Organizational psychologists use their expertise in human behavior to solve workplace issues, improve productivity, and develop new methods of hiring and training employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment opportunities for organizational psychologists will increase by 8% from 2016 to 2026, slightly faster than the average rate of job growth. Related positions in human resources administration, such as training and development specialists, should experience an even greater surge in demand over the same period.
Along with strong job prospects, the field of organizational psychology offers excellent compensation. In 2018, organizational psychologists earned a median salary of $97,260, nearly $59,000 more per year than the median pay for all other occupations. Training and development managers earned even more, with median salaries in excess of $111,340.
This page provides you with an overview of careers for organizational psychology majors, including available degrees, licensure requirements, and employment opportunities in various industries. It also features an interview with an organizational psychologist and a listing of professional resources.
Skills Gained in an Organizational Psychology Program
Organizational psychology professionals need a diverse skill set to succeed. For example, they may be called upon to interview employees, design surveys, develop training programs, or draft new workplace policies. Most industrial and organizational psychologists hone these skills in both undergraduate and graduate programs, though some entry- and mid-level positions in human resources may require only a bachelor's. Individuals working in this area may also benefit from pursuing formal certification or participating in other professional development opportunities.
Listed below are some important skills students gain in organizational psychology programs.
- Data Collection
- To understand and solve workplace issues, organizational psychologists must know how to collect and analyze data. This may involve designing surveys to collect qualitative information on employee attitudes, interviewing senior leaders to learn about their unique management styles, or conducting market research to inform the development of candidate screening and hiring policies.
- Performance Evaluation
- Addressing challenges related to productivity often requires a systematic assessment of individual and team performance. Organizational psychology programs provide skills in areas like setting goals and managing expectations, offering counseling and feedback to employees, and using performance management systems.
- Program Design
- Organizational psychologists are often hired or contracted to design training and professional development programs for employees. They may also create programs to address issues that affect workplace morale, such as sexual harassment or discrimination. Effective program design also requires skills in program assessment and evaluation.
- Many organizational psychology professionals, particularly those with only a bachelor's degree in the field, serve in human resource roles. They often need to solve problems related to disputes between employees, conflicts between labor and management, discrepancies in compensation and benefits, and individual behavioral issues. Consulting psychologists may need to solve more systemic problems like workplace safety.
- Communication and Presentation
- Whether interviewing employees or making recommendations to senior leadership, organizational psychologists and other human resource administrators must be able to listen attentively and communicate clearly to a range of audiences. To gain experience in this area, students write policy memos, contribute to case study discussions, and make presentations to their classmates.
Why Pursue a Career in Organizational Psychology?
Industrial organizational psychology careers give you the chance to solve problems, improve conditions for workers, and contribute to the success of businesses and nonprofit organizations. This field requires staying up to date on the latest research developments and emerging best practice and is ideal for individuals who want to continue learning throughout their careers.
While the BLS anticipates significant competition for organizational psychology jobs, students can apply their skills and knowledge to a variety of professional functions and industries. For example, human resource managers have many of the same responsibilities as organizational psychologists, including the development of onboarding programs for new employees and collaborating with senior leaders on strategic planning.
How Much Do Organizational Psychology Majors Make?
Many factors contribute to your overall earning potential as an organizational psychology major. Jobs in large cities often pay more than those in more rural locations. Earning a master's or doctoral degree increases your overall job prospects and may help you command a higher salary. Freelance consultants may also attract more clients and charge higher rates if they earn a relevant professional certification. Finally, your level of professional experience also plays a significant role in determining your compensation.
Maritsa Yzaguirre-Kelley is a licensed psychotherapist, corporate and continuing education trainer, and speaker. During her over ten years of experience in the mental health field, she has conducted crisis interventions, performed psychiatric evaluations, created programs for recovery, and resolved difficult therapeutic problems in her work as CEO of Peace of Mind Counseling Services, Inc. She has helped people with all types of mental health issues, from severe depression and substance abuse disorders to anger management.
Dr. Yzaguirre-Kelley has delivered hundreds of classes, talks, and other resources on continuing education and on developing life, business, and leadership skills. Through her consulting services at Obtaining Mastery, she offers individuals and teams the tools they need to shift their mindsets and change their lives.
