I/O Psychology Careers

For those interested in a career in the field of Industrial-Organizational Psychology (I/O) there’s good news. The I/O specialty offers some of the fastest growing and highly sought after psychology careers today. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Outlook Occupational Handbook projects employment of industrial-organizational psychologists to grow from 2006 to 2016 by roughly 21%, beating projections of 15% for psychology professionals in general during the same time period. The Handbook states that U.S. businesses will require the services of I/O psychology professionals to increase worker productivity and retention rates, and help companies deal with diversity and anti-discrimination issues.

Additionally, the tough economic conditions at the end of this decade require the expertise of Industrial and Organizational psychology professionals to help businesses manage rapid change and remain competitive. Because of the scope of these challenges, a wide range of job opportunities exist for those with a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD in I/O psychology.

These professionals can and do work in both the private and public sectors, in academic institutions as well as corporations and non-profits, and as in-house psychologists and consultants. Job titles and levels of responsibility depend on educational level and experience.

Typical Positions with Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

  • Workforce Insights Analyst/Manager – Provides for the integration, analysis and reporting of a variety of workforce data to enable fact-based business decisions. Applies this knowledge in key areas, such as selection and placement, training and development, organizational development and change, leadership, retention, performance measurement and evaluation, total rewards, and work-life quality.
  • Evaluation & Assessment Analyst/Manager – Strategizes, designs, develops, and executes evaluation and assessment plans for specific projects, initiatives and jobs.
  • Professional Development – Develops and implements tools and programs that support the development of employees. Assesses and analyzes organizational learning and staff development processes to improve effectiveness.
  • Talent Management Specialist/Manager – Designs and implements talent management strategic initiatives that develop high performing leaders, and prepare for future talent needs. Understands and develops the skills and capabilities of the entire workforce.
  • HR Organizational Development Specialist – Designs, implements and manages programs to assess current and future needs in organizational and employee development. Develop or oversee training programs that focus on business needs and corporate objectives.
  • Trainer – Works within organizations developing and delivering employee training programs to functional areas, often within classroom settings. Some positions also require statistical data analysis and report development.
  • Test and Measurement Specialist – Interviews and observes employees to understand job skills required, and using job analysis methodologies creates employment test plans and exams.
  • Organizational Effectiveness Director – Consults with leaders and managers to assist them with all organizational development needs, including team building, group processes, visioning and goal setting. Develops and executes employee surveys and creates action plans based on results.
  • Senior Organization Development Advisor (also Career Planning) – Identifies high potential employees, and oversees the executive development and training processes. Coordinate and facilitate 360º assessments, feedback and development sessions.

Typical Positions With Either a Master’s or a PhD

  • Behavioral Analyst – Analyzes employee metrics and psychological assessment data and develops technical reports. Interprets and quantifies retention, product, and performance findings.
  • Selection Systems Manager – Develops, validates, updates and implements selection processes and retention initiatives for entry-level and supervisory positions. Designs selection systems to achieve an organization’s mission and goals.
  • HR Practice Manager – Provides leadership on talent, diversity, performance management, change management and organizational development. Provides coaching and development opportunities for organizational leaders. Creates and implements diversity action plans.
  • Research Analyst – Researches social science projects that use statistical processes and data management tools for large data sets. Examines individual and organizational performance, program evaluation,  training design and evaluation, test design and validation, and employment recruitment, selection, and retention. Plans and executes quantitative data analyses, surveys and research projects.
  • Professor – Teaches undergraduate and graduate I/O psychology courses as well as general psychology courses, such as social psychology, statistics, or introduction to psychology. Online teaching positions also available. Research responsibilities are often required in addition to teaching.
  • Research Consultant/Senior Research Consultant – In-house research position that aids in the design and development of research projects and processes. Coordinates project steps with internal staff, project teams, and focus groups. Interprets statistical results and provides recommendations based on findings. Prepares research articles for journal and conference submission, and manages research studies with outside businesses, universities, and non-profit organizations.
  • Consultant – Either as a self-employed I/O consultant or as a consultant for a management psychology consulting firm, human resource consulting firm or any other firm specializing in I/O-related topics, provides expertise in a variety of areas, including compensation and benefits, talent management, executive coaching, leadership, selection processes, testing and evaluation, organizational development, change management, career planning, employment law, or training and development.

I/O psychology professionals combine a unique set of skills that include quantitative and analytical abilities in addition to having a thorough knowledge of human behavior and motivation. This offers businesses unmatched value and expertise, which keeps this profession in high demand. If you are interested in applying science to workplace issues, and helping people find meaning through their work, you should consider a job in I/O psychology.

If you’re interested in industrial-organizational psychology, you’ve chosen a field that offers an almost limitless number of career opportunities, and well paying salaries to match. Salaries for professionals working in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology (I/O) field are some of the highest paid among psychology careers, and higher than average salaries for all U.S. jobs.

Competitive Salaries for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2019 the Industrial and Organizational Psychologists earned a median wage of $44.66 hourly, or $92,880 annually. The top 10% Industrial-Organizational Psychologists earned more than $197,700 annually [BLS]. Of course, like all other jobs, salaries are higher in some parts of the country than others, and those with master’s or PhD’s typically earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

The BLS also reported that as of May 2019, the top-paying states for industrial-organizational psychologists were California, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Oklahoma. In terms of metropolitan areas, Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV reported the highest wages. But government positions located in other cities also pay well, especially when adjusting for the cost-of-living in places like New York where housing costs are considerable higher than the national average.

PayScale.com states that I/O psychologist salaries are higher for those with organizational development skills, or those who focus more on the “organizational-side” of the industrial-organizational career. Typical “O-side” careers focus more on organizational development and effectiveness rather than the processes involved with hiring and retaining employees — which reside more on the “industrial-side” of the career.

Organizations look at several factors when considering prospective candidates, such as years of experience, areas of specialization, and education level. The following chart lists average salaries for typical I/O job titles and openings.

Industrial Organizational Psychology Salary Vs Similar Occupations

Job TitleAverage National Salary
Industrial-Organizational Psychologists$111,150
Training and Development Specialist$65,640
Training and Development Manager$123,470
Operations Research Analyst$90,600
Labor Relations Specialists$71,870
Human Resources Specialist$67,760

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

If you enjoy helping others, working with statistics and quantitative tools, and desire a career with several options in diverse settings that offer competitive wages, you should consider a career in I/O psychology. Contact schools offering bachelor’s degree programs in psychology, master’s degree programs or PhD programs in industrial-organizational psychology.