Industrial-organizational psychologists salary & career outlook

by Clare Kaufman | August 31, 2012

Productivity and worker morale are among the most critical factors in a company's success -- and the most elusive. Industrial-organizational psychologists apply their expertise to make people happier at work. In doing so, they make an important contribution not only to workers, but also to the organization as a whole. As businesses recognize the value of psychologists, demand for these specialists is growing; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists industrial-organizational psychologists among the fastest-growing of all occupations.

A closer look at industrial-organizational psychologists

The industrial-organizational psychologist may boost employee morale and performance by counseling managers on their management style, changing employee work methods or improving the work setting. Some psychologists affect worker happiness by contributing to policy planning, employee screening and company hiring practices, worker training and assessment, feedback systems and other aspects of organizational development. Some industrial-organizational psychologists focus on fostering a particular quality in the workplace, such as innovative thinking or leadership skills.

Industrial-organizational psychologist salary 2011 and beyond

Industrial-organizational psychologists command higher average earnings than any other psychology specialty. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a national median annual wage of $94,720 for industrial-organizational psychologists salary 2011. That's about 20 percent higher than the national median 2011 salary for all psychologists, $68,640.

The highest-paying industry for industrial-organizational psychologists is also the largest employer of these specialists: Management, scientific and technical consulting services. About 60 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists work in this industry, earning a national average annual wage of $163,080. Scientific R&D is also a significant employer of psychologists, with a national average salary of $95,160.

Top-paying states for industrial-organizational psychologists are Minnesota, Virginia and Pennsylvania. For industrial-organizational psychologists interested in an affordable cost of living with a competitive salary, top metropolitan areas include:

  • Dallas, Texas: $79,760 average annual wage and a below-average 92.3 on the ACCRA Cost of Living Index.
  • Minneapolis, Minn.: $115,570 average salary and a 112.9 ACCRA rating, which is relatively modest to the nation's other major metropolitan areas.
  • Pittsburgh, Pa.: Pennsylvania reports a high state-wide average salary of $93,860. Most metro areas in the state fall below the national average for cost of living. Pittsburgh, for example, ranks at a low 92.

Industrial-organizational psychologist training online

A career in industrial-organizational psychology customarily begins with a graduate degree in the field, either at the master's or doctoral level. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association, maintains a list of industrial-organizational psychologist schools. Graduate training online should cover history of the field; the biological, learned and social bases of behavior; data collection and analysis; and core industrial-organizational topics.

Career outlook for industrial-organizational psychologists

Industrial-organizational psychologists not only boast the highest average salary of any psychology specialty, but also the highest demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 35 percent national job growth in this specialty between 2010 and 2020, much faster than average for all occupations. Because industrial-organizational psychology is a small specialty, however, this dramatic growth only amounts to about 800 new jobs across the decade.

Industrial-organizational psychology offers a valuable service to business, boosting productivity and worker retention. Psychologists with competitive training online are well-positioned to compete for jobs in this growing specialty.

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About the Author

Clare Kaufman covers business and education topics. She has a graduate degree in English.