In her corporate training engagements across the nation, Ms. Yzaguirre-Kelley talks about mental health awareness, team building, conflict resolution, suicide prevention, substance abuse treatment and awareness, alternative mental health treatments such as hypnotism, coaching, NLP, and more.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in organizational psychology? Was it something you were always interested in?
When I first went to college, I wasn't really clear on what I was going to study. I took a number of classes in pre-med because I was thinking maybe medicine -- but doesn't everyone? As I got into my sophomore year of my undergraduate degree, I felt that helping people was what I was really good at, so why not go that route? I didn't understand exactly what that entailed, so I switched from a biology to a psychology degree.
After finishing my bachelor's degree in psychology, I wasn't finding much opportunity other than teaching grade school. I went back to school for a master's in mental health counseling, which was my first introduction to organizational psychology, and I fell in love.
- How is organizational psychology different from other branches of psychology?
I think that people don't really realize how many different branches of psychology there are. There is so much you can do in psychology, and there are so many different avenues you can take. I have studied a number of branches within the field, and organizational psychology is one of my favorites and the one I find where I spend much of my time professionally. I am also a licensed mental health counselor with training in organizational psychology, substance abuse, forensic psychology, NLP, and hypnotherapy. I am licensed to work with individuals and for mental health facilities and substance abuse facilities doing group and one-on-one counseling psychology to treat a variety of psychological disorders and mental illnesses.
With organizational psychology, you are working more for a company as opposed to working for an individual person. Your clients can be large companies or the smaller mom and pop places. In this role, I am typically brought in by the CEO, company representative, or someone high-up in the management team. I work with management and/or human resources to identify what the organization is lacking and what can be implemented, whether that's individual coaching of employees or team coaching. I evaluate workplace policies, procedures, work performance, and sometimes employee mental health.
- What is so valuable about earning a degree in this field right now?
Companies need your help, and most of them don't even know it. I know that there are companies out there failing because they don't have the right systems in place. There have been a number of changes in work culture in the past 10 years with the introduction of technology. We also have a number of organizations that have both the baby-boomer population and millennials employed, and there is a huge disconnect.
Now more than ever, people with the right tools are needed to guide businesses and employees to achieving maximum results both personally and professionally. With cell phones, email, and social media, there is very little difference between what is personal and professional information, and some employees need trainings on ethics as well as boundaries. There have been a number of employees who have lost their jobs because of lack of awareness of what was inappropriate to share on social media. I believe that with the correct people in place, the correct policies, and coaching that these things would not happen.
- Can graduates of organizational psychology programs find careers all over the country?
In organizational psychology, the job and earning potential is endless. I believe that every company would benefit from having a professional come in to assess the needs of the company and then assist the company with the implementation. You can find work anywhere in the country. All you have to do is reach out.
- What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated? How did you end up in your current position?
I feel that I took the long route in school, and after that, I wanted to make sure I did things smarter rather than harder moving forward. When I finished school, I took an entry-level position at a facility doing some basic work while I worked on building my credentials. I worked there for less than a year and decided to go out on my own. Within six months, I was consulting with top-level organizations around the country. I worked specifically helping drug and alcohol treatment facilities, and as I became more comfortable with my craft, I started working with other types of organizations. I now work with all types of companies and am frequently asked to speak or write about my experience in the field as well as speak at large conferences.
- What are the pros and cons of working in the industry?
I love this industry, and I really can't say enough wonderful things about it. You get to travel around the country for free, speaking and training. Sometimes you can work from home -- or really anywhere -- when doing coaching calls. You get to meet some amazing people and work when you want.
Some of the not-so-great things -- at least for me now -- come with the travel. In my younger years, I loved traveling. Now I'm the mom of three young children, so it becomes more of a challenge to balance that. Another con is sometimes it can be very competitive. I know in the beginning of my career, I didn't trust in myself as much as I should have. Because of my limiting beliefs, I let other people talk me into believing I may not be the right person for the job because I was young or maybe not as credentialled at the time as some of my competitors.
- What advice would you give to organizational psychology graduates seeking a job after graduation?
