Industrial/ Organizational Psychology
Ph.D. and MS Degrees
Graduate School Planning and Information
What Is I/O Psychology?
psychology, in brief, is concerned with the scientific structuring of
organizations and of work to improve the productivity and quality of life of
people at work. For most of us, time at work accounts for a very large chunk of
our lives. It made a lot of sense to me that somebody in psychology ought to be
looking closely at this facet of life and its impact upon other life domains.
The field of I/O psychology is certainly a very applied field, but many I/O psychologists also address relatively basic research questions. In other words, I/O psychologists very much want to produce solutions to problems in the workplace, but they also usually want to develop a fuller understanding of life at work to produce a solid scientific knowledge base. I/O scientist/practitioners like being in an environment that has problems that need to be solved, but they also like to discover and collect scientific facts about work and organizational settings that they can apply to problems yet to be faced. There is a lot of justification for this kind of activity because, quite frankly, the world of work is such a fast-moving target of study that many issues are hard to anticipate.
Traditionally, I/O psychologists have focused on understanding individual behavior and experience in organizational settings. That is, the worker has received the most attention. This, of course, continues today. Today more than ever, however, I/O psychologists explicitly acknowledge the importance of considering the whole work system. For example, they conduct research at the group and organizational levels of analysis as well as at the individual level. Also, they formally address the impact on work of environmental factors such as labor markets, economic conditions, and governmental regulations. In fact, operating within a systems approach to understanding people at work has allowed I/O psychologists to contribute to cutting-edge issues in the design of work. For example, I/O psychologists have contributed to the design and development of team-based organizations and have developed strategies for designing organizational structures for work that are flexible enough to ride through turbulent environmental times.
What Do I/O Psychologists Do?
They might be doing basic or applied research in these areas or actually
implementing solutions to problems found across these areas of specialization.
Broadly put, I/O psychologists are scientists, consultants, teachers, and often, something of a combination of all three of these. I/O psychologists don various titles depending upon their places of em-ployment, specializations, and interests. I/O psychologists also often work in more than one organizational setting. For example, many professors do consulting work for organizations outside of their employing institution. A number of I/O psychologists employed in research organizations or private industry choose to teach in colleges and universities on an adjunct basis.
What Is the Right Career Path for You?
"right choice" really depends on what you like to do. If you like to
travel a lot and live at a fairly fast pace, then life as an external
consultant might be for you. If you like to teach and do research, then you
might find a career in higher education appealing. Many I/O psychologists have
chosen to work in management departments rather than psychology departments.
There is usually a financial advantage to this choice. However, many other I/O
psychologists see an advantage to working among psychologists who specialize in
other areas of psychology in a psychology department. If you primarily like to
do research, you'll make a different career choice than if you like to train,
evaluate, produce, and sell I/O psychology products.
Of course, you may find that you like to research, teach, and consult. There are jobs out there that require different skill mixes to suit your interests. You need to think about what you like to do, however, to know the kind of job with the kind of mix that might interest you.
Becoming an I/O Psychologist
To become an I/O psychologist you are going to have to go to graduate school. How long it takes to become an I/O psychologist after getting your undergraduate degree depends on what degree you are seeking and how steadily you work at completing your graduate education. Generally, it will take about two to three years to obtain a master's degree and then an additional two to three years to earn a doctoral degree. The type of degree you earn plays a significant role in determining what kind of jobs you are qualified to hold. The majority of I/O psychologists have doctoral degrees. You will find them at work in any of the areas of I/O psychology mentioned earlier. I/O psychologists with master's degrees, however, often find themselves in organizational settings that emphasize the more traditional I/O areas of personnel psychology, training, tests, and measurement
One of the advantages of being an I/O psychologist is that there are so many different sorts of jobs and settings in which you can work. We often divide jobs into academic (university professors) versus nonacademic or practitioner jobs. In a general sense academics conduct research and teach, whereas practitioners apply principles of the field to problems of organizations. However, there is a great deal of overlap, in that academics often practice, and practitioners often teach and do research. Academics work primarily in colleges and universities, whereas practitioners work in a variety of settings, including consulting firms, government agencies, the military, and private corporations. Many operate from their own private offices as consultants, selling their services to organizations.
It is difficult to describe an "I/O job" as they are so varied. However, it is possible to give an overview of typical jobs and tasks that I/O psychologists do. Below I will describe what a university professor's job is like, and what a practitioner job is like. Keep in mind that within each of these categories, there can be a lot of variability.
