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Grad School: Should I Get a Ph.D. or Master’s in I/O Psychology?

2011 June 14

Grad School Series: Applying to Graduate School in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Starting Sophomore Year: Should I get a Ph.D. or Master’s? | How to Get Research Experience
Starting Junior Year: Preparing for the GRE | Getting Recommendations
Starting Senior Year: Where to Apply | Traditional vs. Online Degrees | Personal Statements
Interviews/Visits: Preparing for Interviews | Going to Interviews
In Graduate School: What to Expect First Year

So you want to go to graduate school in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology?  Lots of decisions, not much direction.  I bet I can help!

While my undergraduate students are lucky to be at a school with I/O psychologists, many students interested in I/O psychology aren’t at schools with people they can talk to.  I/O psychology is still fairly uncommon in the grand scheme of psychologists; there are around 7,000 members of SIOP, the dominant professional organization of I/O, compared to the 150,000 in the American Psychological Association.  As a result, many schools simply don’t have faculty with expertise in this area, leading many promising graduate students to apply elsewhere.  That’s great from the perspective of I/O psychologists – lots of jobs – but not so great for grad-students-to-be or the field as a whole.

As a faculty member at ODU with a small army of undergraduate research assistants, I often find myself answering the same questions over and over again about graduate school.  So why not share this advice with everyone?

focus on Information Gathering and Career

This week, I’d like to talk about a Big Decision: Should I get a Master’s or Ph.D. in I/O Psychology?

This falls under two categories in my grad school timeline above: Information Gathering and Career.  This is a decision you should try to make during your sophomore year of college, and the decision should be driven by what kind of career you ultimately want.

Careers in I/O psychology are a little different than in most fields.  Because we are so small (in the grand scheme of things), there is less public advertisement of positions than typical in most fields.  You probably won’t find a position for an “I/O psychologist” on Monster.com, for example.  Many positions that I/O psychologists end up in are also not called “I/O psychologist.”  As the “science behind human resources,” I/O psychologists end up in a wide variety of career paths.  This is because the skill set developed as a I/O psychologist in training prepares you for virtually any job involving “people at work,” including consultants, professors, assessors, directors, and CEOs.  For a few examples, see these resources from SIOP.

So when you think about the difference between Master’s and Ph.D.-level training, you’re not comparing specific careers – rather, you are considering different approaches to training.  In a Master’s program, you are training to become an I/O professional.  An I/O professional will consider how to apply the principles of I/O psychology to solve specific organizational problems.  In a Ph.D. program, you are training to become an I/O scholar.  An I/O scholar will do the same tasks as the I/O professional, but will also use those experiences to advance our general understanding of I/O through research.

Thus, I/O professionals (Master’s) are trained to help organizations.  I/O scholars (Ph.D.’s) are trained to advance organizational science, helping organizations along the way.  Master’s students are trained to practice I/O psychology.  Ph.D. students are trained to conduct research in I/O psychology.

In practice, this means that an I/O psychology Ph.D. will generally have more responsibility than an I/O with a Master’s.  If you are in an organization with lots of I/O psychologists, the Ph.D.’s will generally be making “the big decisions,” while the I/Os with Master’s will aid with implementation or conduct background research.  Since many modern organizational problems are at the frontiers of our current understanding of organizations, a person with Master’s level training will generally not be prepared to conduct research within the organization to help answer these questions.  Of course, there are many I/O’s with Master’s that start their own consulting agencies or work as the only I/O psychologist in an organization – but this is a matter of experience and personal drive.

And of course, if you want to be a professor, the only suitable degree is a Ph.D.

All I/O training, regardless of level, centers around (or rather, should center around) the scientist-practitioner model.  This is one of the key differences between an MBA in Human Resources and a degree in I/O Psychology.  While the MBA will make an informed decision, usually based on reasoning from case studies and their own experience as managers (often anecdotal evidence or recommendations from more experienced businesspeople), an I/O will reference the current scholarly research literature to make this same judgment from scientific evidence.  While an MBA simply wants to solve a problem, an I/O wants to understand that problem based on our scientific understanding of human behavior and then solve it.

If you are having a hard time making a decision, assume you’ll go for a Ph.D.   The preparation you’ll do over the next three years for a Ph.D. will be sufficient for a Master’s too, but the preparation needed for a Master’s won’t be enough for a Ph.D.  Better safe than sorry!

Please also note that the guidelines given here are based on “typical” programs – there are certainly scholarship-focused Master’s programs and practitioner-focused Ph.D. programs, but the majority of them follow the model here.

