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What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology doing to positively affect the workplace and workforce? If you are considering a career in psychology and have come across this discipline, the practicality of the science may be one issue that weighs in your decision. Will you make a difference as an I-O practitioner?

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Definition of the Science

Any time you gather several people into a group issues can arise because of differences in personality, intelligence, beliefs and other factors. These differences can create problems in group performance, whether in the workplace or in other organizations. Wikipedia gives this definition of the science, also known as W-O psychology. It is the “scientific study of human behavior in the workplace and applies psychological theories and principles to organizations and individuals in the workplace.”

W-O psychology is one of 14 recognized specialties within the discipline. The industrial part of the discipline refers to studies of the individual and how to adapt the workplace so that he is happier, safer and more productive. The organizational segment refers to the organization or workplace as a whole.

History of Industrial-Organizational Psychology

During WWI military commanders needed a way to rapidly assess which troops to deploy to duty stations. In 1917, Walter Scott and Walter Van Dyke Bingham adapted an individual intelligence test so that it could be used to assess groups. The test was dubbed Army-Alpha and was so useful that the private sector employed it after the war to address industry staffing issues. Today, this branch of psychology is offered as a major at many universities.

What Do They Do?

W-O psychologists use qualitative methods of investigation including analysis of content, focus groups, interviews, case studies and other techniques to gather data. That data is used in several ways, including:

• Job analysis, or how a job is structured
• Personnel recruitment, including hiring the right person for the job
• Performance assessment and management, using reward systems and sanctions appropriately
• Occupational health and well-being, involving things like the introduction of exercise programs into the workplace

W-O psychology has determined that workplace satisfaction not only affects job performance, but life satisfaction as well. Issues like bullying and aggression at work can lead to poor job performance and loss of productivity. Other studies have resulted in daycare centers at some offices, leave for parents who adopt children, and other changes that have had a positive impact on industry and organizations. The questions of how to motivate employees and how to address cultural, racial and ethnic issues are certainly relevant to today’s industrial environment.

What Education is Required?

As any psychologist, you must have at least a master’s degree to get a position in this profession. Many I-O practitioners have doctoral degrees. You begin with a bachelor’s degree in general psychology and then specialize your degree in graduate school. There are, however, a few schools that offer bachelor programs in W-O psychology. With a master’s degree you can expect a median salary at an entry level of about $40,000. Those with doctoral degrees earn a beginning salary of $55,000 but can earn more than $100,000 with experience. The highest percentage of industrial-organizational psychologists work in California, which also pays the highest salaries, according to BLS statistics.

As society becomes more complex and diverse, there will be more need for people to solve problems that arise with that diversity. The question, “What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology doing to make a difference?” can be answered; it is finding those solutions and making the workplace a safer, more productive and more satisfying environment.

 

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