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The Ins and Outs of Industrial Organizational Psychology

Are you familiar with industrial organizational (I-O) psychology?  Yes, it’s a mouthful, but if you’ve ever worked in a professional environment, you’ve witnessed that environment’s distinct organizational culture and how people relate to each other in the workplace. This is the foundation of industrial organizational psychology—the scientific study of the workplace.

You may be thinking, “Does anyone really go to college dreaming about majoring in industrial organizational psychology?” While it may not seem like an obvious choice, there is no doubt that industrial organizational psychology plays a distinct role in business.

“I hadn’t really considered I-O psychology when I was researching doctoral programs,” reveals NCU PhD candidate, Mary Keysor. “It was suggested to me by the NCU admissions counselor as a possible good fit given my background in employee benefits and human resources consultation.”

Keysor is a human resources strategist and currently runs her own consulting company, élanBenefits, which provides training, education and consultation services to small businesses in Tucson, Arizona, in the areas of employee management, regulatory compliance and organizational development.

“Indeed, it is a perfect fit,” she continues, “as it addresses the various psychological and behavioral components of the organizational context, or to put simply, human behavior in the workplace.”

Northcentral University’s School of Psychology offers a Master’s and PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology, as well as a post-master’s and post-bachelor’s certificate. The School of Business and Technology Management also offers a PhD and DBA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology due to the interdisciplinary nature of the subject.

Specifically, this specialization explores the application of industrial and organizational psychology and management theory to the understanding of people in a work environment. Students examine small group theory and team processes, dynamics of leadership and management, and the structure and procedures of organizational development. Students also learn the application of tests and measurements, and the interpretation of their results as applied to employee selection, performance appraisals, and training evaluations.

“With the PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology, I am able to transfer the theoretical knowledge learned at NCU to the workplace through my consulting endeavors with clients, training presentations, problem-solving assignments and organizational development activities,” Keysor explains. “A great example of this is the assistance I provide employers interested in establishing worksite wellness programs. By helping them understand how employees engage and participate, implement the types of activities that encourage behavioral change, and embed wellness into their organizational culture, I provide my clients with the tools and understanding necessary to build a successful wellness program.”

Potential outcomes for students who specialize in industrial organizational psychology vary by degree level, interest and skills. However, graduates may choose to work in industry, government, consulting and education in various fields, such as research, coaching, human resource development, consumer behavior analysis, workplace planning, market strategy, personnel specialist, and talent acquisition.

In fact, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has its own job board (JobNet) where you can see current job listings for industrial organizational psychologists. You can search by state, category, keyword, and even degree level.

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