Once you have a degree in mind, you should tailor your efforts to prepare to apply to programs accordingly.  Stay tuned for future features on applying to grad school here on NeoAcademic, which will help you make more decisions along this path.

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  1. June 14, 2011

    Richard,

    Great post. I just finished grad school for my masters degree focused in Organizational Leadership and was looking to pursue my doctorates in I/O Psych. I am currently doing coaching for different focuses (http://www.shaunmayfield.com/coaching.html), and beginning to get into business and church consulting. My goals as a consultant is to help organizations with conflict resolution/management, team development and help coach executives as well as the traditional business development consulting.

    What are some of your thoughts regarding different schools offering I/O Psych degrees?

    Thanks again.

  2. June 15, 2011

    I’ll be writing a full post on this at some point, but here is some advice based on your question.

    First, frame your decision as “which faculty” rather than “which program” or “which school.” Even if you’re in the strongest program around, if you have a poor advisor, you’ll have a poor experience. Generally, “better programs” tend to have better faculty, but the correlation isn’t all that high, IMHO.

    Second, along those lines, since doctoral studies also center more around the idea of scholarship and research, the match between your interests and those of your advisor are going to be most critical. Even if you have a poor advisor, if you’re doing work you’re passionate about, you’ll still have a good experience.

    Third, make sure they have a rigorous statistics training, and take as many of those classes as you can. If you have an interest in leadership, HLM is critical. Stats and research methods are the most critical skill sets that distinguish high quality I/O PhDs.

  3. Allen permalink
    June 20, 2011

    Great post, Richard! Students interested in a rigorous I/O Master’s program should check out our program at Radford University (http://www.radford.edu/content/chbs/home/psychology/programs/industrial-organizational.html).

    Interested students can contact me directly if they have any questions about our program (cgorman6@radford.edu).

    ag

  4. Andrew permalink
    October 20, 2011

    I am and undergraduate student interested in the field and found this article very helpful. I am currently a business student and was wondering if there would be an advantage to obtaining a minor in business before i move on to a graduate program.

  5. October 20, 2011

    @Andrew – Do you mean you’re a business student considering a psychology minor? If you’re thinking a Master’s, it probably doesn’t matter much, but that will differ by program. If you’re thinking PhD, then it will be critical to have psych background to get into a Psych-department I/O program. Less so if you’re applying to business school I/O programs.

    But keep in mind that many programs require you take the Psych GRE Subject Test. If you don’t have broad Psych undergrad experience, that will probably be rather difficult.

  6. Rachel permalink
    January 13, 2012

    I am currently majoring in I/O psychology. I am wondering if it would be beneficial for me to obtain a minor in business administration before applying for a Ph.D program. It will add an extra semester to my undergraduate studies but I am willing to do it if it will make a difference in getting accepted.

  7. January 13, 2012

    If you’re applying into programs in psychology departments, I doubt it. If you’re thinking about business schools, then it might. You should note though that doctoral applications are typically due at the end of Fall semester, with invites to interview or visit around February. If taking an extra semester throws you off a full-academic-year schedule, I don’t think it would be worth it (at least, unless you aren’t also trying to raise your GPA).

  8. Tatiana Arthur permalink
    February 8, 2012

    Richard,

    As an undergraduate junior at an institution that does not offer much information on I/O Psychology, I am extremely pleased with this article. It gave me way more insight than I ever intended on receiving. I now feel more confident in applying to Clemson’s I/O Psychology program. To clarify, when you stated “If you are having a hard time making a decision, assume you’ll go for a Ph.D. ” were you meaning one may skip receiving their MBA and go straightforward to Ph.D in I/O?

    Keep up the amazing work!

  9. February 8, 2012

    Tatiana, I’m glad you found it valuable. By that statement, I mean that preparing yourself to apply to a PhD program (getting research experience, taking difficult classes, etc) will qualify you to apply to a Master’s program too, but the reverse is not necessarily true – or in other words, it’s easier to get into a Master’s program, so if you don’t know which you want, prepping as if you’re applying for a PhD gives you the option to pursue either later. The reverse is not necessarily true.

  10. Tina permalink
    March 28, 2012

    As an undergraduate with an extreme interest in I/O psychology but in a college setting without the appropriate faculty to help me with my interest, I found this article really helpful. Since the field is small, I’ve found it difficult to find supplements to aid my curiosity about it. Richard, could you suggest any books that may be of interest in helping my understand the field a bit more? The only things I have found have been textbooks. Thanks!

  11. March 29, 2012

    Honestly, textbooks are probably the best you’ll get – they give you a broad survey of the specialty areas in the field, which will help you narrow down your specific interest areas (if you have one). I recommend the Landy & Conte text.