First off, congratulations on taking the steps to become a game changer. This is such a unique field with incredible opportunity. Believe in yourself and what you know. Don't stop learning. Hire a mentor, or, if you can, see about doing an internship with someone you can really learn from. Attend the conferences. Read the books. Trust in yourself and what you have spent your time, energy, and money learning. You may get frustrated at times, but remember it's feedback, not failure. When you get the feedback, that is your opportunity to do something different and learn from it, not quit.
How to Succeed in Organizational Psychology
With a bachelor's in organizational psychology, you can take on entry- and mid-level roles in human resources administration such as training and development specialist or labor relations specialist. You may also work as a management analyst, using your skills to help companies improve efficiency.
To qualify as an organizational psychologist, however, you typically need a master's degree. Graduate programs offer more advanced instruction in subjects like research design and statistics, along with the opportunity to put your learning into practice through an internship or other field-based experience.
Finally, if you hope to practice as a licensed psychologist, you must first earn a doctorate. Doctoral programs usually begin with three years of full-time classroom study followed by a comprehensive examination and the writing and defense of a dissertation.
You can often find work as an entry-level human resources professional directly out of college, though managerial and leadership roles typically require several years of experience in addition to an advanced degree.
To become an organizational psychologist, you usually must complete an internship or other field experience as part of your master's studies. Some companies prefer to hire candidates who have worked in a business setting for at least one year prior to enrolling in graduate school.
Finally, to qualify for licensure as a psychologist, you may need up to two years of supervised experience in a clinical setting.
Licensure and Certification
According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, some states require that industrial-organizational psychologists who work independently or in a clinical setting apply for a license. Other states permit these professionals to practice without a license if they work for an organization and not as consultants.
Generally, anyone who uses the title of psychologist professionally must hold state-level licensure; most states mandate that licensure candidates earn a doctoral degree, pass a professional practice exam, and earn 1-2 years of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
Some psychologists also pursue voluntary certification to demonstrate expertise in a specific area. For example, the American Board of Professional Psychology offers a credential in organizational and business consulting psychology.
What Can You Do With an Organizational Psychology Degree?
Your organizational psychology career options largely depend on the kind of postsecondary degree you earn. The minimum educational requirement for most positions in human resources is a bachelor's degree, though you may qualify for entry-level roles with an associate degree and several years of relevant professional experience.
To take on supervisory positions in human resources, such as human resources manager or training and development manager, you often need to complete graduate-level coursework in subjects like organizational development, labor relations, and business administration. Most organizational psychologists hold some form of advanced degree.
Finally, independent and clinical psychology practice each require either a Ph.D. in psychology or a doctor of psychology, commonly known as a Psy.D. You also need a doctoral degree to teach industrial and organizational psychology at colleges and universities, though some community colleges and vocational schools may hire instructors or adjunct lecturers with just a master's.
Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Psychology
Most bachelor's programs in organizational psychology consist of 120 credits and require roughly four years of full-time study. Major-specific coursework covers topics like group dynamics, the principles of management, and applied psychology in learning and professional development. Many programs also require or strongly encourage students to complete an internship as part of their undergraduate studies.
You can apply the skills and knowledge you develop in a bachelor's program to a variety of careers in human resources, business administration, and education. Many students also opt to continue their education at the graduate level.
- Compensation, Benefit, or Job Analysis Specialist
Compensation and benefits specialists oversee payroll, retirement plans, leave policies, and health insurance programs. Much of their work involves collecting research, conducting cost analyses, and ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal employment laws. They typically have a bachelor's degree and several years of professional experience.
Average Annual Salary: $63,000
- Human Resources Specialist
Human resource specialists perform a variety of administrative functions related to the hiring and onboarding of employees, including drafting job descriptions, screening candidates, checking references, and leading orientation programs. While larger firms may have dedicated recruitment specialists, smaller organizations tend to employ human resources generalists who also process payroll and handle compliance.
Average Annual Salary: $60,880
- Labor Relations Specialist
Labor relations specialists interpret labor contracts and act as mediators. They may investigate labor grievances, meet regularly with union representatives, and advise senior leaders on matters related to compensation and discipline. Labor relations specialists may also draft collective bargaining agreements that guide the relationship between employees and managers.
