Industrial Organizational Psychology Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's degree or PhD in industrial organizational psychology? Find out about degree requirements, online options and info on courses and industrial organizational psychology training programs.
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Studying Industrial Organizational Psychology: Degrees at a Glance

Industrial organizational psychology applies the study of human behavior to the workplace. It also involves the application of psychological principles to solve practical problems that people experience in the workplace.

As a student in this field, you'll learn about worker productivity, employee selection, performance measurement, training and development, job satisfaction and models of motivation. Upon graduation, you'll be prepared for employment in organizational, consulting and academic settings.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment of industrial organizational psychologists to increase by 35% from 2010 to 2020. However, since this field is relatively small and there's expected to be a large number of graduates, you can expect a competitive job market.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Students who want to work in human resources and organizational development or are interested in later pursuing a PhD Students who want to pursue a career in academia as professors or researchers
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salaries) - Human resources specialist ($54,000)*
- Human resources manager ($99,000)*
- Industrial organizational psychologist ($95,000)*
- Industrial organizational psychologist ($95,000)*
- Postsecondary psychology teacher ($68,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Thesis
- Research seminar
- Independent study
- Practicum
- Comprehensive exam
- Dissertation
- Qualifying exam
- Research seminar
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in psychology or undergraduate coursework in statistics, research methods and psychology - Bachelor's or master's degree in psychology or a related area
- Undergraduate courses in statistics or experimental psychology
Online Availability Limited programs None found at this time

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

Master's in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Master's degree programs in industrial organizational psychology teach you how psychological theory, applications and research are related to how people behave in various organizations. You can expect to take courses concerning research methodology, organizational psychology and personnel psychology.

As a student in this degree program, you'll also learn to conduct research within industrial organizational psychology. This is typically accomplished through research seminars, independent study and thesis research, although some schools offer non-thesis options. If you elect a non-thesis option, you'll likely be required to complete research under the supervision of a faculty member and prepare a research report. Qualifying exams are also a requirement at many schools.

Pros and Cons


  • Prepares you for careers in many fields, such as business, government and consulting
  • Some programs offer flexibility in class scheduling so you can take classes in the evening, daytime or online
  • Most programs are research-oriented and allow you to become actively involved in research


  • Admission can be competitive
  • Graduates with only a master's degree may face a competitive job market
  • Some schools may only accept students who plan to pursue a PhD after receiving the master's

Courses and Requirements

Requirements for a master's in industrial organizational psychology can include both traditional coursework and seminars. In addition to coursework related to workplace dynamics, you may take general psychology courses such as social and cognitive psychology. Furthermore, many schools require that master's students complete a thesis and participate in independent and faculty-sponsored research.

Examples of courses you might take at the master's level include:

  • Work motivation and job attitudes
  • Psychological testing
  • Personnel psychology
  • Advanced research methods
  • Ethical, legal and professional issues in industrial and organizational psychology

Online Degree Options

Although not common, some master's level programs offer some courses partially or fully online. If online availability is important to you, you can check the class schedules of a variety of programs or contact individual schools to see if they offer classes online.

Stand Out with This Degree

To make yourself more marketable to employers, you might consider participating in an internship program. Doing so can provide the opportunity to expand on skills that you've learned and gain real-world experience that will make you stand out when applying for jobs. If you have a particular career setting in mind, it can be helpful to seek out internship opportunities in that area.

According to the BLS, individuals with only master's degrees are expected to face competition for employment as industrial organizational psychologists. Substantial experience in computer science and quantitative research methods could improve your job prospects. If this is a career field that you know you would like to enter, consider taking elective courses in computer science, and seek additional opportunities to work with a faculty member or take an independent study course on quantitative research.

PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology

As a PhD student in industrial organizational psychology, you'll gain skills in research methods and quantitative research, learn about the theoretical foundations of industrial organizational psychology and develop practical problem solving skills. Developing analytical and research skills are of primary importance in this degree program, and you'll spend much of your time working on research and independent study projects.

Many PhD programs within this field provide students with the opportunity to pursue their own interests by taking a variety of electives and advanced seminars. This can include areas such as employee engagement and motivation, personnel selection, work attitudes and emotions, psychometrics and performance management. You are also required to produce a dissertation and successfully complete a qualifying exam.

Pros and Cons


  • Research-oriented programs can prepare you for a career as a researcher or professor in addition to a career as an industrial organizational psychologist
  • Many programs allow you to customize your education based on your interests and career goals
  • Students often work closely with faculty members


  • You may be applying for the same jobs as someone with a master's degree
  • Admission is competitive (some schools accept as few as 25 students)
  • There are not many available jobs since industrial organizational psychology is a small career field and there are numerous graduates

Courses and Requirements

As a PhD student in industrial organizational psychology, you can expect to take courses in general and organizational psychology, statistics and research design. You may also receive training in working with clients in various organizational settings, preparing and presenting research proposals and developing and executing new methods for human resource management. You'll also be required to work on and defend a dissertation, as well as pass a comprehensive exam. Depending on your program, you may also be required to participate in fieldwork placements, internships and research seminars. Topics in common courses include:

  • Advanced research methodology
  • Psychometric theory and practice
  • Statistics and computer programming
  • Social psychology
  • Ethical/legal issues for psychologists

Online Course Info

It's difficult to find schools that offer online PhD programs in industrial organizational psychology. If you're considering a career in research or teaching, you'll benefit from the on-campus resources that many schools have to offer.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

When preparing for a successful career as an industrial organizational psychologist, professor or researcher, experience and research skills are important. Here are some ways to stand out while pursuing your PhD:

  • Pursue internships: Some schools offer internships and fieldwork placements as part of their curricula. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can gain real-world professional experience and skills that will make you a more competitive candidate when applying for jobs. To make the most of an internship or field placement, you can choose a setting that you would like to work in after graduation.
  • Receive extensive training in quantitative research and computer science: The BLS expects competition for graduates pursuing employment as an industrial and organizational psychologist. It's predicted that individuals who have received substantial training in quantitative research and computer science will be amongst the most competitive candidates for this career field. To give yourself a competitive edge, you can seek additional opportunities to conduct research and take additional courses in computer science. You can also look for other opportunities to collaborate with faculty members and work on being published in scholarly publications.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

      • Doctor of Business Admin - Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • PhD in Psychology - Industrial Organizational Psychology
      • PhD in Business Admin - Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology
      • PhD in Psychology - Addications
      • DMFT - Mental Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Liberty University

    Program Options

      • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Grief Counseling
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services Counseling
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services/Student Affairs
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - International
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Research Concentration
  • Norfolk, VA

    Old Dominion University

  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

  • Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University

  • Knoxville, TN

    The University of Tennessee

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Durham, NC

    Duke University

  • Notre Dame, IN

    University of Notre Dame

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology - Industrial Organizational Psychology
  • PhD in Business Admin - Industrial/Organizational Psychology

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Liberty University

  • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision

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Regent University

  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Grief Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services Counseling

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