Academic Programs

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists’ Role to Better Workplaces, Life and Communities

How do you establish a socially just, equitable environment for all employees? What methods can you use to help your team stay engaged? How can staff members from four different generations work harmoniously together?

Well-trained industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists can answer all of these questions, and more, and studies show that the demand for their expertise is only growing. That’s why we’ve created a new program — our first fully online doctoral option — to provide a steady stream of socially responsible candidates to hopeful employers.

“Practitioners of industrial and organizational psychology impact the community by making work a more meaningful experience,” says Michelle Dennis, Ph.D., and director of Adler’s I/O programs. “Professionals working in this field are in a unique position to improve productivity and quality of life.”

Our Ph.D. in Industrial & Organizational (I/O) Psychology curriculum puts our social justice mission and the core concepts from the concentration’s master’s program into real-world practice, preparing students to work with organizations that are addressing some of today’s most pressing issues.

Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow by a total of 14 percent by 2026, which exceeds the average for all occupations. Rates vary by discipline, but opportunities for industrial-organizational psychologists are estimated to increase by nearly 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Organizations will continue to use industrial-organizational psychologists to help select and retain employees, increase … productivity and efficiency, and improve office morale,” the bureau’s website states.

It’s no wonder more corporations are turning to I/O psychologists to keep their businesses humming. Well-known recruiter Jörgen Sundberg pegs the expense of onboarding an employee at $240,000. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of each employee’s first-year salary. But turnover costs more than dollars — productivity and morale take hits, too.

What is an I/O Psychologist?

Several variables determine how well a company operates. When one — whether communication, conflict resolution, leadership, or performance management — falls short, it can be traced back to how employees share information, interact, or the methods used to select and train them.

I/O psychologists apply their knowledge of human behavior and conduct research to address workplace challenges. This may include observing how teams work, or designing surveys to gauge employee satisfaction. They also assess hiring and performance management systems; provide executive coaching, training or programs; and develop workplace diversity policies.

These professionals are also known as organizational development or talent management specialists, behavioral analysts, and executive coaches, to name a few. Each may study workplace issues such as:

  • Stigmas in organizations
  • Corporate culture
  • Sexual harassment
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Workplace aggression
  • Hiring barriers facing people with disabilities

How do You Become an I/O Psychologist?

The path to becoming an I/O psychologist starts with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, and there are very few undergraduate degrees specific to the discipline. Most students complete their master’s degrees in I/O psychology after taking a break from school to gain business experience.

But once they do, these graduates go all the way to the top, heading work in human resources departments at Sara Lee, Ingersoll Rand, Merck, and Land O’Lakes, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Although they’re most often found at sizable companies, they can also work for small businesses, government factions, universities, or as self-employed consultants.

I/O Psychology Salary

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report says I/O psychologists earn a median annual salary of $87,100, and a mean annual wage of $102,530. The industries comprising the largest number of these professionals, in descending order, are: Scientific research and development services; management scientific and technical consulting services; state government, excluding school and hospitals; colleges, universities and professional schools; and management of employees and enterprises.