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Organizational psychology programs

Part business intelligence and part behavioral analysis, organizational psychology is the fastest-growing psychological specialty, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Also known as industrial-organizational, or I-O, psychologists, these professionals use their knowledge of human behavior and motivation to help businesses improve productivity, eliminate inefficiencies and increase their competitiveness.

Industrial-organizational psychologists may work either in academia or as practitioners. Those employed in the academic sphere may teach at the post-secondary level or conduct research pertaining to how businesses operate. Practitioners, on the other hand, work in the field. They may be employed by a specific business or work as a consultant. Either way, an I-O psychologist is often responsible for identifying potential problems within an organization and recommending how best to improve business practices. Their expertise can be an integral part in maximizing profits, boosting employee retention and morale or meeting other company goals.

Individuals working in organizational psychology may need all the following to be successful:

  • Ability to work methodically
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Strong sense of ethics, particularly since they may be privy to confidential company information
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills

3 degrees for organizational psychologists

Aspiring I-O psychologists should start with the right education. Degrees in organizational psychology are available are three levels -- bachelor's, master's and doctoral -- so it's best to begin by assessing which degree fits your career goals and then start looking for organizational psychology schools near you.

Fast facts about organizational psychology

*The Bureau of Labor Statistics says industrial-organizational psychologist is the fastest-growing occupation in the nation, estimated to have job growth of 53 percent between 2012 and 2022.

*According to the BLS, the average annual salary for I-O psychologists in the U.S. in 2013 was $87,960.

*I-O psychologists can go by many different names. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology lists on its website nearly 45 job titles it says professionals in the field may have.

*Employment website O*NET Online finds I-O psychologists are split when it comes to education. Among the professionals it surveyed, 48 percent have a doctoral degree and 47 percent have a master's degree.

Bachelor's degrees in organizational psychology

The American Psychological Association says employment is possible for those with only a bachelor's degree in the field, but those job opportunities are few and far between. Rather than going straight to the workforce, most I-O psychologists use their undergraduate degree as a foundation for graduate study.

Some schools offer undergraduate degrees specifically in industrial-organizational psychology, but any bachelor's degree in psychology can be a good foundation for this career. Regardless of their specific major, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology website suggests undergraduates take courses in the following areas.

  • I-O psychology
  • Statistics
  • Research methods
  • Test and measurements
  • Social psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Personality
  • Business or management

Master's degrees in organizational psychology

A master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology, business intelligence or a related field is one of the most common levels of education for I-O psychologists today. According to The Princeton Review, some master's degree programs are offered in conjunction with a bachelor's degree, allowing students to complete both programs within five years. Other schools may offer dual degrees that combine a master's degree in organizational psychology with a MBA or law degree.

Although a bachelor's degree in psychology may be helpful, many schools admit students with any undergraduate major to their master's program. Once enrolled, students may take classes covering topics such as research, statistics, business, psychology and leadership. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) suggests programs that require a thesis or dissertation as well as hands-on experience such as an internship may result in greater employability for graduates.

Doctoral degrees in organizational psychology

Individuals seeking the highest level of education and expertise possible may want to earn a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology. These advanced degrees may take at least four or five years to complete, and they are typically best for those planning a career as a research scientist or college professor. Some schools offer a combined master's and doctoral degree which may streamline graduate studies for students.

These combined degrees may enroll students with only a bachelor's degree, but certain coursework requirements must be met for admission. For example, at Baruch College within The City University of New York, applicants must have at least 15 credits in psychology, including courses in I-O psychology, research methods and statistics.

Online degree options for I-O psychologists

Earning a degree in organizational psychology may be an investment in your future, but it can be difficult to return to school, particularly if you have a job or a family. Instead of traveling to campus for a degree program, busy students may want to explore their online options. A number of institutions offer online organizational psychology degrees.

Although the details vary by school, most online degree programs allow students to log in to review course materials or complete assignments at any time. In addition, they may have an overall lower cost than on-campus programs since students don't need to pay for room and board, commuting or parking.

Here are three schools offering online degrees in organizational psychology.

  • Florida Tech University: At Florida Tech University Online, students can earn a bachelor's degree in applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology. The 121-credit program covers topics such as management, employee selection and the role personality plays in business operations. According to Florida Tech University, graduates should be ready to step into positions such as that of a labor relations specialist, human resources director or organizational management consultant.
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology: Known to many as simply The Chicago School, this accredited institution was founded in 1979 and offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs at six locations nationwide as well as online. Online programs include a completion program for a bachelor's degree in psychology as well as a master's degree in organizational leadership. I-O psychologists may also benefit from two doctoral options: a Ph.D. in organizational leadership and a Ph.D. in business psychology.
  • Capella University: Another option for graduate students is Capella University. This online institution offers both a master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology and a doctoral degree in industrial-organizational psychology. The master's degree features a FlexPath method of self-paced learning that allows students to quickly move through material they already know while spending more time on new or challenging concepts. The doctoral degree is also available online, but with in-person residency requirements.

Whether you are interested in an online or campus program, be sure to request more information from schools offering organizational psychology degrees. This field is growing, and candidates could join their ranks with the right degree.

Sources:

Pursuing a Career in Industrial & Organizational Psychology, American Psychological Association,
http://www.apa.org/action/science/organizational/education-training.aspx

Industrial & Organizational Psychology PhD Program, Baruch College,
http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/wsas/academics/psychology/Psychology_PhD.htm

Online Psychology Degrees, Capella University,
http://www.capella.edu/online-psychology-degrees/

Earn Your Psychology Degree, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology,
http://learn.thechicagoschool.edu/get_started/online-205RV-4304DG.html

Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology Organizational Psychology, Florida Tech University Online,
http://www.floridatechonline.com/programs/undergraduate/bachelors-degrees/ba-applied-psychology-organizational-psychology/

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, O*NET Online,
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3032.00

Grad Program: Industrial and Organizational Psychology, The Princeton Review,
http://www.princetonreview.com/GradPrograms.aspx?gpid=106

Industrial/Organizational Psychologists, San Diego State University,
http://www.psychology.sdsu.edu/advising/IO%20psychology.htm

Advising Undergraduates for Graduate School in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Human Factors, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology,
http://www.siop.org/Instruct/IO_HF_Brochure_on_Advising_Dec2013.pdf

"What's in a Name?", Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology,
http://www.siop.org/userfiles/file/What%27s%20In%20A%20Name.pdf

Fastest Growing Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193032.htm

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