Doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology program guide

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Why get a doctorate in I-O psychology?

Have you completed your master’s degree in industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology and want to boost your career and salary profile? The next step to consider may be a doctorate degree. A doctorate in I-O psychology can improve your expertise and knowledge of the discipline, which can expand your career options into academia and research, management, administration and policy making. 

Industrial-organizational psychology is predicted to be the fastest-growing psychology specialization with an anticipated 13% growth until 2028. As such, the competition for job opportunities will intensify, with professionals holding a doctoral degree becoming the preferred candidates for vacant positions.

There is a vast range of career opportunities within the field of I-O psychology including:

  • external consultant
  • chief human resource officer
  • vice president of talent management
  • college professor

The highest paying sector within the field is in scientific research and development services, where qualified and experienced professionals earn up to $149,780 annually. Those with a doctoral degree have most opportunities and highest salaries available to them.

The main job responsibility of industrial-organizational psychologists is to apply psychological theory to organizations. These responsibilities vary according to the organization, although professionals are typically tasked to improve productivity and create efficient workflow processes.

The 2 types of industrial-organizational doctoral degrees are the (Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D).

A Ph.D. is recommended for graduates interested in working in health or medical settings or teaching at colleges and universities. A Ph.D. offers a broader range of job opportunities and generally can be completed in 5-7 years.

A Psy.D. is a professional degree that focuses on clinical practice and prepares graduates for a more applied workplace, like government or private industry. A Psy.D. can be completed within the same timeframe as a Ph.D. . Your career goals should inform the degree type you choose. 

About the degree

puzzle Admission requirements

To apply to an I-O Ph.D. or Psy.D. program, schools typically require:

  • minimum GPA of 3.0
  • letter(s) of recommendation
  • personal essay
  • academic transcripts
  • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably with psychology major

A master’s degree isn’t always required to apply as some doctoral programs cover both master’s and Ph.D. programs. Typically for these programs, applicants will need to have majored in psychology in their undergraduate studies. It may also be possible to transfer credit from previous degrees, although this will be at the discretion of the school.

Degree flexibility

Students can enrol in an I-O psychology doctoral program on a part-time or full-time basis. Some schools have the option of an online program or an on-campus program. You may also find hybrid options that combine on-campus and online learning. Studying part-time or online can give you the chance to continue working and to fulfill personal and family responsibilities.  

alt"currency-dollar-1" Paying for the degree

A doctoral program is an expensive and timely commitment that often does not allow the flexibility for paid employment opportunities. To offset the financial burden, some universities offer doctoral students paid teaching or research assistantships that can include a stipend, tuition and health insurance.  All applicants should visit the financial office at their chosen school to research what financial support is available.  Similarly, students should be familiar with the information on the Federal Student Aid website.

The median annual cost of tuition for a doctoral degree ranges from $11,000-$34,000 depending on whether you are attending as an in-state or out-of-state student, and whether the institution is public or private.

Coursework for s Ph.D. in I-O

Coursework for a Ph.D. and a Psy.D. in I-O psychology differ to a large extent.

Psychometric theory

This course can give students an understanding of psychometric principles related to psychological assessment. This includes reviewing statistics, test development, reliability, and validity.

Research methods in industrial-organizational psychology

Students are trained in applying scientific methods to investigate issues relevant to businesses, individuals, and society.

Organizational development and leadership

This course encompasses theory and research relevant to implementing change to individuals, groups, and organizations to improve their effectiveness.

Statistical methods and data analysis

This course trains students in various statistical techniques used to analyze data.

Individual assessment

Students are taught the skills needed to assess, interpret and communicate characteristics of individuals within the work environment.

Not all industrial-organizational psychology Ph.D. programs require internships, but it is recommended that students take any available opportunity to gain practical skills within the field.

 Psy.D. coursework

Core Psy.D coursework typically includes::

Attitude theory, measurement, and change

This course teaches students how attitudes develop, change and are related to behavior.

Ethics, diversity and international issues

This course trains students to be sensitive to a diverse audience and guides the development of the interpersonal skills needed to work in a multicultural environment. In addition, students are taught relevant ethical guidelines for research.

Human performance

Students learn about the limitations and capabilities of skilled human behavior, with an emphasis on the impact of human interaction with various tools, tasks, and environments.

Work motivation

This course can provide students with a deep understanding of the theories and research on work motivation, and the knowledge on how to influence this motivation.

Research methods

This course trains students in the scientific methods used to collect, collate, and understand data on individuals, society, and business issues.

Most Psy.D. industrial-organizational psychology programs require practicums, internships, or supervision from a licensed psychologist as part of the degree program.

Accreditation and licensure

To have your degree recognized by many employers or academic institutions, it will need to be from an accredited program and university.  This can be checked on the school or faculty website.

Most states require practicing industrial-organizational psychologists to be licensed. The specifics and requirements differ by state, but prerequisites include:

  •  Ph.D. or Psy.D from an accredited university
  • A period of supervision by a licensed psychologist
  • Passing the EPPP (Exam for Professional Practice in Psychology) exam with a qualifying score
  • Passing a state board oral exam (this is no longer required for California)

For more information on licensure, visit  SIOP Licensure Policy.

Career paths

Obtaining a doctorate in industrial-organizational psychology can lead to the following careers.

Individual assessment and psychometric specialists are tasked with conducting assessments and evaluations to:

  • Evaluate the skills of employees to place them in a fitting job
  • Assess the attitudes of employees toward management and the working environment

The job scope also includes developing assessments for the employer, analyzing test items, conducting statistical analyzes, and drawing up assessment instructions.

Average annual salary is $82,186

Engineering psychologists focus on the physical elements of the work environment and how people interact with technology. This could include evaluating the safety of the environment and possible risks,and recommending improvements. The job scope also moves beyond the elements of safety into aspects like consumer interaction with a product.

Average annual salary for an engineering psychologist working in a government department is $107,314

Many industrial-organizational psychologists with  doctoral degrees pursue careers in research. Research is conducted in colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, within government and business enterprises. 

Average annual salary is $96,048

Much like research, a good percentage of industrial-organizational doctorates pursue careers in academia. This could include teaching, management, or administration. Most industrial-organizational professors have worked in positions outside of academics before pursuing the academic route.

Average annual salary is $65,000

Continuing education

In I-O psychology, a doctorate is the highest degree level available. Should you find that your interest lies in business and administration after earning your doctorate, you could consider pursuing a degree as a Doctor of Business Administration in I-O psychology.

This degree intersects theory and research and its application to individuals in managerial roles. It is inclined towards human resources professionals.

SIOP-The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

SIOP is the leading organization for industrial-organizational psychologists and students.  It features internship and job opportunities and keeps professionals up to date with everything happening in the field.

American Psychological Association (APA)

APA is an organization devoted to psychology. Although not specific to industrial-organizational psychology, the site does have resources valuable to the field. 

Emotional Intelligence Consortium

Emotional Intelligence Consortium upholds the standards of practice for psychologists studying emotional intelligence in work environments. The site has free online training sessions and networking events.

Society of Psychologists in Management

SPIM is a society of students, researchers, and psychologists that encourages camaraderie and collaboration. The site gives access to career development, mentoring services, and networking opportunities.

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: HFES

HFES is an industrial-organizational psychology society that accepts students and professionals. The society focuses on providing the best possible experience for employees in the workplace.