About a third of U.S. I/O psychologists are academicians. They work for both colleges and universities. There are three areas of responsibility: research, teaching, and community service. The first two are the most important, and depending upon the institution, greater emphasis will be placed on research or teaching. Large universities will normally emphasize research whereas smaller colleges emphasize teaching (which is one reason many students prefer to attend smaller liberal arts colleges where the faculty put most of their efforts into teaching). At many large research oriented universities, faculty do little teaching at all (leaving that to their doctoral students), spending most of their time doing research and writing grant proposals. These are "publish or perish" institutions that place a great deal of pressure on their faculties to conduct research, and see that as their greater (but not only) mission.
The typical university professor is expected to cover all three areas. This makes for a busy and varied job, and requires a lot of juggling of many different projects/tasks. With many demands, it is rare to have long periods of time on which to work on a single project or task. However, there is a great deal of latitude in how professors conduct their work, as they receive no day-to-day supervision. They might have their classes assigned by a department chair, but the rest of their activities they decide themselves. This high level of autonomy is a major reason many I/O psychologists decide to pursue an academic career where they can follow their own interests.
These jobs are more varied than a professor job, and tend to be more specialized. Whereas the scope of practice might be even larger than the scope of academics, most practitioners tend to work in a limited area. For example, one practitioner might do only research while another might only conduct employee surveys. This makes for a wide range of different types of jobs.
Practitioner jobs can be placed into two broad categories--consulting and in-house. Consultants sell specific services to various organizations, much like accounting or law firms sell their services to various clients. These psychologists might be in their own single-person private practices or in large consulting firms that employ hundreds of people (e.g., Development Dimensions International, DDI or Personnel Decisions International, PDI). In-house psychologists work for a single organization as an employee. These include both private companies and government agencies including the military.
Specific Tasks: Although it is unlikely one person would do all of these things, this is a sample that represents the variety of I/O activities.
1. Meet with clients or managers to discuss the nature of a problem/project (e.g., the turnover rate among employees is too high)
2. Conduct interviews or send out questionnaires to employees to determine the nature of their job tasks
3. Design a psychological test that assesses a job skill
4. Conduct a study to determine if a test or procedure is effective in achieving it's objective (e.g., does a new test predict who can perform their jobs well?)
5. Analyze data (usually done with computer, e.g., SAS or SPSSX)
6. Write a technical report
7. Present results of a project to a group of managers
8. Meet with potential clients to sell services
9. Conduct a study to determine what training is needed.
10. Design a training course for employees
11. Conduct a training session for employees
12. Evaluate the effectiveness of a training course
13. Conduct sessions with groups of employees to help them resolve conflicts
14. Survey employees to determine how they feel about their jobs
15. Conduct structured interviews of potential employees to ascertain their suitability for hiring
16. Testify in court as an expert witness
17. Train others in how to implement new procedures that were developed (e.g., how to use a new test for employee selection)
18. Score results of tests and other selection tools and write reports of candidate suitability
19. Write a proposal for a project
20. Supervise a function (e.g., employee training and development) or people
21. Provide advice and assistance to managers in the organization
22. Help implement a new method or procedure (e.g., a new employee reward system)
23. Figure out a solution to an organization's problem (e.g., too much employee absence)
In addition practitioners will often do the same tasks as professors, often teaching as adjunct instructors at universities, conducting and publishing research, and performing community service to both the profession (e.g., SIOP) and the general public.
An I/O Career
Most I/O psychologists in the U.S. have a Ph.D. (things are different in many other countries). It is possible to have a practice career but not an academic with an M.A. in the field, but opportunities for advancement are fewer and salaries are lower without the Ph.D. Academic careers require a publication record of research articles. Since few practitioners consistently publish results of their work (and most don't often conduct publishable research), academics and practice tend to be two distinct career paths. A doctoral student must begin to publish to achieve an academic position, and a practitioner must maintain a reasonable publication record to make a transition to academia. In most cases decisions made early in the career, often in graduate school, determine the career path, and few switch.
