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.

Job Responsibilities

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.

Career Growth

In the overall field of psychology, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth of 19% from 2014-2024. The average salary in 2015 for an I/O psychologist was $92,320. Depending on the place of employment, this may increase or decrease.

Job Environment

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.

Education Requirements

To become an I/O psychologist, the first step is a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Usually, advanced degrees are essential as well for entry-level positions, and doctorate degrees will open up to more employment opportunities. Some will also become certified by the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology to show commitment to their field. A master’s degree will take around one to two years to complete, and a doctorate will require around four to five years of commitment. Requirements vary by state, so check your state’s requirements.

Required Skills

An I/O psychologist should be organized, detail-oriented, and someone who thinks critically as well as how to solve problems best. Some other skills needed to succeed in this position are:

  • Ability to communicate well
  • Talent to motivate others and collaborate with them
  • Capability to analyze a situation and apply conflict resolution skills if necessary
  • Flexibility in schedule as well as in social circumstances
  • Aptitude for observation, patience and being trustworthy

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