Industrial-organizational psychologists salary & career outlook

Productivity and worker morale are among the most critical factors in a company's success. According to the American Psychological Association, employees who are happy at their jobs and feel engaged by their work are twice as likely to be physically, emotionally and financially healthy. Not only that but productivity lost by unhappy, disengaged workers amounts to about $28,000 per person each year, according to a 2010 Gallup study.

Industrial-organizational psychologists apply their expertise about human behavior in the workplace to improve employee morale, thereby improving a company's productivity and profitability. As businesses recognize the value of industrial-organizational psychologists to their bottom line, demand for these specialists is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

What industrial-organizational psychologists do

The industrial-organizational psychologist may improve workplace dynamics in a number of ways. These might include:

  • Counseling managers on their management style or feedback methods
  • Evaluating workplace productivity
  • Studying worker morale
  • Contributing to policy planning
  • Consulting on employee screening
  • Hiring, training or assessment
  • Coaching employees
  • Overseeing organizational development, including methods for harnessing innovative thinking or developing leadership skills

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) indicates that their expertise results in higher productivity, reduced turnover and lower labor costs.

Average salaries

This specialized knowledge about human behavior in the workplaces helps industrial-organizational psychologists to earn higher salaries than any other psychology specialty. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a national mean annual wage of $87,960 for these specialists as of May 2013.

The largest employer of these specialists are management, scientific and technical consulting services. About 44 percent of industrial-organizational psychologists in the U.S. work in this industry, earning a national average annual wage of $79,680. State government is also a significant employer of these psychologists, with a national average salary of $73.410. The highest-paying industry, however, is the scientific research and development sector, which pays an annual mean wage of $110,700 nationally.

The top-paying states for industrial-organizational psychologists are Tennessee, Virginia and California. For industrial-organizational psychologists interested in areas offering the top salaries to these professionals, the following four metropolitan areas are the highest-paying areas in terms of mean annual wage -- as well as those which have the highest concentrations of these jobs:

  • New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division: $100,920
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division: $98,940
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: $97,160
  • Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA NECTA Division: $89,190

Training to become a psychologist

A career in industrial-organizational psychology customarily begins with a graduate degree in the field, either at the master's or doctoral level. The BLS indicates that a master's degree is sufficient to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist, though most clinical, research and counseling psychologists need a doctorate. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association, maintains a list of industrial-organizational psychologist schools on its website.

Whether training is earned online or in a traditional classroom setting, it generally includes courses in industrial-organizational psychology, statistics and research design. Typically, an undergraduate major in psychology isn't a requirement, although prior coursework in introductory psychology, experimental psychology and statistics is helpful; some schools may require incoming students to take these courses before beginning their graduate programs.

In order to practice, these psychologists also will need licenses or certifications, according to the BLS. Licensing varies by state, but usually requires pre- or post-doctoral supervised experience, internship and residency.

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. In fact, in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' recent ranking of the 20 Fastest-Growing Occupations in the U.S., industrial-organizational psychologists came in at No. 1, with 53 percent growth nationally forecast for this profession during the 2012-22 period. However, because industrial-organizational psychology is a small specialty, this dramatic growth only amounts to about 900 new jobs for the decade.

Those jobs are likely to be more concentrated in some states than others. The states with the highest projected job growth for industrial-organizational psychologists through 2020 are:

  • Minnesota: 43.2% growth
  • Ohio: 32.9% growth
  • New York: 21.5% growth

Industrial-organizational psychology enables employers to capitalize on their most valuable resource: their people. by helping to boost productivity and worker retention, industrial-organizational psychologists with strong training are well-positioned to compete for jobs in this rapidly growing specialty.


"20 Fastest Growing Occupations," Alan Farnham, ABC News, Feb. 5, 2014,

"Boosting morale," Amy Novotney, Monitor on Psychology Vol. 41, No. 11, American Psychological Association, December 2010,

Long Term Occupational Projections for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, Projections Central,

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,

Psychologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Jan. 8, 2014,