When NASA entered the early stages of planning for a manned mission to Mars that may launch as soon as 2030, they began assembling teams of engineers, astrophysicists and technology specialists. The folks at NASA turned to a group of psychologists at the University of Central Florida to conduct research into how best to select and train a team for the actual mission, and what an optimal workspace for that team might look like. As the American Psychological Association (ASA) detailed in March of 2013:

“Dr. Eduardo Salas and several other industrial-organizational psychologists are using NASA funding to conduct research that helps inform the team selection and training for the agency’s mission to Mars.”

NASA isn’t alone in relying on the expertise of I/O psychologists. In today’s rapidly evolving and intensely competitive world economy, it’s incumbent upon CEOs, personnel managers, business analysts and human resource departments to confront challenges rooted in organizational psychology. Why, for example, do some companies outperform other similar companies that offer equivalent products and services? What are the best strategies for managing these companies, hiring and training new workers, and promoting from within? And how can businesses, corporations, and other complex organizations increase job satisfaction and worker productivity, while fostering stability and encouraging innovation in the workplace?

That’s where professional industrial-organizational psychology comes into play.

Online and on-campus industrial-organizational psychology programs

Devising practical solutions to the above-mentioned pressing challenges is the domain of a very special kind of behavior scientist, the I/O psychologist. Using the theories and methods of psychological research, I/O psychologists consult with corporate leaders, business owners, and workforce managers in efforts to create better, more efficient, and more humane work environments (and, in Florida, they’re also helping NASA figure out how to get to Mars). Learn more about I/O degree options here:


Certificates and other non-degree awards come in many shapes and sizes, but many of those available to aspiring I/O psychologists are at either the post-baccalaureate or post-master’s level. Some schools design I/O certificates for students in related fields — like general psychology — who want to specialize in industrial-organizational psychology; others aim to expand upon I/O graduates’ or professionals’ skills and knowledge. While program lengths tend to vary by school and purpose, they often range from 6 months to two years. Because certificate programs often cater to working professionals, flexible evening, weekend and online courses are common, as are accelerated programs that fit coursework into eight weeks or less.

Industrial and organizational certificates created for students in different fields tend to begin with foundational courses in areas like developmental and applied psychology before advancing to I/O-geared coursework. Programs designed for recent graduates and professionals, on the other hand, are I/O-intensive, beginning with courses like Organizational Behavior and Culture. States that require I/O psychologists to complete continuing education courses for license renewal may accept credits from I/O certificate programs.

Notable industrial-organizational psychology certificate programs

San Diego State University

San Diego State’s Certificate in I/O Psychology program is designed for non-degree seeking students who want to work in organizations, helping businesses become more efficient and successful. Students will learn the theories and evidence-based practices that could improve human resources, management and organizational behavior. They will also learn how to research and study work environments scientifically. While these skills are commonly taught in most I/O certificate programs, SDSU’s program makes them uniquely accessible: as part of the school’s Open University program, courses are open to high school students, students attending other schools, working professionals and others without the need to register. Open University programs do close once full.

  • Department: San Diego State Department of Psychology
  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Online Options: San Diego State’s I/O certificate is not available online. The university does, however, offer a series of online professional development courses that might be helpful for industrial and organizational psychiatrists, including Workplace Conflict, Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace and more.

Associate degrees

Associate programs in industrial-organizational psychology are rare, so most students major in psychology and specialize their majors as they pursue more advanced degrees. While associate degrees are not a required stop on the industrial-organizational psychology career path, they can provide an excellent, lower-commitment introduction to the field. They can also prepare students for a few entry-level psychology careers in human service, addiction, and psychiatric assistance, under the direction of qualified mental health professionals. Another reason to begin with a psychology associate degree: research suggests that students who begin their training at two-year community colleges can reduce their college bill considerably.

Students pursuing associate-level psychology programs take a combination of general education classes and major-specific coursework in areas like general psychology, abnormal psychology and human development. One might earn an Associate of Arts, an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science degrees. Many two-year institutions offer transfer-geared psychology associate degrees, though terminal degrees for psychiatric assistants are also quite common.

Notable industrial-organizational associate degree programs

Bunker Hill Community College

Bunker Hill Community College’s associate of art in psychology is a fully-online or on-campus degree program designed for transferability — a helpful feature considering Massachusetts is home to a number of top-ranked psychology schools, including Boston University, MIT and Harvard. BHCC psychology students balance general education courses with foundational psychology courses like the Principles of Psychology, the Psychology of Personal Adjustment and Introduction to Behavioral Research. Bunker Hill offers online students several support programs, such as online academic advising, tutoring and career exploration tools. Students enrolled in campus-based programs may still be eligible for some online or hybrid courses.

