.

Career Opportunities in I-O Psychology

An important distinction between IOP and human resources management (HRM) is that IOP focuses on applying psychological research to problems in the workplace, whereas HRM focuses on helping organizations meet strategic goals.

You'll find HR positions a good fit if you want to apply what you learn from the IOP research toward improving employee and organizational effectiveness.

Other potential career avenues include consulting, leadership development, employee retention, teaching, life and work skills management, advertising and marketing analyst, corporate trainer, health services coordinator, public affairs liaison, talent manager, and career planner, among others.

If you want to become an industrial-organizational psychologist, the master's degree with industrial-organizational psychology concentration is an important step in that direction. You'll need to complete a doctoral degree in I-O psychology to become an I-O psychologist. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) is an excellent resource for students who want to pursue I-O psychology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of industrial-organizational psychologists is projected to grow 19% through 2024.*

An SNHU Online Industrial-Organizational Psychology Concentration

There are four IOP concentration courses offered within the MS in Psychology with a concentration in Industrial-Organizational Psychology program.

The courses include Motivation in the Workplace, Psychology of Leadership, Organizational Consulting, and Seminar in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Graduate Psychology Lead Faculty member Dr. Thomas MacCarty has taught all four courses. He's received positive feedback from current and former students, who appreciate the convenience of the online courses. Course materials are presented just as they would be on campus. Students recognize the value of MacCarty's knowledge of the subject matter and appreciate his willingness to share relevant and personal stories.

When Meshia Wright transferred into the online master's degree in psychology with the IOP concentration from a classroom setting, she didn't anticipate needing more flexibility than what the online program already offered. But with three weeks to go before the end of a semester with two classes, Wright suffered a stroke. With her SNHU adviser's support, she was able to get extensions for her classwork while she went through extensive rehab. She said, "I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue going to SNHU. I'm more than confident to know they'll help me to obtain my master's degree."

The IOP concentration courses offer several opportunities for you to engage with fellow students through discussion boards. The final projects provide you with authentic scenarios that you may face in the workplace.

Lessons, such as those in Motivation in the Workplace, can have a positive impact on both professional and personal relationships. You retain the benefit of being able to refer back to course lessons and notes as you move forward in your career.

Course resources include a heavy emphasis on research articles, since you should be immersing yourself within the research and learning how to analyze and interpret results for your final project, and, ultimately, for your workplace.

MacCarty said, "I try to use a variety of modalities when teaching a course. I always bring in other videos to help in the learning process. I also provide links to other written material that may be of help to students during a given week or put them directly into the course announcements. I also provide applicable videos into the discussion boards. I am readily available by e-mail ... and have office hours ... if students wish to call me directly."

If SNHU's online psychology degree with a concentration in industrial-organizational psychology sounds like a good fit for you, learn more by contacting the admission team now to get started on your future.

*Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.

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