  12. Jeff permalink
    April 3, 2012

    I have become really interested in the field of industrial and organization psychology. If I were to get a master’s degree in this field, how difficult is to to get a job and what kind of salary can I expect to make? Are online degrees in this field a good way to get a masters degree, or would it be better to go the normal route and attend a university?

  13. April 3, 2012

    @Jeff – Employment is good for I/Os right now (you can find some outlook data here). There is projected 29% growth in the next decade, which is quite strong. You can find up-to-date salary information in these surveys conducted by SIOP. You can also find a comparison of online vs. traditional institutional outcomes in this article, which was just published this month.

  14. Jane permalink
    June 9, 2012

    Dear Professor,

    Thank you for your insightful article about I/O Psychology. I am a graduate from a top college, and I’m looking to continue my studies in an I/O Ph.D. program. Despite having a reasonable major GPA, my overall GPA is just barely 3.0. I do have years of research experience in undergraduate years in great labs and now am working as a research assistant with a couple of co-authorships in peer-reviewed publications. Do you think my low GPA will affect my chances at graduate school admissions enough to warrant going for a masters first? This has been worrying me for quite some time, and I appreciate any advice.

  15. June 9, 2012

    @Jane – It really depends upon the specific programs to which you’re applying. If they have specific GPA cut-offs (pretty common), your application may not even be considered by a live person. So I think, given your background, it would certainly be wise to apply to Master’s programs simultaneously to PhD programs. With both, you definitely want to address the low overall GPA head-on in your personal statement – a number that low needs an explanation.

  16. Gabby permalink
    July 16, 2012

    Can you still become a licensed Psychologist if you get a PhD in I/O Psychology??

  17. July 16, 2012

    @Gabby – Assuming you’re talking about APA (USA) licensing, yes you can, if you go to a program that is a hybrid clinical/I-O program. There are not many though. Most I/O psychologists are not licensed because there is no advantage to being licensed – it is typically more hassle than it is worth. The only reason you really need a license is to legally practical clinical psychology in whatever state you want to practice in, which is not needed to do anything I/O psychologists are typically trained to do (i.e. it is not needed or particularly valuable for organizational consulting).

  18. Rachel permalink
    August 20, 2012

    Hi there – thank you for the informative article! I am currently considering making a career change, and would like some input from you if you have the time. I have a background in behavior analysis, with an undergraduate psychology degree from Western Michigan University. Most of my research and practical experience as an undergraduate involved work on studies involving children and schools. After receiving my undergraduate degree, I decided to pursue School Psychology (University of Oregon). I finished my masters degree in this area a couple of years ago, and have been working in a school system since then. I am finding that I love certain aspects of my job: working in a system and finding ways to improve it (through staff training, creating systems/procedures to increase efficiency) and the use of data to make decisions about the type of instruction students need and ways to improve that instruction if a student is not making progress. Other aspects have been trying. I do not enjoy working in an environment that is so “democratic” in nature. The principals technically are the head of the organization, but a lot of power is given to teachers/staff to make decisions based on their own values. This is not always in the best interest of the children or the organization. I can make suggestions to a teacher based on evidence-based procedures (e.g., how to change environment to help improve a child’s behavior), but there is no reason that he/she needs to listen to me. Also, in general, data isn’t valued (gut instincts and experience are valued), and there is not adequate funding for training/professional development around building these skills, even when the district states that they value making data-based decisions. I also do not enjoy the mountain of paperwork and special education procedure that goes along with my job. I am providing this level of detail, because in the research I have done thus far, it appears that the field of I/O psychology might be a good option for me to pursue, given my strengths and the things I do enjoy about working in a system or organization. I realize there would be major differences between the business world and schools, but they are effectively both organizations and some overarching concepts apply to both.

    What advice would you have for me in testing the water in the field of I/O (how to find job shadowing opportunities, books or articles to read on I/O psychology, etc.)? Do you think that I would need to go the route of getting another masters degree, or given that there is some overlap (stats, research methods) between my school psychology masters coursework and an I/O masters, would I want to see about going straight into a Ph.D. program? I am fairly sure I would want to pursue a Ph.D., given the greater range of opportunities I would have with that degree. I am a perfectionist and I am very driven once I decide to pursue a course of action, but I do not want to make the same mistake I did with School Psychology, and decide to make a career change without adequate justification or information. I have spent some time looking at siop.org.

    Thank you so much for any input or advice you can provide!