  • Department: Bunker Hill Human Services Program
  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Online Options: Students can complete Bunker Hill’s A.A. in Psychology program online or on-campus.

Schoolcraft College

Schoolcraft College’s associate degree in psychology is an excellent starting point for aspiring industrial-organizational psychologists. Psychology courses highlight the study of human behavior and relations, identifying why people behave and think as they do. Topic areas include general psychology, child psychology, aging and human relations. The college also offers learners the chance to participate in campus activities and events meant to promote awareness of mental health issues, resources and services. Schoolcraft’s associate in psychology is a transfer program, meaning it prepares students for baccalaureate study at a four-year university. Michigan State University — U.S. News & World Report’s No. 1 psychology school in 2016 — maintains a transfer agreement with Schoolcraft. MSU offers I/O degree programs from the bachelor’s to the Ph.D. level. According to CollegeMeasures.org, SC posts the highest graduation and transfer rates in Michigan.

  • Department: Schoolcraft College Social Sciences Pathway
  • Location: Livonia, Michigan
  • Online Options: While SC does not offer a fully online associate in psychology program, it does provide a myriad of online courses, including both general education and psychology coursework.

Bachelor’s degrees

A bachelor’s degree is the first required credential for future industrial and organizational psychologists — a master’s or doctoral degree is the last. As with associate degrees, far more universities offer bachelor’s degrees in psychology than in industrial-organizational psychology. It is not uncommon, however, for these programs to offer field-relevant concentrations in organizational psychology, decision psychology and cognitive psychology, among others. Students may be required to complete internships or assistantships under the direction of licensed psychologists. Fortunately, many online bachelor’s degrees in psychology allow students to pursue department-approved positions within their local communities.

Bachelor’s degrees in psychology combine general education courses, like math and English with core psychology courses, like introduction to psychology and human growth and development. Students who choose concentrations or minors will complete targeted coursework in those areas of specialty. Online bachelor’s degrees in psychology are relatively common, but even campus-based students might be able to enroll in select online or hybrid courses. Students who hope to become licensed should choose undergraduate degrees that have been accredited by the American Psychological Association.

Notable bachelor’s degrees in industrial-organizational psychology

The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University does not offer a bachelor’s degree in I/O psychology specifically, but its B.A. and B.S. in Psychology programs are excellent preparation for the University’s combined master’s and Ph.D. programs. The university offers advanced courses — including organizational psychology and judgment and decision-making — to qualifying students. It also hosts seven different psychology minors, one of which is Organization and Performance. All undergraduate psychology students participate in research and internships, then complete the program by defending a thesis at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Colloquium and the Denman Research Forum. Students interested in a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology can continue at OSU or apply to Bowling Green State University, U.S. News & World Report’s No. 3 psychology school in the country in 2016.

  • Department: Ohio State Department of Psychology
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
  • Online Options: The Ohio State University offers several online degree programs, but none in psychology.

Washington University in St. Louis – University College

Washington University in St. Louis offers two separate bachelor’s degree options in two different formats for aspiring I/O psychologists. The first is a campus-based Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. While the program certainly suits students who intend to advance to graduate school and become I/O psychologists, the university says it is also ideal for students planning to work in general management or human resources. Courses fall within one of three categories: core psychology, I/O-specialized and business-related. Washington University in St. Louis’ second option is to earn an online psychology degree with a concentration in social psychology or behavior and cognition. The University also offers a minor in industrial-organizational psychology — an option that offers a great deal of flexibility when selecting a major.

  • Department: Psychology & Brain Sciences Department
  • Location: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Online Options: The University of Washington in St. Louis offers several online degrees, including an online bachelor’s degree in psychology with relevant specialty tracks. Its B.S. in I/O Psychology, however, is campus-based.

Master’s degrees

A master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology is the minimum educational requirement for aspiring professionals: students learn and apply behavioral and psychological concepts to a wide range of issues in the workplace. Most clinical, counseling and school psychologists, who must earn a doctoral degree in order to qualify for state licensure. However, many I/O psychologists can work as consultants and policy planners in the private sector, the healthcare industry, governmental agencies or the military with a master’s degree alone.

Properly accredited master’s degree programs in industrial-organizational psychology typically require two years of study. Curricula vary from program to program, and may include a period of directed research/independent study, a supervised internship or a master’s thesis project. Guidelines for a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology are maintained by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), a division of the APA and an affiliate of the Association for Psychological Science (APS).

Notable master’s degrees in organizational – industrial psychology

Colorado State University

Colorado State University’s online Master of Applied industrial-organizational Psychology (MAIOP) is ideal for anyone who needs flexibility, particularly working professionals, parents, rural students and others for whom traditional campus-based programs are difficult to manage. According to CSU, MAIOP students study behavior in individuals, organization and businesses and learn counseling methods to boost performance and productivity. Other topics include workplace conflict, human resources and management challenges. The University notes that its master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology is a terminal degree geared toward future practitioners; research and consulting skills are emphasized.

