Industrial/organizational psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the work place, specifically personnel, administration, management, sales, and marketing. The work of I/O psychologists generally serves two main goals: increasing productivity for the company and advancing the quality of work life for its employees. Often these two goals coincide. For instance, many I/O psychologists serve as human resources specialists, helping organizations with staffing by screening applicants, developing and running training programs, and providing advice to employees. Others work with company management in such areas as strategic policy planning, quality management, restructuring the work environment in ways that promote productivity, and coping with organizational change. Companies also use I/O psychologists' expertise in survey design, statistical analysis, and research methodology to develop tools for marketing evaluation and organizational analysis. Companies do not routinely employ in-house I/O psychologists directly, so most work as consultants.
According to the U.S Department of Labor, employment of psychologists is expected to grow 12 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, employment growth will vary by specialty, and industrial-organizational is expected to have 26 percent growth! I/O psychology is one of the fastest growing specialties in psychology because of increased demand for psychological services in consulting firms and private companies. In these difficult economic times, companies are looking to I/O psychologists to help them boost worker productivity and retention rates more than ever. Also, as the nation becomes more ethnically and racially diverse, I/O psychologists will also be needed to promote cultural sensitivity and implement antidiscrimination policies in the workplace.
I/O psychology is the ultimate practical application for psychological research. Many positions encompass topics and skills from many different areas, such as personality, social, and experimental psychology. Further, I/O psychology offers diverse career paths – the private sector, consulting, government, education - as well as opportunities for self-employment. At the same time, clients and projects change often, even within one particular organization. If you prefer working one-on-one with people, another applied psychology career may better suit you. Additionally, those working in business, government and academic positions often spend considerable time conducting research and employing statistics. For some, this is stimulating work – for others, it can be tedious and lead to burnout.