  19. August 21, 2012

    @Rachel – I’m not sure the reasons you want to pursue a degree in I/O are necessarily based on a realistic picture of I/O practice. Many of the things you describe (low budgets, people trusting guts over data, excessive paperwork, etc) are still present in a consulting environment. We fight the “no really, data will help” battle all the time. Paperwork just shifts to recording billable hours – recording all of your activities in great detail to accurately charge clients for your time. So I am not sure you’d really be avoiding the things you seem to dislike about it.

    The best resources for “what is I/O really like” that I can send you to are all on siop.org, so you’ve probably already seen them. Jobs in I/O vary a lot in both titles and responsibilities (from data analyst to CEO) so it’s hard to pin down exactly what an I/O job is or involves. The common element is a focus on using psychology to improve human resources and human resources processes. If you’re interested in improving general organizational functioning (e.g. strategy, customer relations), we don’t deal with these areas at all.

    Ph.D. programs in I/O generally bring in people straight from undergraduate, and stats/methods tend to be different at every school. In a sense, schools wants to remold you in their own stats image, and stats varies a great deal. At ODU, for example, if you didn’t get a little SEM, HLM and IRT before getting here, you’d probably need to retake the whole stats sequence.

    So you might have some luck with applying some of your previous stats/methods credits, but you might not – it will be on a school-by-school basis. The bigger issue will be that you have adequate research experience – if you didn’t get at least a pub or two through your previous Master’s program, it will be difficult to apply that experience to a PhD training environment.

    Process-wise, I will tell you that most post-Master’s students that apply to ODU just go ahead and apply – after acceptance, we work out what needs to be retaken. FWIW, in the past, the students that we thought had sufficient stats have told us later that they wish they’d retaken the stats courses anyway, just so that they could have a similar frame of reference to their cohorts.

  20. Heather permalink
    August 26, 2012

    Hello- I am a sophomore majoring in Human Resource Management, and I just recently read about I/O Psychology and am somewhat interested in it. I am however having problems finding out what would be the best courses to take before going on to graduate school. Would a bachelors in HR while minoring in psychology be sufficient to get into most grad programs? (That’s going for a masters, not a PhD.)

  21. August 26, 2012

    @Heather – That degree combination would be fine as long as you had sufficient experience in a research lab (Psychology, HRM, or OB).

  22. Anne permalink
    September 15, 2012

    Dear Mr Landers,

    Thank you for the great post! It sheds inside some light on how things are going.

    I am a master’s student in Organizational Psychology and HRM in my second and last year, with a BA in Psychology. I would like to further pursue a Phd in I/O Psychology, but am currently not sure where my odds stand. I have a good GPA (or so I think, based on my country’s grade classification ..). I haven’t taken any of the abilities tests yes, GRE, but I’m sure I will do just fine. The problem is with the research and work experience. I’ve conducted research projects on my own but did not assist any professor or haven’t been assistant in a laboratory. Also, I haven’t been employed in the field until now, so real I don’t have organizational experience ( as an employee, the projects which I conducted involved organizational applications). I really enjoy conducting research and I would like to develop my career path in this direction.

    My thought is – how strong an application do I hold or can I be accepted by a good program only based on what I have done so far? Or should I better seek to gain laboratory or work experience before applying? Basically, I’m thinking that I would get admitted but analyzing some of the CV’s of current Phd students at various universities lead me to conclude that they have done more than this. The second reason for which I am asking is that I see most programs offer few places and are very competitive. Also, not affording to attend a program self-funded, I’m hoping to get an assistantship or a similar funding opportunity. How far off do you think my expectations are?

    Thank you!

  23. September 15, 2012

    @Anne – The lack of formal research experience is going to be a negative for you unless you have published something from your own research. The only PhD programs that will provide funding are going to be research-intensive and highly selective (selecting between 1 and 5 people out of 75 to 300 applicants, depending upon the program). Organizational experience will generally not make your application more competitive in these programs, because working in an organization doesn’t generally teach you anything about research, which is the focus of these programs. I would not recommend applying to or attending a PhD program that does not provide funding to most of its students.

    If you won’t be producing a publishable, empirical thesis from your Master’s program, such programs will also likely disregard your Master’s (except as far as your GPA anyway), requiring you to complete a second Master’s or at a minimum repeating all Master’s-level work. Also, in many of these programs, doing “just fine” on the GRE often isn’t enough – you’ll need to be in the top 5% or better (sometimes much better).

    In any case, what all this means is that for a realistic chance at the kind of program you’re targeting, you need, at a minimum:
    1) Some practical research experience with a faculty member and a letter of recommendation from that faculty member
    -or-
    2) Your own published first-author work

  24. Trisha permalink
    September 21, 2012

    Dear Mr. Landers

    I am currently pursuing my Bachelors in Psychology from India and I’ve been very interested in pursuing a graduate degree in this field from the US. Due to the very limited exposure to this field here, I had the basic idea however.