  • Department: College of Natural Sciences – Psychology
  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Online Options: Colorado State University’s MAIOP is an online degree program using video, audio, text and other collaborative media to connect.

Southern New Hampshire University

In 2016, U.S. News & World Report named Southern New Hampshire University the No. 1 most innovative university in the nation — innovation that extends to its online master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology. According to SNHU, students seeking this Master of Science degree learn to adapt psychological methods and theories for effective use in several industrial and organizational settings. The will also learn how to develop and evaluate performance with a mind for I/O best practices. This is a truly flexible online program: Coursework is delivered asynchronously, meaning students can access it whenever they can rather than during set course hours.

  • Department: Online Psychology Program
  • Location: Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Online Options: SNHU’s I/O master’s is an online, flexible degree program.

Doctoral degrees

To practice psychology professionally, or in many cases to even use the title “psychologist,” requires a license in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The requirements for licensure do vary from state to state. But, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes in its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH):

“Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.”

In other words, a Ph.D., or the largely equivalent PsyD (doctor of psychology) degree, isn’t merely optional in most fields of psychology.

Industrial-organizational Ph.D. programs often require 60 credits of coursework, including a doctoral dissertation requirement. The coursework for a Ph.D psychology degree may include:

  • Foundational psychology methodology classes, such as research methods and design
  • General psychology classes covering cognitive and behavioral psychological evaluation and counseling
  • Organizational psychology classes in the principles of leadership, motivation, and group emotional dynamics
  • Classes that deal specifically with the field of I/O psychology

Notable industrial-organizational Ph.D. programs

University of South Florida

The University of South Florida’s industrial-organizational doctoral program is yet another highly ranked degree: U.S. News & World Report named it No. 4 among all I/O schools. Plus, USF’s official website highlights a No. 1 ranking for research productivity based on students publication in top I/O psychology journals. According to USF, its I/O program prepares students for professorships, research positions, and applied careers in government and industry. Graduate candidates studying I/O at USF learn through active research, applied experiences and targeted coursework. The Department of Psychology collaborates with the College of Public Health to offer an I/O Occupational Health Psychology specialization.

  • Department: Department of Psychology
  • Location: Tampa, Florida
  • Online Options: Though the University of South Florida does not presently offer an online Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology, students may be able to enroll in individual online courses. The university also offers an online Master of Art in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities’ Ph.D. in Psychology program features eight different areas of study, one of which is Industrial/Organizational Psychology. The university says its curricula includes core courses spanning all areas in addition to highly-specialized I/O classes. The program emphasizes collaborative research, which begins during one’s very first semester. U.S. News & World Reports named UM’s doctoral industrial-organizational psychology among the nation’s best in 2016, and the university’s website boasts its Psychology Ph.D. consistently ranks in the top ten. The University of Minnesota also offers two I/O undergraduate degrees, one a Bachelor of Science and the other a Bachelor of Arts.

  • Department: UM Department of Psychology
  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Online Options: At the time of this writing, the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities does not offer an online Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology. It does, however, offer an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology.

Online degrees

One might wonder how online education could adapt to such an interpersonal field like I/O psychology. Each year, as online degree programs become more numerous and, in turn, more mainstream, their learning technologies become more innovative. Today’s learning management systems are designed to deliver a personalized, yet highly-interactive student experience. Video- and audio-conferencing software and live, two-way lectures can enhance communication amongst professors and students while cutting-edge new tools like social simulators let I/O students practice newly-mastered skills in a virtual setting that feels very much like a patient setting. When an online program does require on-site activities like internships, students can often clear and complete positions with local psychologists or clinics.

An online degree in I/O psychology is no different than a traditional degree: Schools may not even distinguish between the two formats on one’s official certificate. The above descriptions of various types of industrial-organizational degree program still apply, including the importance of finding an accredited program. Coursework may be adapted to the online learning environment, but key concepts and skills remain unchanged.

Notable online industrial-organizational psychology programs

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a number of I/O-relevant degrees online, including its Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. According to CSPP, master’s students have the option of selecting an Applied Research Project (ARP) Track, which is a non-licensure program aimed to deliver hefty foundational skills that apply to worker assessment, engagement, retention and productivity. Additional I/O-appropriate programs from the CSPP: a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis on Business Psychology, a certificate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Business Psychology, which features a consulting track.

  • Department: N/A
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Online Options: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a multitude of online psychology degrees in and out of industrial-organizational psychology, and at many different levels.

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