At the current time, career opportunities are excellent in the field, and there are few unemployed I/O psychologists in the U.S. The field has been getting increasingly popular, as more and more people have been applying to a growing number of graduate programs (as of this writing there are about 100 in the U.S., about 2/3 Ph.D. and 1/3 M.A.) Salaries tend to be higher for practitioner jobs than academic, as professors pay a price for their greater autonomy. However, professors are able to make up the difference with part-time consulting and other activities (e.g., writing books).
How Can You Tell If An I/O Career Is For You?
This is always a tough question. Keep in mind that at its core, I/O is a scientific field that is devoted to discovery and application of scientific principles to human problems in the workplace. What makes us a little different from many scientific fields is that we are an applied science. Thus we have both a scientific and a practitioner side (much like engineering). Although some I/O psychologists might do primarily one or the other, we are trained to be both scientists and practitioners. The training and the nature of the work tends to be technical, requiring a strong background in methodology and statistics.
Planning For a Career in I/O Psychology at SDSU
Recommended Methods Classes:
Complete Psy 301 (Intro. Research Methods) and Psy 410 (Lab in Exp. Psychology), but
Student may decide to take only Psy 410 if he/she has a strong academic record and
preparations in statistics classes.
Recommended Breadth Classes:
*Psy 350 (Abnormal psych) *Psy320(Personal and Indus. Psy.) *Psy 380 (Cognitive)
*Psy319 (Into to I/O) *Psy340 (Social Psy) *Psy 321(Organizational Psy)
Recommended Elective Classes:
*Psy 499[Research Lab( 2 Semesters)] *Psy470 (Intermediate Stats)
*Psy 497[Research Lab(1 or 2 Semesters)] *Psy 370 (testing & Measur.)
*Psy 351 (Psy of Personality) *Psy361(Neuropsych) *Psy344(Psy and culture)
*Show strong preparation in statistical and methodology classes, i.e. A’s and B’s in statistics, Testing and Measurement, and Experimental Psychology.
*Students need a GPA of approximately 3.0 overall or in all coursework, and a GRE score of around 1200 in Verbal and Quantitative combined to be competitive for this graduate program. More prestigious programs require higher scores and masters programs somewhat lower. Lower GRE’s can sometimes be offset with other accomplishments, e.g. high grades and research productivity.
*Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D should get involved in research programs such as McNair Scholars Program, Career Opportunity in Research(COR), and The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC). These programs help:
Enhance students graduate school profile
Provide students with mentors in their chosen disciplines
Give information about universities, scholarships, and fellowships
Supply scholars with money stipend to conduct research
Give them the opportunity to publish research
Present their findings at research and professional conferences
Phone: (619) 594-7195
Room Number: GMCS 321C
McNair Scholars Prog.
Phone: (619) 594-1473
Room Number: GMCS 322D
Address: 6505 Alvarado RD. Suite 110
Phone: (619) 594-6915
Industrial/ Organizational Psychology graduate programs in the United States
*Cal State Univ., Chico *Cal State Univ.,San Bernardino *Michigan State Univ.
Psychological Sciences: MS Industrial Organizational: Indus/Organizational Psy.:
http://www.csuchico.edu/catalog http://psychology.csusb.edu// http://io.psy.msu.edu/
*Portland State Univ. *San Francisco State Univ. *Washington State Univ.
Indus/ Organizational Psy: MS in Indus/ Organizational Psy: Ph.D in Experimental Psychology:
http://www.psy.pdx.edu/ http://online.sfsu.edu/~iopsych/ http://www.wsu.edu/psychology/2002
*Colorado State Univ, *Cal State Univ, Long Beach *John F. Kennedy Univ.
Industrial/Organizational Psy.: MS Industrial/organizational Psy: Organizational Psychology:
http://www.colostate.edu/Depts http://www.csulb.edu/~psych/gradprgm/ http://www.jfku.edu/psych/mao.html
*Montana State Univ. *Northern Arizona Univ. *San Jose State Univ.
MS in Applied Psychology: Department of Psychology: MS in I/O Psychology
http://www.montana.edu/ http://www.nau.edu/grad_cat/ http://psych.sjsu.edu/grad/io/index.html
*Southern Oregon Univ. *San Diego State *Virginia Tech.
Masters in Applied Psychology MS program objective & Emphasis : Indus/Organ. Psychology:
http://www.sou.edu/psych/ http://www.psychology.sdsu. http://www.psyc.vt.edu/grad/io/
*Alliant International Univ. *University of Idaho
Organizational Program: Department of Psychology: