Industrial-Organization Psychology - Description of the Field of I-O Psychology

This description of the field of I-O Psychology was developed by the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SIOP).

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology logo.The science and practice of Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Who are Industrial-Organizational Psychologists?

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists are versatile Behavioural Scientists specializing in human behaviour in the work place.

Industrial-Organizational (called I-O) Psychologists recognize the interdependence of individuals, organizations, and society, and they recognize the impact of factors such as increasing government influences, growing consumer awareness, skill shortages, and the changing nature of the workforce. I-O Psychologists facilitate responses to issues and problems involving people at work by serving as advisors and catalysts for business, industry, labour, public, academic, community, and health organizations.

They are:

  • Scientists who derive principles of individual, group, and organizational behaviour through research;
  • Consultants and staff psychologists who develop scientific knowledge and apply it to the solution of problems at work; and
  • Teachers who train in the research and application of Industrial-Organizational Psychology.

I-0 Psychologists as scientists and professionals

Scientific aspects of I-O Psychology include both applied and basic science.

  • Applied aspects are oriented around scientific solutions to human problems at work.
  • Basic aspects are quite variable, following the investigator's interests. Examples include research on methods of behavioural measurement, communication, motivation, social interaction, and leadership. Professional aspects of I-O Psychology include personnel research, training and development, psychological testing research, counseling and consulting, advising management, setting personnel policy, human resource planning, organizational development and analysis, and other human resource functions.

I-O Psychologists work with organizations in the areas of:

Selection and Placement

  • Developing assessment tools for selection, placement, classification, and promotion of employees
  • Validating test instruments
  • Analyzing job content
  • Developing and implementing selection programs
  • Optimizing placement of personnel
  • Identifying management potential

Training and Development

  • Identifying training and development needs
  • Formulating and implementing technical training and management development programs
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of training and development programs relative to productivity and satisfaction
  • Planning careers

Organizational Development

  • Analyzing organizational structure
  • Maximizing the satisfaction and the effectiveness of individuals and work groups
  • Facilitating organizational change

Performance Measurement

  • Developing criteria
  • Measuring utility
  • Evaluating organizational effectiveness

Quality of Work life

  • Enhancing the productive outputs of individuals
  • Identifying factors associated with job satisfaction
  • Redesigning jobs to make them more meaningful

Consumer Psychology

  • Assessing consumer preferences
  • Identifying consumer reactions to new products
  • Developing market segmentation strategies

Engineering Psychology

  • Designing work environments
  • Optimizing person-machine effectiveness
  • Developing systems technologies
Job titles of I-O Psychologists include:

Staff member, Manager, Director, Vice President of:

  • Personnel,
  • Human Resources,
  • Organizational Planning,
  • Personnel Development,
  • Organizational Development,
  • Management Development,
  • Personnel Research,
  • Employee Relations,
  • Training,
  • Affirmative Action

Assistant, Associate, Full Professor of:

  • Psychology,
  • Management,
  • Organizational Behaviour,
  • Industrial Relations

Management Consultant

Behavioural Scientist

Working with Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Typical Approach of Consulting I-O Psychologists

I-O Psychologists will want to have their own look at the situation, usually on the premises of the organization. Their diagnosis may include a redefinition of the problem.

Their preliminary inquiries should enable them to estimate the time the project will take on their part and on the part of the organization' s staff, after which they will present an estimate of the cost.

They should discuss the steps they plan to take, what organizational resources they may have to use, and the outline of methods and procedures to be employed.

They should check over the results of their program and plan the organization's follow-up procedures as well.

Qualified psychologists avoid making extravagant promises of overnight miracles or short-cut cures. They are more likely to underestimate outcomes than to guarantee results.

Evaluating a Psychologist's experience

To help in the selection of a psychologist, review his or her professional services or research projects performed.

When were they performed?

Are the references appropriate, reputable, discriminating? Has the psychologist in fact conducted the research projects, or did other members of the psychologist's firm complete them?

Support I-O Psychologists will need from the organization

Whether as consultants or staff members, I-O psychologists will need a realistic budget, supporting personnel, and cooperation from the organization.

Less obvious are certain organizational conditions for the effective practice of psychology. I-O psychologists will operate best in an organizational setting that:

  • has broad and realistic expectations for the role of psychology;
  • situates psychologists where they have effective communications with key executives;
  • enables psychologists to report to an organizationally effective manager, one who is open to contributions from the application of psychology; and
  • recognizes staff members' professional obligations, such as publication and participation in professional activities.

Most qualified Industrial/Organizational Psychologists in the U.S. are members of the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychological Society (APS). Over 2,000 are associated with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a division of APA and an organizational affiliate of APS, as Associates, Members, Fellows, or Student or Foreign Affiliates. To become a Fellow in the Society, the psychologist must have made unusual and outstanding contributions to the field in the judgment of his or her colleagues.

Some I-O Psychologists also have a Diploma from the American Board of Professional Psychology, a non-statutory credentialing organization. A Diplomate in I-O Psychology has had at least five years of relevant experience and has passed examinations developed by senior members of the profession. Most states require certification or licensing of anyone using the title 'psychologist'. Information on licensing is available from the state department of registration and licensing or the state psychological association.

Graduate study in Organizational Psychology

University programs offer Master of Arts (MA), Master of Applied Science (MASc), or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in Psychology that specialize in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. The Master's degree typically requires two to three years of training, and the doctorate an additional two to three years.

The names of universities offering such programs are in a publication entitled Graduate Training Programs in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Related Fields. A copy is available from the Society's administrative office at the address given at the end of this brochure. The American Psychological Association also publishes a book describing graduate programs in I-O Psychology and Organizational Behaviour. The book is entitled Graduate Study in Psychology and Associated Fields and can be purchased from: The American Psychological Association, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242.

Most graduate programs in I-O Psychology emphasize training for research. Training in I-O Psychology tends to be in four core skill areas: psychological and social influences on work behaviour, understanding human performance in the work place, optimizing human resources, and understanding organizational climate and processes. Courses taken include: Psychological Measurement; Research Methods; Experimental and Social Psychology; Individual, Group, and Organizational Dynamics; Statistical Methods; and Personnel Psychology. Attempts are usually made to tailor the program to the individual's interests in the scientific specialties of I-O Psychology.

Employment prospects for graduates prepared for a career in I-O Psychology are very good, with a wide range of employment possibilities in organizations in both the public and private sectors. An individual with a master's or doctoral degree may seek employment in business, industry, universities, government, research organizations, consulting firms, and other organizations.

Salaries of I-O Psychologists compare favourably with those of professionally trained individuals in other graduate areas. Salary surveys for all psychologists are available from APA (address above) and for I-O Psychologists from the Society's administrative office (address at the end of this brochure).

The society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is a Division within APA that is also separately incorporated as a non-profit organization. It is also an organizational affiliate of APS. The Society's goal is to promote human welfare through the various applications of psychology to all types of organizations providing goods and services, such as manufacturing concerns, commercial enterprises, labour unions or trade associations, and public agencies. The purposes of the Society are scientific, professional, and educational and not for financial gain.

Activities of the society

Society members benefit from the exchange of professional developments and timely scientific information. Some activities of the Society include:

  • The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, or TIP, is a newsletter published quarterly by the Society which describes the organization's activities and has timely articles of interest in the field. Subscriptions are free to members and are available for a small charge to others who are interested.
  • The Society offers a program of symposia, papers, special addresses, and other programs at the annual APA convention.
  • The Society sponsors a three-day conference of symposia, papers, special addresses, and other programs addressing the current scientific and professional issues in I-O Psychology. It is preceded by a day of concurrent workshops, providing more in-depth treatment of current topics in the field.
  • Frontiers in I-O Psychology is a continuing series of edited books developed by the Society on topics at the "cutting edge" of the field.
  • The Professional Practice Series is a series of edited books that describe the successful practice of I-O Psychology in various organizational settings. Both the Frontiers and Professional Practice series are sold by the SIOP office with a discount to members.
  • The Society develops policies and principles for sound ethical practice in the field of I-O Psychology. One booklet describing such policies is Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures. Also, a revised version of the Casebook on Ethics and Standards in the Practice of Psychology in Organizations is being prepared. These booklets and other publications are available for a small charge from the Society's Administrative Office listed at the end of this brochure.
Memberships in the society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Membership in the Society is open to all individuals who are members and associates of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, or the I-O section of the Canadian Psychological Association, and who are involved in research or practice in the field of I-O Psychology. Dues are billed directly from the Society's Administrative Office. Affiliation with the Society is available for students and those residing in foreign countries.

Persons interested in membership or affiliation should request an application from the Society's Administrative Office.

Single copies of this brochure are free. Multiple copies are available in packages of 10 for $5.00 per package. Enclose check or money order with requests for this brochure, or place credit-card orders by phone.

For additional information or copies of this brochure or other publications, contact the Society's Administrative Office:

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc.
745 Haskins Rd Suite A
Bowling Green, OH 43402
(419) 353-0032
FAX (419) 352-2645


Links to SIOP Websites:

The Industrial Psychologist (TIP)

The Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology