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You’ll find organizational psychologists performing a variety of different roles in both public and private sector occupations. Also called industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists, these professionals strive to improve the workplace, from the physical environment to employee-employer relationships. They help define job parameters, research industry best practices, and find ways to increase productivity and employee morale. So, what does an Organizational Psychologist do exactly? Before discussing the average industrial-organizational psychologist salary, we’ll look at common career paths that I/O psychologists pursue.

Organizational Psychology Career Paths

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology identifies four main career paths in the field. Most of these include the option to either remain as an “expert individual contributor” or work your way up a management track. Let’s take a look at each path, including related job titles and the skills you’ll need. 

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Academia. An industrial organizational psychology position in higher education requires strong written and verbal communication skills. It also requires individuals who have integrity and behave ethically. A professional in this field must research and publish, while also teaching and mentoring students. The range of positions include assistant, associate and full professors, department chairs and deans, and top university administrators.

Consulting. I/O consultants should be good verbal communicators, and possess strong critical thinking and interpersonal skills. They should have integrity, and be ethical and trustworthy. These professionals develop strong relationships with clients and see that their projects are completed successfully. This career requires many client meetings, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. Project assistants work their way up to jobs like senior consultant, team leader, program manager, program director and executive positions.

Government. I/O clinical psychologists also hold positions in various government agencies. Some positions are more research-based, while others involve working directly with clients. Integrity, ethical behavior, communication and critical thinking are all key requirements in this field. These professionals draw on many skills and methodologies, regularly brief customers and supervisors, and oversee complex projects through to completion. Associates may be promoted to case team leader, senior associate consultant, project leader, on up to executive, partner and director.

Industry. Within various industries, many I/O clinical psychologists work in human resource positions related to selection, training, and/or talent management. They require critical thinking, verbal communication and interpersonal skills, as well as ethical behavior and accountability. These experts must maintain team members’ trust as they collaborate on various projects. In the industry sector, multiple I/O-related job titles exist for individual contributors. These may include HR research specialist, project assistant, consultant, chief scientist, and managing research scientist. Management-related job titles can include director of HR operations, team leader, area director of HR, principal consultant, program director, and chief HR manager1.

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How Much Does an Organizational Psychologist Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects and publishes local, state and national occupational data. According to BLS data from May 2018, the national average industrial-organizational psychologist salary was $109,030. This is equivalent to an hourly wage of $52.42. Keep in mind that this will depend on how many years of experience you have and your level of education. The median organizational psychologist salary was $97,260, an hourly rate of $46.762

Salary by state. Salaries are determined by a number of factors, including job demand and cost of living in a particular location. Although 2018 data is not available for all localities, here are I/O psychologist average and median salaries for several states:

  • California: $149,820 (average)2, $129,300 (median)3
  • Virginia: $126,220 (average)2, $126,540 (median)3
  • New Jersey: $119,700 (average)2, $116,890 (median)3
  • Minnesota: $114,990 (average)2, $98,400 (median)3
  • Pennsylvania: $96,730 (average)2, $80,400 (median)3
  • Massachusetts: $75,660 (average)2, $64,820 (median)3

What Degree Do You Need to Become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist?

The obvious answer to this question is that it depends on your career goal. According to BLS, a job in industrial-organizational psychology requires at least a master’s degree, with training in research design and statistics. Depending on your career path, a doctorate may be required. But related careers may require only a bachelor’s. 

Bachelor’s in Organizational Psychology. Some colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s in industrial-organizational psychology, but many do not. I/O psychologists typically get their undergraduate degrees in psychology or a related field. With a bachelor’s in I/O psychology you may find employment in human resources, business management, or marketing.5

Master’s in Organizational Psychology5. You’ll have an easier time finding a quality MA program in Organizational Psychology. The 33-unit program includes courses in statistics, data analysis, social and personality psychology, cultural diversity in organizations, and business principles. With full-time enrollment of two courses per term, you can complete the program in just one year, or opt for one course per term to complete the program in two years.

Doctorate in Organizational Psychology5. The PhD in Organizational Psychology is a 66-unit program including courses in qualitative research, work motivation, conflict management, and organization theory. The program can be completed in three years by focusing year-round on only two courses per eight-week term, or longer if you take one course during some terms.

Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) offers several organizational psychology degrees. These graduate programs give you the knowledge and hands-on training you need to join this impactful field.



  1. SIOP, "Careers in I-O Psychology," Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  2. Bureau of Labor of Statistics, “Industrial-Organizational Psychologists: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018,” Accessed November 29, 2021.
  3. CareerOneStop, "Salary Finder," June 23, 2015. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  4. Georgetown University Center, "Available Workforce," Wages, February 05, 2015. November 29, 2021.
  5. Best Accredited Colleges, "How to Become an Industrial Psychologist: Education and Career Roadmap," October 20, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.

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