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Industrial and Organizational Psychology Overview

Industrial and organizational psychology (I/O psychology) is a branch of psychology that studies human behavior in the workplace. By applying psychological principles and research methods to areas such as human resources, employee training and administration, I/O psychologists can help improve employee performance, satisfaction, communication and safety.

Education Requirements

To become an I/O psychologist, you'll first need a bachelor's degree.1 From there, many professionals interested in industrial and organizational psychology go on to pursue a master's degree, such as NLU's M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. While a bachelor's degree may be enough to get your foot in the door (typically in human resources and related areas), a master's degree can lead to greater job opportunities and a higher salary.2

NLU's industrial and organizational psychology graduate program was developed to meet the needs of employers and is aligned with industry best practices, as well as the Guidelines for Education and Training at the Master's Level in I/O Psychology (published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology). This interdisciplinary program draws on expertise and subject matter from NLU’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the School of Business and Management, and also incorporates coursework from NLU's M.A. in Psychology and M.S. in Human Resource Management and Development.

Career Outlook for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Because I/O psychology focuses on human behavior in work settings, industrial-organizational psychologists can work practically anywhere: business, healthcare, manufacturing, consulting, government, public (including non-profit) and more. Their specific duties depend on where they are employed. Some I/O psychologists work in business, focusing on areas such as employee training, productivity and human resources. Others work in academic settings, teaching and conducting research. Consulting is also a popular career path for industrial-organizational psychologists. The career opportunities are virtually limitless for I/O psychologists.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I/O psychology is projected to grow 53.4 percent from 2012–2022, much faster than the national average for all occupations.3 Industrial and organizational psychology was also listed among the "top 10 most in-demand Chicago jobs in 2016" in Crain's Chicago Business.4 The article explains that corporations recognize that effective employees are valuable assets, and are willing to invest in I/O psychologists to help find and retain top talent.

The industries with the highest concentration of employment for I/O psychologists include:5

  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
  • State Government (OES Designation)
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners
  • Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools

Industrial and Organizational Psychology Salary Information

In its 2012 income and employment survey, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) lists the starting salary for an I/O specialist with a master's degree at about $65,000 per year, with the median annual salary being around $80,000.6 University professors can expect to make approximately $70,000 annually, while those in the private sector could earn up to $100,000.7 The highest-paid industrial-organizational psychologists can make more than $250,000 annually.8

The top paying industries for I/O psychology include:9


Annual Mean Wage

Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services


Management of Companies and Enterprises


Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services


Scientific Research and Development Services


Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools


Source References [+]

1. "All About Industrial and Organizational Psychology."

2. Cherry, Kendra. "Industrial-Organizational Psychology Careers." 7 July 2016.

3. "Occupational Employment Projections to 2022." December 2013.

4. Sweeney, Brigid. "The 10 Most In-Demand Chicago Jobs in 2016 (that Pay $60,000 Plus)." 16 January 2016.

5. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015." 30 March 2016.

6. Khanna, Charu, et al. "SIOP Income Survey." 1 July 2013.

7. Khanna, Charu, et al. "SIOP Income Survey." 1 July 2013.

8. Khanna, Charu, et al. "SIOP Income Survey." 1 July 2013.

9. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015." 30 March 2016.


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