Businesses recognize the importance of worker satisfaction and behavior in reaching business goals. Organizational psychologists help leaders identify and resolve issues related to productivity and efficiency, employee recruitment, and talent development.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for organizational psychologists will increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028. Many students who earn an on-campus or online master's degree in organizational psychology prepare for careers in human resources, consumer research, and conflict resolution.
This guide offers an introduction to master's programs in organizational psychology. It also discusses the various career opportunities available to graduates.
What are the best organizational management programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Northeastern University||Boston, MA|
|2||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|3||Lincoln Christian University||Lincoln, IL|
|4||Colorado State University Global Campus||Greenwood Village, CO|
|5||University of Denver||Denver, CO|
|6||Lewis University||Romeoville, IL|
|7||Regis University||Denver, CO|
|8||Concordia University Irvine||Irvine, CA|
|9||Gonzaga University||Spokane, WA|
|10||Trevecca Nazarene University||Nashville, TN|
What Is Organizational Psychology?
Organizational psychology studies actions, behaviors, and attitudes within an organization. This segment of applied psychology uses the results of these studies to improve workplace environments and promote job satisfaction.
Recommendations for workplace improvement can help companies make better hiring decisions, create effective training programs, resolve conflicts, and remove organizational obstacles that prevent greater productivity. A master's degree in organizational psychology offers a pathway to exciting careers in this business-focused field.
Should I Get a Master's in Organizational Psychology?
Successful workplaces depend on productive interpersonal relationships at all levels. Ensuring a healthy work environment helps companies operate at peak performance, retain valuable employees, and meet business goals.
Organizational psychologists look at all aspects of a work environment, from hiring practices and company policies to the physical work environment. These psychologists use the information they gain to develop effective training practices, overhaul policies, and institute data-driven programs to increase worker engagement and performance.
Individuals who earn an on-campus or online degree in organizational psychology prepare for many entry-level roles in this field. According to the BLS, industrial and organizational psychologists earn a median annual salary of $92,880. These professionals often work for management consulting businesses and government agencies.
What Will I Learn in an Organizational Psychology Graduate Program?
Most master's courses in psychology focus on quantitative research in human behavior. Earning an undergraduate degree with courses in statistical analysis and psychological research can prepare you to succeed at the master's level.
During a master's program in organizational psychology, students complete reading assignments and engage in class discussions. Professors often supplement these elements with case studies, journal articles, group projects, and simulations.
Many master's tracks give participants the option to complete a thesis research paper or a professional project. These projects require students to synthesize the skills and knowledge they gained throughout the program and apply them to solve a practical problem.
Each school has its own organizational psychology curriculum, often complementing core psychology courses with specialized instruction in a concentration. The courses and concentrations listed below offer a sample of what you might encounter while earning a master's degree in organizational psychology.
- Workforce Training and Development
In this course, students cover topics like skill formation, career advancement methods, and employment networks. Case studies and interviews with experts explore training and workforce development policies.
- Succession Planning
Succession planning helps ensure organizations continue to thrive, even as leadership changes. The most successful plans perform a holistic review of the organization to identify key areas of competency and assess future work requirements and individual potential. Recruitment, staffing, career management, and employee training and development all impact succession planning. This course uses textbooks, case studies, and research articles.
- Organizational Change
Carefully developed plans help organizations successfully implement significant changes in workflow, delivery, and culture. This course examines both the planning necessary for organizational change and the actions needed to successfully manage the process through to conclusion. Students use group projects and case studies to evaluate plans and execution.
- Measurement Theory
This course explores statistical methods and measurement in psychological research with an emphasis on quantitative analysis. Students learn about measurement and performance tools, composite scores and measurement error, test validity, and item analysis.
- Cross-Cultural Psychology
Students explore the impact of culture on human behavior, focusing on psychological diversity, cultural norms, and group dynamics. Assignments may include discussion questions and reading responses, research papers, and case analysis. Topics include individualism, collectivism, and complex psychosocial processes.
This concentration focuses on skills that promote collaboration and teamwork within an organization. Students learn about effective teams, employee motivation and performance evaluation, and professional and business ethics. Many programs also focus on the leader's role in organizational and cultural change.