Average Annual Salary: $67,790
- Training and Development Specialist
Training and development specialists create and administer programs that help employees gain new skills and knowledge. They assess training needs through surveys and interviews, draft training manuals and professional development curricula, and act as instructors or facilitators. Most of these jobs require a bachelor's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $60,870
- Management Analyst
Management analysts help organizations improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Most work as consultants, bringing an outside perspective to issues like corporate restructuring, employee compensation, and improving a firm's competitive standing in the marketplace. Because few colleges offer formal programs in management consulting, many analysts hold a degree in a related field like organizational psychology.
Average Annual Salary: $83,610
Master's Degree in Organizational Psychology
A master's degree in industrial and organizational psychology can position you for leadership roles such as director of human resources or consulting personnel analyst. These degree programs typically consist of 30-40 credits, with full-time students earning their degree in less than two years.
Graduate programs in organizational psychology feature coursework in areas like the design of psychological research, applied statistical analysis for business decisions, and leadership and managerial development. Most programs also require you to write a research-based thesis, though more practice-oriented programs may allow you to complete a capstone project instead.
- Industrial-Organizational Psychologist
Industrial-organizational psychologists solve workplace problems through research and application of psychological principles. Working as consultants or in-house staff, they strive to improve employee morale and enhance efficiency through new policies and initiatives. They may also collaborate with leadership on the development of training programs for new hires. Most of these roles require a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $97,260
- Compensation and Benefits Manager
These human resource professionals create and oversee employee pay and benefits programs. They often direct a team of specialists and administrators tasked with processing payroll and coordinating health insurance and other benefits. They also develop department budgets, hire and train staff, and ensure compliance with government regulations.
Average Annual Salary: $121,010
- Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers broadly deal with personnel-related matters. They may supervise multiple staff and specialists, resolve disputes between employees and management, and collaborate with senior leadership on issues like pay equity, increasing diversity, or downsizing. While a bachelor's may be sufficient for some positions, individuals with a professional certification or master's degree enjoy the best job prospects for this position.
Average Annual Salary: $113,300
- Training and Development Manager
Training managers lead the programs that develop skills and knowledge within an organization. For example, they may design and administer an online learning module that teaches employees how to use a new computer application. In addition to a master's degree, many of these managers have instructional experience.
Average Annual Salary: $111,340
- Career Counselor
Career counselors assist their clients in developing new skills, finding employment, or transitioning into a different field. They may administer aptitude tests and other assessments to evaluate an individual's interests and abilities, offer advice on honing interviewing and networking skills, or help identify career-relevant educational programs. Some states require these counselors to hold a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $56,310
Doctoral Degree in Organizational Psychology
You must earn a doctorate to qualify for licensure as a clinical psychologist. Most doctoral programs in industrial and organizational psychology begin with three years of coursework in subjects like the psychology of coaching and consulting, testing and assessment in the workplace, and psychodynamic theory. Students also take a series of classes in research design and quantitative and qualitative methods.
After completing all their coursework, doctoral candidates must pass a comprehensive examination and write and defend a dissertation. The process of creating a proposal, conducting original research, and drafting the dissertation can take from 1-4 years.
- Clinical Psychologist
Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat various mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. Organizational psychologists who provide clinical services, such as helping employees cope with trauma that affects their ability to work, must earn a state-level license. Typical requirements include a doctoral degree and at least one year of supervised clinical experience.
Average Annual Salary: $79,010
- Postsecondary Psychology Teacher
Postsecondary teachers instruct learners at colleges and universities. They also conduct and publish research, provide academic and career advice to students, and perform certain administrative tasks like chairing a psychology department or assisting with faculty searches. While you may find teaching positions at a community college with just a master's degree, most four-year institutions seek candidates with a doctorate.
Average Annual Salary: $76,710
- Top Executive
Top executives create and implement organizational strategies and policies. A chief human resources officer, for example, may develop and oversee all aspects of a large corporation's recruitment and training activities. In the public sector, individuals with a doctorate in industrial-organizational psychology may serve as university presidents or city managers.
Average Annual Salary: $104,980
What Industries Can You Work in With an Organizational Psychology Degree?
