The typical workplace is full of varying social situations and dynamics, and those dynamics intrigue people so much that they’ve inspired cultural sensations like The Office and Office Space. If you’re interested in studying how humans behave and interact in the workplace, then the branch of industrial-organizational psychology (I/O psychology) may be a good fit for you.
I/O psychologists, along with looking at office behavior, use principles of psychology and research to improve the workplace in areas such as employee performance, safety, communication and employee happiness. Their expertise isn’t just limited to executives, although they do work with management to create the best work environment conducive to employee productivity. I/O psychologists may work with people from any department, like administration, marketing or human resources. They may also help with employee training, selecting and testing employees, and analyzing employee efficiency.
In the overall field of psychology, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth of 19% from 2014-2024. The average salary in 2016 for an I/O psychologist was $104,570. Depending on the place of employment, this may increase or decrease.
I/O psychologists work in many different office environments, ranging from hospitals and schools to small businesses and large corporations.
One unique environment some I/O psychologists get to experience is the NASA mission to Mars scheduled for some time in the 2030s. Concerns arose about the astronauts and how they’d interact with each other and mission control over a long time period, so NASA brought in some I/O psychologists to help out.
For astronauts aboard the International Space Station, communication is set up pretty well. Astronauts traveling to Mars won’t have that – to communicate with anyone on Earth, there will be a 20-minute delay between each message. A 2015 NASA report indicated that astronauts’ likelihood of developing behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders increases with a mission’s longevity, so I/O psychologists will have to work with them to try to prevent these issues.
From an Associate Professor position at a university to the Vice President of Human Resources at a major corporation, industrial-organizational psychologists can apply their knowledge of the workplace to a variety of positions. They can explore jobs in academia and the government as well as consulting and working for private companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the greatest employment of I/O psychologists is in the scientific research and development services industry.
To become an I/O psychologist, the first step is a bachelor’s degree in psychology. According to the American Psychological Association, a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology can qualify professionals for entry-level positions; however, those with a doctorate will have the most employment opportunities.
An I/O psychologist should be an organized, detail-oriented problem solver and critical thinker. Some other skills needed to succeed in this position are:
- Verbal and written communication
- Professionalism and ethical behavior
- Planning and adaptability
- Research and presentation skills
- Collaboration, teamwork and interpersonal skills
- Judgment and decision making
For more information on required skills and career information, please check out the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology website and Florida Tech’s on-campus I/O psychology programs.