- Talent Management
Students pursuing this concentration learn how organizations recruit and attract new employees and retain seasoned workers. The curriculum covers benefits and compensation management, employee assessment, and employee training.
- Employee Development
This concentration teaches learners to combine psychology with best practices in adult education and training to develop learning materials and programs.
- Human Resources Management
Learners who aspire to go into HR management cover topics like talent acquisition, employee development, and leadership. Students also study compliance and conflict resolution.
- Organizational Behavior
This concentration focuses on the way people act as a group. Key topics include group dynamics, organizational culture, and leadership. Coursework takes a holistic view of organizations and how individuals work within them, identifying areas where policies or practices inhibit efficiency and productivity.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Organizational Psychology?
Organizational psychologists often find work in human resources and talent management. A master's degree in organizational psychology can prepare you for leadership and management positions within organizations. Some graduates also pursue careers as consultants.
The section below details a few sample careers in the field. Explore our organizational psychology careers resource for more information.
- Industrial-Organizational Psychologist
Industrial-organizational psychologists interview employees and managers to determine workplace problems that impact productivity, review company policies, and assist with employee recruitment and retention efforts.
The BLS projects that jobs for these professionals will increase by 13% between 2018 and 2028. Industrial-organizational psychologists earn a median annual salary of $92,880. Most of these jobs require a master's degree.
- Training and Development Manager
These managers develop and implement employee training programs. They select and develop training materials and often oversee a staff of training and development specialists.
According to the BLS, these professionals earn a median annual salary of $113,350. The BLS projects that training and development manager jobs will increase by 8% between 2018 and 2028.
- Human Resources Manager
These managers oversee employee recruitment, hiring, and onboarding at an organization. They also advise other managers on issues related to employee performance reviews, mediating disputes, and implementing disciplinary actions. Additionally, they help ensure companies comply with fair labor and anti-discrimination laws.
According to the BLS, these workers earn a median annual salary of $116,720. This profession is projected to grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028.
- Market Research Analysts
Companies rely on market research analysts to understand why buyers make specific decisions. These professionals interview buyers, form focus groups, review data from sales and buying habits, and consult research on consumer trends.
The BLS projects 20% job growth in this field between 2018 and 2028 as companies seek to develop more effective marketing campaigns. Market research analysts earn a median annual salary of $63,790.
- Compensation and Benefits Manager
These managers design benefit packages that help attract and retain employees. These benefits include salary, retirement contributions, and health insurance. Additional benefits, including vacation, provide for greater work-life balance and promote employee retention.
Many organizations contract the management of their benefits program through consulting firms. According to the BLS, these professionals earn a median annual salary of $122,270.
How to Choose an Organizational Psychology Master's Program
When researching master's programs in organizational psychology, consider the research focus of the faculty, available concentrations, practicum and internship requirements, and elective options.
For more information, consult our guide that details the top schools offering an online master's degree in organizational psychology.
How to Get Into an Organizational Psychology Master's Program
You need a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field to be admitted into a master's program in organizational psychology. Schools evaluate applications based on academic performance, standardized test scores, and work history. Many schools require applicants to provide a statement of their professional and educational goals, and some may also request interviews.
While admission requirements vary, many schools require a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. Additionally, graduate schools often require applicants to take the GRE, which measures quantitative and verbal reasoning skills and analytical writing.Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions
How Long Does it Take to Get a Master's in Organizational Psychology?
Most master's in psychology programs require two years to complete and consist of 30-36 credits.
Some schools offer accelerated programs that take about five years and award a bachelor's and a master's. Many master's degrees in organizational psychology also feature accelerated terms that last about eight weeks.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Master's in Organizational Psychology?
The cost of a master's degree in organizational psychology depends on the type of school you attend.
Graduate students in the U.S. paid an average of $19,310 in tuition and fees in 2019. Public universities charged approximately $12,170 in tuition and fees, while private nonprofit universities charged approximately $27,780. Graduate students can apply for student loans, scholarships, and graduate fellowships to help defray their educational costs.
