Psychology is a diverse field that penetrates many different niches. Because of this fact, the most marketable graduates in this realm often fine-tune their studies towards particular branches, like child cognitive development or clinical psychology. Industrial and organizational psychology (I-O psychology) is dedicated to the study of employees and their relationship to the workplace environment. I-O psychology is an important and intriguing field because many believe it is intimately related to the productivity of corporate entities. As a CEO, how can you leverage positive psychology and morale in the workplace to increase your revenue? And for that matter, is it even possible to have a productive work environment with employees that dislike one another? What environmental factors affect an employee’s performance? How do you filter out potential hires that might not be
a good fit for your company from a psychological perspective?
As you can clearly see, I-O psychology is not a science that is exclusively relevant to psychology majors. Anybody who intends to effectively manage a team or a company can benefit from the consequences of research in this field. Human resources professionals are often highly versed in the language of I-O psychology, since they are usually tasked with maintaining the workplace atmosphere in a way that protects and encourages strong employee mental health. Wise MBA graduates have certainly taken courses that have prepared them for the nuances of proper and effective leadership in workplace settings, which, as it turns out, is linked heavily to I-O psychology.
All of these facts are great news for students who specialize in this field. Why? Because there will always be an abundance of businesses; there were always be a need for improving operations. Since I-O psychology graduates have an expert foundation in the mental and, sometimes, physical factors that promote employee productivity, they are valuable to companies in many different ways. Graduates can be used as managerial consultants; they can be managers themselves; they can take on roles as human resources professionals; they can work in job performance analysis. This is just a small sample of what the I-O psychology graduate can do with their degree. In truth, the possibilities are infinite.
I-O psychology is an intellectual gateway to many different subtopics. Are you more scientifically oriented? Do you like numbers and research? There is something for you. Do you enjoy working with people? Do you enjoy managing people? Do you like evaluating analysis and creating metrics for determining a person’s individual development? As with any degree, you must always remember that your success and marketability hinges on your aptitude for creativity. Do you enjoy writing and I-O psychology? Many companies could benefit significantly from I-O psych. graduates with strong writing skills. You could write employee training manuals or even develop training programs of your own.
The takeaway: always be innovative and make your degree work for you. Below are some resources to help boost your career creativity.
- Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment in Relation to Work Performance and Turnover Intentions — This is a comprehensive paper written by Lynn McFarlane Shore and Harry J. Martin. It is a solid and deep discussion that blends organizational psychology with analysis of employee performance. In addition to being an invaluable conceptual tool, it is great for synthesizing unexpected ways to use your degree effectively.
- New York State Department of Social Services: Workforce and Succession Planning Tools and Resources — For those interested in some of the various strategies used to identify objectives and train employees accordingly, this thorough chart and narrative provide a great starting point for further research.
- National Survey of Student Engagement: Psychometric Properties — Psychometrics is a subtopic of I-O psychology that deals with evaluating and testing performance. It is particularly relevant to school settings, where there is hot educational debate about whether or not current testing systems are effective. This short paper explores some 2009 research in this area from the NSSE.
- United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration — This organization is dedicated to maintaining “healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” The relationship between I-O psychological and occupational health is newly emerging as its own field, and the nexus between these niches is a great place to find new, creative uses for your degree.
Finding a job as an industrial or organizational psychology professional doesn’t have to be difficult. The prospects for growth across the globe are promising, and many psychologists enjoy flexible careers that shift between self-employment and consulting.
- Business Week: Business Exchange-Organizational Psychology — Find a diverse listing of current I-O psychology jobs, updated daily.
- Industrial Psychology Jobs — A resource of technical and nontechnical job listings that is frequently updated
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook: Psychologists — the US Government’s prospects of job growth for psychologists
Staying Ahead of the Game
- The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology— Keep up with current events in the I-O psychology world
- The Psychology Graduate Portal — Advice for graduates and current students
- The Professional I-O Psychologist Network — A forum dedicated to all things related to I-O psychology
- Increasing Human Efficiency in Business — Dr. Walter Dill Scott’s book on this subject, available for free in multiple chapters.
- International Association of Applied Psychology — A great overall resource for psychology professionals of all kinds
- Society for Human Resource Management— Stay up-to-date with the latest trends in this field that is closely linked to I-O psychology.