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What is Organizational Psychology?

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Published 10/30/2018
4 minutes read
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Have you ever seen a movie in which a company calls in a "pro" to solve a workplace issue? Whether they are hired to help companies boost employee morale, design employee selection and training or enhance organizational productivity, the real-world title for these "pros" is oftentimes an "industrial-organizational psychologist." But what is industrial organizational psychology?

These specialized career paths in industrial organizational psychology are ideal for people who are interested in both the psychology and the work life of business organization professions. Alliant’s California School of Professional Psychology can help you become an IO psychologist by earning a master’s degree or a doctoral program.

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What is Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Industrial-organizational psychology (also known as IO psychology) is a specialized branch of psychology focused on, “the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the workplace,1” according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The industrial and organizational psychology field is relatively young, as the development of industrial-organizational psychology began around the turn of the 20th century2 . However, many of the foundational concepts were being used long before its recognition as a psychological specialty.

What does an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Do?

Early industrial-organizational psychologists mainly focused on job efficiency, such as optimizing the number of items a factory worker could inspect per workday. Today, I-O psychologists use scientific methods to apply psychological principles across a wide range of areas, including administration, human resources, personnel psychology, marketing, management, and training. The ultimate goal of industrial psychologists is to identify and solve problems relating to the workplace.

Today’s industrial-organizational psychologists may:

  • Determine barriers to organizational development and employee productivity
  • Design measures to examine workplace performance and job satisfaction
  • Formulate more effective training programs
  • Optimize the organizational structure and work environment to promote quality of life for employees
  • Identify core personality traits that work best for specific roles and skills
  • Help companies select and promote the best candidates
  • Evaluate the organizational effectiveness of newly implemented training programs or workplace protocols
  • Research consumer behavior and marketing trends

Industrial-organizational psychologists may be employed in a variety of settings, such as consulting firms, I-O psychology consulting firms, research and development firms, colleges and universities, large corporations, psychology companies, and community organizations. In addition to working in-house or by consultation, I-O psychologists may also work with research groups to explore aspects of employment such as using research methods to improve employee engagement, job analysis, company culture, sexual harassment, and stigmas in the workplace.

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Industrial-Organizational Psychology Outlook

Among today’s competition in the business sector, the need for companies to operate more efficiently and to retain the nation’s best and brightest is very important. It has also improved the demand for practitioners like I-O psychologists with a deeper knowledge about how to help successful businesses operate more productively.

How to become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Are you thinking about pursuing a career in industrial-organizational psychology? If so, graduate-level training in I/O psychology could help you move forward in the field of I-O psychology. The California School of Professional Psychology offers both a Master's and PhD Programs for students wishing to turn their experience into expertise, and expertise into leadership. Coursework involves in-depth training, both in the classroom and in the field, led by experts in the field.

Interested in an organizational psychology program? Get started in an industrial-organizational psychology education by enrolling in the Masters in Organizational Psychology or PhD in Organizational Psychology degree program. 

Contact an Admissions Counselor at Alliant International University. Alliant will help you take the next step in your career.


  1. "Industrial and Organizational Psychology,"American Psychology Association, accessed November 11, 2021,
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, "industrial-organizational psychology," Accessed November 11, 2021,
  3. Alan Farnham, "20 Fastest Growing Occupations,"ABC News, Accessed November 11, 2021,…
  4. Rebecca A. Clay, "Trend Report: Psychology is More Popular than Ever,"American Psychological Association, Accessed November 11, 2021,

  5. "Organizational Psychology Salary: What You’ll Earn," All Pychology Schools, Accessed November 11, 2021,

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