Online master's programs in organizational psychology are sometimes more affordable than their on-campus counterparts. Distance learners can avoid paying transportation costs, room and board, and other on-campus fees.
Interview With a Professional in Organizational Psychology
Professor Amy Quarton is an associate instructor at Maryville University who teaches in the online bachelor's program for organizational leadership.
- Why did you choose a career in organizational psychology? Was this something you were always interested in?
My interest in the psychology of work began as an adolescent flipping through a printed copy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is essentially a job analysis database. The book fascinated me at the time, but I didn't realize organizational psychologists had contributed to it. Years later, my college professors helped me identify the name of the field and then choose the right graduate program for my interests.
I decided to pursue a career in organizational psychology because it fit with what I wanted from my work: something that challenges my brain, is different and exciting every day, provides autonomy and flexibility, and makes a difference in people's lives. It also fit with the skills I had acquired at the time. I had spent years working with my professors in their research labs and sharing my knowledge through classroom presentations and other coursework.
- Why did you earn a master's degree in industrial and organizational psychology? Was it required to meet your career goals? Could you have achieved your goals with a lower degree?
I earned a master's degree in industrial/organizational psychology because it was required to meet my career goals. Most of the consultants and professors in the field have at least a master's degree. Colleges usually require their instructors to have a graduate degree, and companies often recognize it (and the experience you gained while earning it) as a strength.
Plus, some undergraduate programs do not offer enough I/O courses and development opportunities to prepare students to work with clients in a consulting capacity. Graduate schools are often responsible for filling this skill gap.
- What advice would you give to organizational psychology students who want to get the most experience they can out of their studies? What types of extracurricular activities and internships should they consider during college?
I have three suggestions for organizational psychology students who want to get the most experience out of their studies.
First, form a professional relationship with at least one of your professors in graduate school. They can be an enormous source of support and feedback. They can empathize and offer suggestions that your family and friends might not be able to offer.
Second, join a professional networking organization and take advantage of the services it offers to its student members. These groups often host events where professionals within a field can mingle and meet other like-minded people. Some groups also host professional development seminars that can help you make sense of what you are learning in the classroom. Some of these organizations may even offer scholarships or internship opportunities to graduate students.
Third, seek out applied experiences through your coursework, your professors' work, internships, and other applied projects. Note how these opportunities can be identified by implementing the first two suggestions: through your relationships with your professors and the professionals in your area. Your social network will play a role in your ability to get the most from your experience in graduate school.
- What advice would you give to organizational psychology students who are debating whether to earn their degree online or on campus?
The decision to earn a degree online or on campus depends (in part) on your career goals. If you want to be a consultant, look for programs that offer hands-on development opportunities, such as applied projects and one-on-one mentoring. The degree itself and the knowledge you gain while completing the program is important, but the ability to apply psychological principles in a work setting requires years of experience and deliberate practice.
If you want to be a professor and contribute to the academic literature, look for programs that offer research and teaching assistantships, opportunities to present your work at symposiums and conferences, or scholarships for your contributions.
- What is professional development like in your field? Do most professionals pursue these types of opportunities?
Because there are a variety of career options available in the field of organizational psychology, there are also a variety of professional development opportunities available.
Many people choose to continue building their skill sets through one or more of the following activities: attending a regional or national conference, presenting their work at a regional or national conference, joining a professional networking organization and taking advantage of the programs (e.g., seminars and job boards), completing continuing education courses on campus or online, earning additional certifications (e.g., in project management or human resources management), and/or earning additional graduate degrees (e.g., a Ph.D. or MBA).
- How did you get started as an independent consultant? Is this common among your colleagues and other professionals in your field?
I started my career as an independent consultant through the applied projects I completed in graduate school and the expansion of my professional network. By the time I graduated, I had worked with several small and large companies on a variety of projects, and I had a built a professional network of consultants who guided and supported me through my first few years on my own.
I think it is common for undergraduate and graduate students to be interested in pursuing a career as an independent consultant. Before they "go out on their own," though, they often seek out experiences as either an internal consultant working for a larger company or an external consultant working within an existing firm. Once they've gained more experience and expanded their professional networks, some of them will eventually choose a career as an independent consultant.