Industrial-Organizational Psychologists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

High school classes in psychology, sociology, business, social studies, mathematics, science, statistics, computer science, English, and speech will provide useful preparation for college and a career in industrial-organizational psychology.

Postsecondary Education

To become an I-O psychologist, you’ll need to first earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. During this time, participate in at least one internship and take classes in industrial-organizational psychology, cognitive psychology, research methods, statistics, social psychology, psychological testing and management, and business.

Although a few entry-level positions (as assistants) are available for those with bachelor’s degrees, most I-O psychologists have master’s degrees in industrial-organizational psychology—and some employers prefer to hire those with doctorates. Visit https://www.siop.org/Events-Education/Graduate-Training-Program for a list of programs in I-O psychology and related fields. Typical classes in an industrial-organizational psychology program include Personnel Psychology, Psychometrics Psychology, Analysis of Psychological Data, Organizational Psychology, and Research Methods in I-O Psychology.

In 2017, U.S. News & World Report conducted a ranking of I-O psychology programs. The top programs were offered by:

1. Michigan State University (East Lansing)
2. Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio)
2. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
2. University of Minnesota-?Twin Cities (Minneapolis)
2. University of South Florida (Tampa)


A certificate in I-O psychology can provide an excellent introduction to college students who are curious about the field or those already working in other areas of psychology. Such programs are offered by Loyola University Chicago, Georgia Institute of Technology, California Southern University, and Saint Louis University. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs.  

Other Education or Training

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology offers continuing education (CE) classes and webinars. Recent webinars included Effective Feedback, Best Practices in Employee Engagement, Selling I-O: Top Tips for Having More Influence and Impact as a Practitioner, Everything You Want to Know About Graduate School in I-O Psychology But Are Too Afraid to Ask!, Graduate School and Careers in I-O Psychology, and A Day in the Life of an I-O Psychologist. The American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, as well as local and state-level organizations, also provide CE classes, workshops, and webinars.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The American Board of Professional Psychology offers voluntary specialty certification in organizational and business consulting psychology. Requirements for certification include having a doctorate in psychology, professional experience, appropriate postdoctoral training, and the passing of an examination. Those who fulfill these requirements receive the designation of diplomate.

Psychologists in independent practice must be licensed or certified by the state in which they practice. Psychologists must obtain a Ph.D./Psy.D. from an accredited university, complete supervision for a period of time by a licensed psychologist, obtain a qualifying score on the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology, and pass an oral exam conducted by one’s state board. Check with your state’s licensing board for specific information.

Other Requirements

Industrial-organizational psychologists who are employed by government agencies, or consulting firms that provide services to these agencies, may need to undergo a background check and take a polygraph test.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Any experience one can obtain in the field of industrial-organizational psychology—such as an internship, co-op, or a part-time job—will be useful.

Industrial-organizational psychologists need excellent communication skills because they spend much of their days talking with people about their jobs, writing reports, and conveying their findings to executives, both orally and in writing. They also need tact, diplomacy, and strong listening and interpersonal skills in order to effectively gather information. Other important traits include a detail-oriented personality; flexibility to handle multiple priorities; strong analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills; sound business ethics, including the protection of proprietary information, personally-identifiable information, and government classified information; an interest in working with numbers and abstract concepts; an openness to feedback and new ways of thinking; and proficiency in Microsoft Office applications (Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Excel), survey software, and analysis tools such as IBM SPSS Statistics.

Depending on their employer, some I-O psychologists may need specialized experience. For example, a psychologist who focuses on improving employee performance, worker retention issues, and related areas would need experience interviewing individuals via structured interviews, focus group sessions, and job observations. Those who develop and conduct surveys would need experience with survey methodology and statistical analysis techniques.