Organizational psychology students pursue a wide variety of careers after graduation. Some work as independent consultants, developing policies and programs for multiple clients on a contract basis. Others apply their skills and knowledge to work in human resources administration, helping an organization hire, train, and retain personnel. Finally, some graduates take on jobs in academia, teaching or conducting research at a college or university. Regardless of the path you choose, careers in organization psychology demand strong analytical, interpersonal, and communication skills.
- Management Consulting
- Management consultants help organizations improve their productivity or efficiency. They may work as freelancers or for a consulting firm. Consultants with a background in psychology often address issues like employee motivation and skill development.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) Development
- SaaS refers to the practice of licensing centrally hosted software on a subscription basis. Individuals with expertise in organizational psychology may develop software for systems used in hiring, learning and professional development, or enterprise resource planning.
- Organizational psychologists working in healthcare may provide services to hospitals, health centers, insurance companies, or medical device manufacturers. They often help organizations comply with strict regulations related to privacy and safety.
- Financial Services
- Financial services companies, including banks and brokerage firms, often hire or contract with organizational psychologists to gain an advantage over competitors, expand into new markets, or adhere to international financial law.
- Some organization psychology professionals choose to work in human resources roles in education, usually for school districts or colleges and universities. They may also teach and conduct research at the postsecondary level.
How Do You Find a Job as an Organizational Psychology Graduate?
When looking for work in organizational psychology, start by attending networking events organized by your college's alumni office, your local chamber of commerce, or one of the ten organizational psychology professional organizations listed below. You can also reach out to industry leaders and hiring managers to arrange for informational interviews.
As you network, review job listings on employment search engines like Indeed and Monster. You can also find opportunities on more niche websites. For example, Idealist advertises openings at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Your college's career services office might also host exclusive listings for students and alumni.
Professional Resources for Organizational Psychology Majors
SIOP works to advance the science and practice of industrial-organizational psychology. The association publishes white papers and a scholarly journal, hosts an online career center with internship and job opportunities, and provides access to a library of resources on subjects like human resources analytics and best practices in employee engagement.
APA represents more than 118,000 psychology practitioners, researchers, educators, and students in the U.S. Members can read career advice and browse job listings, attend networking events and research conferences, and review research on issues specific to organizational psychology, such as mindfulness in the workplace and total worker health.
SPIM specifically serves psychologists working as coaches, consultants, and organizational development leaders. In addition to hosting annual conferences on topics like creating an innovation ecosystem and psychologists as social influencers, the society publishes original research through the Psychologist-Manager Journal and shares news and updates through an electronic monthly newsletter.
SHRM is the largest organization in the world for human resources and business administration professionals. Offering two formal certification programs, a variety of policy and best practice guides, and toolkits for creating employee surveys and managing disruptive behaviors, SHRM also provides scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students majoring in human resources or a closely related field.
Founded in 1936, AOM aims to create a better world through scholarship and instruction related to management and organizations. Members can collaborate through interest groups on problems of practice such as management consulting and organizational communications and information systems. AOM also maintains a job board and convenes an annual meeting.
APS is dedicated to the advancement of psychological science through teaching, research, and practice. The association hosts both national and international conventions each year, publishes six scholarly journals and a magazine for practitioners, and advertises job listings and postdoctoral fellowship opportunities through its career center.
As a division of the American Psychological Association, the Society of Consulting Psychology focuses on creating an intellectual and collaborative community for consulting psychologists by sharing content and research through a blog, academic journal, and book series. The Society also hosts training webinars on subjects such as the science of effective coaching and promoting diversity and inclusion.
ATD primarily provides training and professional development opportunities to human resources administrators. The association offers both an entry-level credential for talent development professionals and an advanced learning and professional performance certification. Members can also watch free webinars, receive job search advice, and explore a postsecondary degree directory.
A nonprofit association, NHRA supports human resources professionals throughout their careers. The association organizes conferences and events across the country and shares news and resources on topics like mental health in the workplace and the neuroscience of effective leadership. NHRA also hosts a job board.
A global organization made up of academics and reflective practitioners, AHRD aims to lead human resource development through research. Alongside publications, events, and online resources, AHRD sponsors a faculty mentoring project and organizes special interest groups around topics like the role of qualitative inquiry in human resources scholarship.