Business Psychology Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

About this article
What will you learn in a business psychology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and Ph.D. degree and potential careers.
View available schools

Study Business Psychology: Degrees at a Glance

Business psychology programs can be hard to find at the graduate level, although colleges and universities often offer degrees closely related to this field. Such a degree can lead to a myriad of careers in academia, research and the business sector. Master's programs usually prepare you for positions in industrial-organizational psychology and upper-level human resources management. You may also be able to obtain a postsecondary teaching position at a community college with a master's degree. With a doctoral degree in this major, you can go on to pursue a career as a licensed clinical psychologist or in teaching and research at the university level.

Job prospects vary in this diverse range of professions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment growth rate for 2010-2020 was expected to be 35% for industrial-organizational psychologists and 13% for human resources managers. Clinical psychologists were expected to see 22% job growth in this same decade, while employment of postsecondary teachers was projected to grow 17%.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Students interested in careers in non-clinical psychology or human resources management Students interested in clinical psychology or academia careers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Industrial-organizational psychologist ($124,000)*
-Human resources manager ($109,000)*
-Community college teacher ($75,000 - based on salary for all postsecondary psychology teachers)*
- Clinical psychologist ($73,000)*
- University psychology professor ($75,000 - based on salary for all postsecondary psychology teachers)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years 3-4 years
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 36 credits
- Master's thesis or project
- Comprehensive exams
Roughly 92-97 credits including all of the master's degree requirements, plus:
- PhD comprehensive exam
- Dissertation
- Internship or field experience
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree in psychology or related field
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Business Psychology

Colleges and universities rarely offer business psychology as a master's degree major. Rather, you can learn about this subject in a master's degree program in industrial-organizational psychology. This program focuses on theories of psychology, behavioral science and organizational development, as well as their applications, in real-world business settings. You'll learn about the principles behind motivating workers and resolving management issues, knowledge you can take with you into a career in the public or private sectors.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can lead to careers that offer average salaries above $100,000 (industrial-organizational psychology and human resources management)*
  • Human resources managers with master's degrees were projected to have the greatest job prospects in the field**
  • Programs often offer both thesis and non-thesis options
  • Course schedules are generally flexible and may allow for part-time or full-time enrollment

Cons

  • Will not qualify you for clinical psychology positions
  • Keen competition for tenure-track teaching positions*
  • Admission into graduate programs in psychology is competitive

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections)

Courses and Requirements

In an industrial-organization psychology master's degree program, your curriculum will combine instruction in the methodology and applied research aspects of the subject. You can expect to study personnel selection, organizational change, leadership, motivation, human resources, industrial-organizational theory and research methods. You may also take a course in statistics as it relates to business psychology, and you'll have the option to participate in an internship program. Before graduating from this program, you'll need to complete a final project or master's thesis based on your studies.

Online Degree Options

Several online schools offer programs in business, organizational or industrial-organizational psychology. They're offered in both online-only formats and hybrid formats, and these programs tend to require around the same number of credits as on-campus programs. Many online-only programs allow you to earn your degree in on an accelerated schedule, and you generally won't be required to complete a thesis project.

Stand Out with this Degree

Technology plays a major role in the business sector, so you may benefit from incorporating technology coursework into your master's studies. An introductory course in computer technology may teach you to use spreadsheets and enterprise resource planning software, which are commonly used in this industry. More specifically, if you intend on becoming an industrial-organizational psychologist, you'll want to learn to use analytical software. For a position in human resources management, you'll need to be familiar with accounting software.

Doctorate in Business Psychology

Business psychology is generally not offered as a major in Doctor of Philosophy programs. Some schools offer Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) programs in this subject, although even this is rare. More commonly, doctoral education in business psychology is offered in the form of Ph.D. programs in industrial-organizational psychology. These programs are highly research-intensive and are designed to immerse you in research projects in business psychology that can spur advancement in the scientific field. Your curriculum will be flexible, allowing you to gear your studies towards areas of the field that interest you most.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allows opportunity to participate in complex research projects headed by experienced behavioral psychologists
  • Applicants can qualify for admission with only a bachelor's degree
  • Offers internship and field experience opportunities

Cons

  • Prepares you for careers that offer lower average salaries than most master's level careers*
  • Requires extensive research and completion of both thesis and dissertation projects
  • Can take up to four years of study beyond an undergraduate degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Courses and Requirements

As a business psychology or industrial-organizational psychology student, you can expect to work closely alongside faculty who have experience in psychology in both workplace and research settings. You'll contribute to departmental research projects and, while working on your dissertation, lead your own project. These programs tend to require some hands-on experience, such as through an internship, as well as didactic study in topics such as:

  • Advanced statistics
  • Psychometrics
  • Strategic management
  • Marketing
  • Group dynamics
  • Training methodology
  • Consultation and facilitation

Online Degree Options

Ph.D. programs in business and industrial-organizational psychology are available entirely online, or you can attend a hybrid program. Much like on-campus programs, online programs in this major have a heavy focus on research and require you to complete a dissertation project. Additionally, these programs may have residency requirements, which require you to complete a portion of your studies on campus.

Stand Out with this Degree

If you want to pursue a career in teaching, research or clinical psychology, you'll need to be able to navigate the software commonly used in these professions. In fact, technology is becoming an increasingly important tool in the classroom. Teachers use database programs, spreadsheets and word processors as well as virtual learning applications such as Blackboard. Clinical psychologists have their own set of technological tools, including analytical, medical and scientific software.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Psychology: Industrial & Organizational Psychology
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
      • MS in Educational Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Sacred Heart University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSAP - Community Psychology
      • MSAP - General Track
      • MSAP - Industrial/Organizational Technology
  • New York, NY

    New York University

  • Chicago, IL

    DePaul University

  • Orlando, FL

    University of Central Florida

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Psychology: Industrial & Organizational Psychology
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
  • MS in Psychology
  • Master: Psychology/General Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring

What is your highest level of education completed?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health

What is your highest level of education?

Sacred Heart University

  • MSAP - Community Psychology
  • MSAP - General Track
  • MSAP - Industrial/Organizational Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?