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Trending, Lucrative, and Dynamic — A Look Inside the Field of Industrial-Organizational Psychology

July 23, 2020

The average person will spend about 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime, and yet, a quarter of all Americans say work is their greatest source of stress. There is a clear and unsettling disconnect between how people are spending their time and their level of satisfaction. This is why the rise of the field of industrial/organizational psychology is so critical — not only for workers but for the companies that employ them.

While there are many factors that contribute to workplace stress and lack of productivity, typically shortcomings in these areas can be traced back to how employees are selected, trained, and kept informed. By improving communication, conflict resolution, organizational systems, professional competence, and management styles through the study and application of human psychology, many of the stress-inducing concerns in the workplace can be removed.

The goal of I/O psychology is to effectively study human behavior in the workplace and implement meaningful measures to improve professional satisfaction, increase productivity, and promote an overall better quality of life for all individuals in the workplace. 

Download our guide — What Can I Do with a Master's in I/O Psychology — to learn  how you can contribute to the next generation of healthy, thriving workplaces. 

I/O Psychology: A Fast-Growing Field with Impressive Results

I/O psychology is emerging as one of the fastest-growing branches of psychology. By focusing on the behavior of employees in the workplace, I/O psychologists are able to determine the best strategies to help people work more efficiently. Simply put, the role of an I/O psychologist is to understand the whole person and the relationship they have with their work. 

Through the incorporation of psychological principles and research methods, I/O psychology strives to improve the overall work environment, including performance, communication, professional satisfaction and safety. This research might be aimed at increasing employee productivity, developing screening procedures for new applicants, increasing the overall quality of the workplace, or getting to the root of a work-related issue that is interfering with performance. Bottom line, the expertise of I/O psychologists results in better hires, increased productivity, reduced turnover, and lower labor costs — making them invaluable to businesses.

Although careers in I/O psychology can vary greatly depending on interest and industry, the field offers eager professionals job outcomes that are relevant, lucrative, and dynamic. Let’s explore these three distinct, yet valuable, features of the field of I/O psychology.

I/O psychology is relevant.

As society becomes more aware of the role of mental health in the workplace and its role in productivity, many companies are seeking ways to create better policies that take care of their employees and foster a more cohesive and supportive working environment. Additionally, employees expect higher levels of workplace flexibility that will allow them to maintain a healthier balance between their professional and personal lives. These trends have employers working diligently toward workplace reforms that can adapt to the changing demands of workers while still ensuring business profitability and growth.  

I/O psychologists know that if employees experience support, trust, and independence they will generally be happier at work — reducing the risk of mental health concerns and improving overall outcomes. By helping companies implement policies and systems that focus on the needs of the whole person, I/O psychologists are at the forefront of the current wave of societal changes. 

I/O psychology is lucrative.

As industrial/organizational psychologists continue to play an increasingly valuable role in companies and organizations of all sizes, these trained professionals will see rising salaries as a result. Salaries can vary widely based on years of experience, where you live, and the location and size of your organization; but regardless of where you work, the overall earning potential in this profession is quite healthy. 

According to the BLS, the median salary for I/O psychologists is $92,880 with the top 10% of earners making $197,700. The highest-grossing career path within the industry is in scientific research and development services with a mean annual wage of $162,590. As the demand for highly-qualified I/O psychologists continues to grow, salaries are likely to remain quite lucrative.

I/O psychology is constantly evolving.

Since its emergence, the field of I/O psychology has rapidly and continually evolved to meet modern advances in both technology and scientific understanding. Since its beginnings in the late 19th century, I/O psychology has contributed to meaningful advances in workplace culture like the rise of labor unions, stricter safety regulations, and the development of abilities testing to determine a candidate’s or employee’s professional strengths.

Many businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on metrics and statistics to help inform data-driven decisions. However, at the same time, there is a growing demand for employees to possess the “soft skills” needed to lead and manage others well. I/O psychology sits at the intersection of these rising needs. These professionals incorporate scientific inquiry and research with practical, professional applications to help companies recognize trends and implement strategies to maintain a safe and successful working environment that benefits both workers and employers. 

What kind of career can I have in I/O Psychology?

With changes impacting business across the nation, it’s no surprise that the role of human resources manager was recently ranked 35th among the 800 fastest growing occupational fields in the United States, by the Wall Street Journal. However, while it is common to find I/O psychologists employed in the human resources department, the application of their skills can go far beyond HR.

The work of I/O psychologists generally falls into four main areas: academia, consulting, industry, and government. While specific duties can depend largely on the type of organization and the role they hold, some of the common areas of responsibility for I/O psychologists include:

  • Employee selection and training
  • Leadership development
  • Compensation 
  • Organizational structure
  • Workplace safety
  • Performance measurement
  • Work-life balance

Within the broad field of I/O psychology, there are opportunities in all types of organizations and workplace settings, including manufacturing, commercial enterprises, labor unions, government agencies, and health care facilities. Some unique job opportunities in the field of I/O psychology include:

  • Training and Development Specialist: creates and delivers training programs based on the needs of an organization or team.
  • Organizational Development Consultant: identifies areas for organizational improvement and provides guidance and advice to help businesses work more efficiently.
  • Staffing and Recruiting Manager: recruits and hires employees by matching the needs of the organization and the unique strengths of the individual.

Begin your career in I/O psychology at Sacred Heart!

The Master of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology program at SHU is a one-year, cohort-style program delivered in a hybrid model, where each course is 50% online and 50% on ground. The program focuses on building a deep understanding of psychological principles and how to practically apply them in a workplace environment. Through rigorous practice in group goal setting, community building, conflict resolution, and culture management, students are able to take what they learn in their master’s degree and apply it directly to their professional pursuits. 

If you’d like to learn more about our program, we invite you to request more information and discover the flexibility, support, and opportunities that Sacred Heart has to offer!

Businesses are fundamentally changing the way they operate. Want to be a driving force behind that change? Get started with our guide — What Can I Do With a Master’s in I/O Psychology?

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SHU Graduate Admissions Team

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We are the graduate admissions team at Sacred Heart University. We aspire to create a welcoming and supportive environment for students looking to continue their education while empowering them in mind, body and spirit. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a graduate degree at Sacred Heart!

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