Anyone who has ever held a job can tell you that the office can sometimes be a stressful and even volatile environment. From entry-level to C-level, the interpersonal relationships in the workplace and dynamics created by organizational structure affect every single employee within a company. Most businesses and organizations strive to maintain a healthy work environment and ensure a company is operating at peak productivity. Industrial and organizational psychologists are oftentimes brought in to help achieve these goals.

Industrial and organizational psychology, sometimes called ‘I/O psychology’ or ‘work psychology,’ is two-pronged: it is the study of both a workplace’s environment and the employees who work there. Because one can’t exist without the other, the industrial and organizational components are typically studied individually and then compared before recommendations are made.

Industrial Psychology

This area within industrial and organizational psychology takes a close look at employees and their relationship to a given work environment. Elements such as job satisfaction, performance and evaluation methods are measured. Employee safety and OSHA standards are considered, as are employee training and hiring techniques. From a historical standpoint, industrial psychology was introduced during World War I. This type of psychology was used to pair soldiers with the tasks and assignments for which they were best suited.

Organizational Psychology

The organizational side of the industrial and organizational psychology dynamic focuses on the workplace more holistically. The goal of analyzing any given work environment from an organizational standpoint is almost always to increase productivity and efficiency among employees. Do certain policies within the office produce a negative reaction among employees that in turn affects productivity and overall behavior while at work? This is a question a psychologist tasked with analyzing the organizational aspects of a company might ask.

What does an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist do Within a Workplace?

The goal of most I/O psychologists is to increase productivity within a workplace by making it a better place to work. They go about this by interviewing and counseling employees, observing employee/employer interactions, helping rewrite company policies and procedures to benefit both the employee pool and the company officials, develop targeted hiring procedures for new employees and other methods.

Practicalities and Salary Information for Potential I/O Psychologists

I/O Psychology is gaining a lot of traction in the business world because of its positive effects on work environments across the board. It’s an attractive field of study for students interested in psychology, primarily due to its interdisciplinary “business + psychology” slant.

Like other careers in psychology, I/O psychologists must hold advanced degrees to become competitive in their field because there are limited opportunities for I/O psychologists holding only bachelor’s degrees. Master’s degrees open the door to entry-level positions, but those with doctoral degrees will have the best advantage.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology reports than an I/O psychologist with a master’s degree can expect a starting annual wage of about $105,310. Those with Ph.D.’s can expect to earn closer to $55,000 per year. While salaries for those in this occupation will vary based on location, the company for which they work, their level of experience and other factors, those who work for large organizations over the course of several years can expect to see their salaries grow to upwards of $80,000 per year.