Earning a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology Online

Industrial-organizational psychologists use psychological principles and research methods to solve problems in the workplace. They may study issues such as employee morale and workplace productivity to help organizational leaders design policies and programs. To succeed in this line of work, you must possess strong analytical, communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.

Most organizational psychology jobs require a master's degree. Earning your online Ph.D. in organizational psychology gives you a competitive edge over other candidates, especially if your doctoral program offers training in quantitative research methods. Online programs allow students to complete coursework on their own schedule, making them ideal for caregivers or working professionals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for industrial-organizational psychologists to grow by 8% through 2026, which is slightly faster than the national average for all occupations. In 2017, the median industrial-organizational psychologist earned $87,100.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in I/O Psychology?

Online doctoral programs in industrial organizational psychology prepare students for a variety of careers. You may apply your understanding of human behavior to help a large corporation support the professional development of its employees. You may also work as the chief human resources officer for a national nonprofit, overseeing the organization's management of personnel. Additionally, you can work independently as a workplace efficiency consultant. Below, are three common jobs for professionals with a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology.

Human Resources Manager

Annual Median Salary: $110,120
Projected Growth Rate: 9%

Human resources managers hire staff, create training programs, resolve employee disputes, and advise senior leadership on issues like equal employment. In larger organizations, managers often supervise several human resources specialists and play a role in shaping company strategy. Higher-level jobs often require an advanced degree in a closely related field.

Industrial-organizational Psychologist

Annual Median Salary: $87,100
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Industrial-organizational psychologists conduct surveys, interviews, and other forms of psychological research to improve the quality of an organization's worklife. In close collaboration with management, these psychologists use their findings to inform hiring practices, design new onboarding and development programs, and craft policy. Students who complete an organizational psychology Ph.D. program online may experience better job prospects than those without a graduate degree.

Training and Development Manager

Annual Median Salary: $108,250
Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Training and development managers plan and implement programs that offer employees new knowledge and skills. They assess employee and organizational needs, create and manage training budgets, and evaluate the effectiveness of professional development programs. Some employers may prefer to hire candidates with graduate-level training in organizational development and behavioral psychology.

Traits of a Successful Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Students enrolled in industrial organizational psychology Ph.D. programs online develop diverse skills. They learn how to conduct quantitative and qualitative research, gaining familiarity with statistical software and other research technologies. They hone their interpersonal skills, studying how to develop and maintain positive working relationships with colleagues and clients. In addition, they explore the theories and best practices behind program design to help management make better decisions and solve workplace problems.

Below, are the top three traits of successful industrial-organizational psychologists.

Research and Analysis
Research lies at the core of the work of industrial-organizational psychologists. They collect and analyze data to understand the structure and function of an organization to solve problems, improve efficiency, and boost morale.
Communication
Industrial-organizational psychologists need strong communication skills. For instance, they must know how to translate complex findings and recommendations to senior leaders who may not share their expertise in human and organizational behavior.
Problem Solving
Companies often hire industrial-organizational psychologists to solve problems in the workplace. For example, psychologists may need to design a training program for managers to address concerns raised by lower-level employees.

Salary by Experience Level

According to the BLS, the median pay that industrial-organizational psychologist earned was $87,100 in 2017, or nearly $50,000 more than the median pay for all occupations. Industrial-organizational psychologists with ample education and experience enjoy higher salaries.

Earning a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology online may position you for a promotion or help you negotiate a higher salary in your current role.

Pay by Experience Level for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $61,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $94,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $112,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $131,000

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology Prepares For

  • Psychologist Licensure: Generally, you do not need to hold a license to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist. However, some states may require you to earn a clinical license if you perform certain duties, such as providing counseling to individual employees. To determine whether you need a license, review the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology's information on licensure.
  • HR Certification Institute - Senior Professional in Human Resources: This credential signals mastery of human resources policies and strategies. To qualify, you must possess at least four years of professional experience and an advanced degree. The exam consists of 150 questions, covering subjects such as learning and development, talent acquisition, and employee relations. The exam costs $595.
  • Society for Human Resource Management - Senior Certified Professional: Human resources professionals with at least three years of experience and a graduate degree can seek this certification to demonstrate their expertise in analysis, strategy, and implementation. The exam assesses knowledge and situational judgement and takes about four hours to complete. It costs $400.

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology Online

The steps to earning a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology online vary by program. For example, in a research-intensive program, you typically must write and defend a dissertation. This process may take between one and four years. In practice-oriented programs, you may only need to complete a capstone project at the end of your coursework. Below, are common requirements for doctoral programs in this field.

number one

Find the Right Program for You

Ask yourself questions about prospective programs to determine the right fit for your needs. For example, does your program allow students to complete all of their graduation requirements online, or does it involve a residency component? How much can you afford to pay, and what sort of financial aid opportunities does your program offer? Does the program feature coursework or concentrations within your interests? Regardless of your answers to the aforementioned questions, you should always choose an accredited distance learning program.

number two

Apply

Some programs require you to hold a master's, while others may admit applicants with a bachelor's degree in a related field. If you have not completed any graduate-level coursework, you may need to take the Graduate Record Examination. Applicants typically must submit academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Some schools ask prospective students to write a brief essay outlining their qualifications, and goals and participate in an interview with admissions officers or faculty members.

number three

Dissertation or Capstone

Most doctoral programs require students to complete a dissertation. The dissertation process involves conducting original research on a topic in industrial organizational psychology or collecting existing research from multiple sources. Students then write and defend their dissertation before a faculty committee. Some practice-oriented programs may require students to complete a capstone project rather than a dissertation. Capstones allow students to apply their learning to a real-world industrial organizational context, such as helping a company design an onboarding program for new employees.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

Generally, doctoral programs do not require students to complete a fellowship or internship, though they may encourage them to do so. Fellowships typically focus on academic research, while internships allow students to develop additional professional experience and grow their network. Some students participate in post-doctoral fellowships after graduation, usually at a college or university. These fellowships give students time to continue the research they began for their dissertation and build connections within academia.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology

  1. Themes and Theories of Industrial-Organizational Psychology: This course lays the foundation for many industrial psychology Ph.D. online programs. It introduces students to the various theoretical models of the discipline, including psychodynamic, biopsychosocial, and gender theories. It also covers contemporary issues, with an emphasis on how industrial-organizational psychologists can create positive social change.
  2. Advanced Personnel Psychology: In this course, students expand upon their undergraduate or master's-level understanding of personnel psychology. Topics covered include succession planning, talent management, competency modeling, and alternative approaches to selection test validation. Students also apply multiple linear regression analyses to workplace data to inform program development.
  3. Consulting for Organizational Change: Many industrial-organizational psychologists work as consultants, helping multiple clients solve problems or implement organizational change. This class offers an overview of the tools and techniques needed for that work, including change models, organizational assessment, conflict management and resolution, and coaching. Students may also explore topics like group dynamics, team management, and leadership.
  4. Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis: In programs that require students to write a dissertation, expertise in quantitative reasoning and analysis is essential. This course gives students core knowledge and skills in areas such as common statistical tests, quality assurance and its importance, and research design. It also provides an opportunity for students to hone skills related to statistical software and data presentation.
  5. Human Resource Strategy, Legal, and Ethical Considerations: Industrial-organizational psychologists must navigate complex legal and ethical considerations in their practice. For example, for an organization that relies heavily on organized labor, they need to understand how labor laws can affect the design or implementation of a new performance evaluation system. Students in this class also examine ethical dilemmas that arise from collecting employee data.