Bachelor’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology program guide

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What is bachelor’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology?

What exactly is industrial and organizational psychology, or I-O psychology? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), this field of psychology is concerned with human behavior in the workplace and various types of organizations. The APA provides additional details to this explanation by stating that I-O psychology is, “The specialty that focuses on deriving principles of individual, group and organizational behavior and applying this knowledge to the solutions of problems at work.”

I-O psychologists work within organizations and companies to implement and maintain an efficient and productive workflow. They can be engaged as consultants or employed as permanent staff members in all types of organizations ranging from government, private corporations, non-government or charity, factories, and military services.

As obvious from the job title, I-O psychology is composed of 2 parts, industrial psychology, and organizational psychology. The industrial aspect looks at employee numbers including identifying and hiring the best people to join a team and meet company productivity goals. On the flip side, this aspect also involves employee performance appraisals, which is tied in with the previous duty. The organizational side considers the management of a company and the impact that an organization can have on the attitudes and behaviors of employees.

The field of I-O psychology is growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 3% increase in employment opportunities between 2019-2029. If you are intrigued by why some companies succeed and some fail, especially from the perspective of employee behavior and attachment to their workplace, then I-O psychology may be a fulfilling area of study and a path to a promising career for you.

Study requirements for industrial and organizational psychology

The first step to becoming an industrial and organizational psychologist is to earn an undergraduate degree that meets the requisites of graduate programs in this specialization. Many colleges require a GPA of 3.0 for you to be accepted to an undergraduate program. Reference letters from your teachers, work supervisors, or volunteer supervisors can boost an application to your chosen school. Many colleges will also ask for a personal statement, which is another opportunity to sell yourself.

If you know, while you’re still in high school, that you’d eventually like to major in psychology there may be some classes you can take to prepare yourself. Classes like statistics, history, biology and chemistry, or even an introduction to psychology are looked upon favorably by college admissions departments.

While there are not many undergraduate programs in I-O psychology, there are some schools that do offer this specialization. The ideal study route starts with the completion of an undergraduate degree in psychology, including concentration courses in industrial and organizational psychology. As with many undergraduate degrees, the first 2 years are general education courses and the last 2 years allow you to focus on a particular subject.


Before enrolling in a psychology program, it is important to check that the college you’re applying to is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). By attending an accredited school, you are safe in the knowledge that your course is up-to-date with current studies and psychological interventions. Research is an important component of I-O psychology, so keeping abreast of new research and developments in the field is crucial. You can check here to see which courses have been accredited by the APA.

Finally, future employers will likely check that your degree is from an accredited institution as this indicates to them that you have the required knowledge and skills to meet the expectations of the job.

Types of degrees and what you’ll study

Due to the rise in popularity in I-O psychology, some schools now offer undergraduate programs in this area. However, for the moment, the majority of schools offer a psychology program with concentrations in I-O.

Even at the undergraduate level, many colleges encourage students to take part in work experience programs to facilitate their understanding of the topic. Practical experience has the added benefit of highlighting your committed interest in I-O psychology when you apply for graduate degrees and future employment.

Examples of undergraduate degrees are:

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology with a concentration in industrial and organizational psychology. In this program, students take psychology introduction courses before focusing on different areas of industrial and organizational psychology. The course will cover topics that may include:

  • An introduction to psychology
  • A history of psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Industrial and organizational training and development
  • Motivation and work attitudes
  • Wage and salary administration
  • Personnel selection and placement

Bachelor of Science (B.S) in Industrial and Organizational psychology. In these courses, students learn about psychology in the workplace. Topics may include leadership, motivation, and balance between work and home life. Some other examples of course content are:

  • An introduction to psychology
  • An introduction to statistics
  • Cognitive psychology
  • An introduction to group dynamics
  • Managerial and organizational behavior
  • Training and development
  • Personnel Assessment and selection
  • Attitudes and motivation in the workplace

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology with a concentration in industrial and organizational psychology. The focus of these courses is human resources, considered the more social side of I-O psychology. Although similar to B.S. programs in this field, a B.A. course will go further into depth in the following areas:

  • An introduction to psychology
  • A history of psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Psychological testing and measurement
  • Personnel and industrial psychology
  • Human resources and personnel emphasis
  • Group dynamics


In addition to coursework, some colleges provide and encourage students with opportunities to attend networking events and to sign up for internships. As an intern, you will gain practical experience in organizational cultures and the work that I-O psychologists do. Some examples of useful internships for I-O students, which are often advertised on the website for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, include:

  • Healthcare facilities – provide various internship opportunities for psychology students to enhance their knowledge and experience. For I-O students, an internship may cover workplace health and safety regulations, like ensuring staff members take breaks at regular intervals. Another example can be observing an experienced psychologist treating an employee for work-related stress.

