While their duties are varied depending on where they work, all industrial-organizational or I/O psychologists apply psychological principles to the workplace to improve productivity, enhance management skills and boost morale. The work is rewarding, the pay is good and the job prospects are growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I/O psychologists earned a median income of $87,330 in 2010, with job growth of 35 percent anticipated from 2010 to 2020.
In the business world, I/O psychologists apply scientific principles to design, execute and interpret workplace data. When conducting original research, an I/O psychologist typically collects employee data, such as job analyses and satisfaction surveys, and analyzes it to figure out why a specific problem is occurring. Problems I/O psychologists might attempt to solve through research include low productivity, work dissatisfaction, job turnover, absenteeism or tardiness. If working in an academic environment, results of an I/O psychologist's research are typically shared in peer-review journals, while those in the private sector might share results with management or employees.
If you want to mold management's mind, become an I/O psychologist. These psychologists design and implement leadership-development programs to improve management's performance. They might create structured, group training or more individual hands-on experiences. Regardless of the style of program, an I/O psychologist first develops a leadership competency model, which details the organization's objectives and values. All program development then stems from this model, aligning with the corporate vision. I/O psychologists identify aspects of a leader's style, such as good communication skills or attention to detail, that an organization has an interest in strengthening to make the company more efficient and productive.
I/O psychologists use the power of science to attract and match the best applicants to positions that are right for them. An I/O psychologist working in human resources uses her skills to identify an employment candidate's personality traits, goals and interests to find a position that is the perfect fit -- both for the employee and the company. She uses interview data, along with subjective instruments, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, which matches a person's interests to various job roles, to match employees and positions objectively.
Figuring out why employees quit is like solving a mystery, so it's a good thing an I/O psychologist is one part detective, three parts scientist. The first step is typically for an I/O psychologist to educate management on the myths surrounding turnover, such as all turnover is bad and most employees leave because they aren't being paid enough. Once these myths are busted, management might be more open to allowing the I/O psychologist to roll up her sleeves and investigate the unique causes of the problem so a realistic solution can be developed.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists
- Amercian Psychological Association: Public Description of Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc.: Leadership Development for Organizational Success
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc.: Top Minds and Bottom Lines
- Mt. San Jacinto College: Career Assessment
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc.: The Five Misconceptions of Employee Turnover
- Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images