  • Businesses – a student of I-O psychology can benefit from the experience of working in a company by learning how to create relationships and connect with their potential clients. As many I-O psychologists work within businesses and organizations, this is a great experience for a potential future career.

  • Government facilities – internships at government offices are generally hard to come by, although they can provide interns with the valuable experience to learn about the people and work that goes on inside government departments.

How much does it cost?

An undergraduate degree in psychology, with or without a concentration in I-O, is a 4-year program available as an on-campus, online, or hybrid program.

Studying for your undergraduate degree on campus, according to The National Centre for Education Statistics, can cost between $17,797-$43,139 per year. This doesn’t take into account factors such as:

  • Housing
  • Campus fees
  • Course books and recommended reading
  • Library fees
  • Graduation

By considering numerous programs, the average total cost of an online undergraduate degree is between $38,700 – $60,980 with some of the above additional costs needing to be factored in.

What about financial aid?

Undergraduate degrees aren’t cheap. Fortunately, financial support is available to eligible students through federal financial aid programs, scholarships, grants, and loans. The website for Federal Student Aid can provide you with information about these options.

If you are interested in receiving financial aid, apply to FAFSA (federal student aid) to find out if and how much you are eligible for. As part of your application, you will be asked for information on your family income, social security number, bank statements, and driver’s license.

Future study

If you decide to go further with your studies after your undergraduate program, there are several I-O graduate programs available. Graduate degrees in I-O are not limited to those who have studied this field as an undergraduate. Business, finance, and administration majors are also accepted to I-O programs. Most graduate programs in I-O psychology require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher. A GRE test is required by most, but not all, graduate schools, and good scores in this are looked upon favorably.

After having completed your undergraduate degree, one of the next steps for further study is a master’s degree program. Examples of master’s degree programs are Master of Arts (M.A.) in industrial and organizational psychology, and Master of Science (M.S.) in industrial and organizational psychology. An M.A. program in this area would be a good fit for you if you are interested in the human resources side of this topic as you will work with people by recruiting and encouraging the desired culture within the company. An M.S. program would suit you if you are interested in analyzing data and transferring this into productivity within a company.

On completion of your master’s degree, you can apply for admission to a doctoral study program in I-O psychology. This advanced degree can give you access to the top jobs in the industry.

Career options

Let’s look at the career options available to those eager to enter the workforce after completing an undergraduate degree in industrial and organizational psychology.

That said, there are some interesting career options available to you if you hold a master’s degree in this field.

A training manager assesses the needs of employees, arranges team meetings, and conducts surveys to ensure that teams run smoothly. They organize and lead training sessions to improve workflow and the general efficiency of workplaces. An employee training manager often works in an office environment, especially within human resources.

2019 average salary: $113,350

Human resource specialists are employed by companies to screen and recruit new employees and to monitor their transition into the new position. They arrange training sessions, oversee employee relations, and are knowledgeable about all types of benefits and compensation payments. Typically, their work takes place within the companies they work for. This could be an office, a health facility, or a government agency.

2019 average salary: $61,920

A management analyst or a management consultant assesses and makes recommendations on how organizations and companies can be more efficient. They may guide company managers in finding approaches to increase profits, or design new protocols and procedures to improve the efficacy of the organization. Management analysts work in the finance industry and government departments.

2019 average salary: $85,260

These specialists oversee employees and the skills they have to do the jobs they are employed for. This specialist is responsible for evaluating current skill-sets and the implementation of training and education programs to improve or develop new skills, as required. A training and development specialist works within large companies, administrative and support services, finance and insurance companies, and educational services.

2019 average salary: $61,210

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is part of the APA. Its main goal is the promotion of science, practice, and teaching in I-O psychology.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is a government organization that researches and analyzes work-related illness and injury. It also looks at ways to limit and prevent such occurrences.

The Society for Human Resource Management, founded in 1948, is a human resources association. It promotes HR as a profession and its importance within companies. SHRM is also involved in issues related to labor and management.

The Society for Occupational Health Psychology was the first organization in the USA devoted to occupational health. It uses science and research to help well-being in the workplace.

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