    Thank You very much for this article. It has not only helped me understand the difference in the PhD and Masters programs, but also the difference between MBA and Masters, something that I had been trying to understand for quite some time now.

    I am preparing for GRE and I have a decent score in college as well. My only concern is that I do not have any research background. Will I still be able to get admission in a top college??

    Thank You.

  25. September 21, 2012

    @Trisha – It depends on your goals. If you are seeking a PhD, yes, that will prevent you for getting into top programs. But if you are seeking a terminal Masters degree, you can get into highly rated Masters programs without research experience.

  26. Jorge permalink
    September 25, 2012

    Dear Mr. Landers,

    I am looking for some good advise. I am considering a PhD degree in IO Psychology and I’d like to know if you recommend the program at Grand Canyon University. They offer a PhD in General Psychology with emphasis in IO Psychology. Sounds like a PhD in IO Psychology but I am not sure if in fact these two are the same.

    I have a bachelors in Psychology and a MS in Organizational Leadership. I currently work as an assistant professor for a city university in NY.

    I would appreciate if you could provide any type of recommendation

    Thank you

    Jorge

  27. Maan permalink
    September 25, 2012

    Hi Mr. Landers,

    I am stuck between applying for a Masters in I/O psychology and a Ph.D. The school I am applying to has both options (Wayne State University) and I would like to get a masters, but I feel inclined that I must go for a PhD because of today’s competitive market. Am I right in this thinking? I would like to make around 90,000 a year and be a I/O psychologist or whatever you want to call it in the job field. I realize that the I/O psychology PhD program is a 6 year program at my school, while the masters is 2 years. I want to know if the extra 4 years will be worth the time lost in the workforce. This is a very stressful decision that will impact me the rest of my life, and I would like to know what is the best decision. I wouldn’t mind teaching or going into research, but since I am in my last year of undergrad majoring in Psychology and minoring in Management and Organizational Behavior taking classes such as research methods and senior thesis, I feel as if I will get a better idea of research throughout my last year. I do not have much experience with research, so I do not want to jump into something that I am not sure about, but I want to help people in the human resources aspect, but also not lose my job to someone with a PhD. Let me know if this is something I should be concerned about, and if not, I can apply for a masters walking out confidently thinking that I can get a job, because there is a bright outlook for this job position. Thank YOU!!!!

    Maan

  28. September 25, 2012

    @Jorge – I am not familiar with Grand Canyon University, so I can’t really comment on that. However, a “PhD in General Psychology with emphasis in IO Psychology” implies a couple of things to me. One, you are most likely going to be completing more “general psychology” electives (sometimes called distribution requirements) than those in more “pure” I-O programs. Two, they probably don’t have a large number of dedicated I-O faculty. But those are guesses; you should check out their website to verify both of these. If you can’t find information on the website to answer these questions, contact the doctoral programs director. If you can’t get a straight answer from the website or the director, it is not likely a good program.

    @Maan – Honestly, a Master’s vs PhD give you very different career prospects. The types of jobs that those with Master’s go into are not going to be the same as those with PhDs. But I’m confident you’d walk out the doors with a job with either degree from Wayne State. Given what I know about Wayne State, your chances of getting into their PhD program without research experience are probably near-zero. I don’t know about their Master’s program. It is very unlikely you would start at $90K or higher, regardless of degree. Based on the 2009 SIOP salary survey (most recent available), median starting salary with a Master’s is $55K, and the median with a PhD is $75K.

  29. Maan permalink
    September 25, 2012

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for the useful information. However, I am taking a Research Methods class this semester which leads into a Senior Thesis class for next semester. If you are unsure of these class titles, this semester we choose our topic of research and prepare a research proposal. Then next semester is where we collect all the data. This will give me research experience, but I am not sure if PhD is the way to go. Thank you.

    Maan

  30. September 25, 2012

    @Maan – For comparison, one of the students in my lab hoping for admission into a PhD program next year is currently completing an independent research project while volunteering 30+ hours per week across 2 I/O research labs and 1 outside I/O. He will have 3 letters of recommendations from faculty with whom he has worked as a researcher. He has attended weekly lab meetings with my for nearly 2 years. For a high-tier research PhD program, that is just one student with whom you are competing among a hundred or more applicants for 3-4 total spots at each school. Given his history, I suspect he will be admitted to about half of the programs to which he applies. I think you are underestimating your competition.

    As for whether or not a PhD is appropriate for you, I can’t tell you much more than what I’ve written here. Working in a research lab with a faculty advisor and graduate student supervising you is precisely the experience that would help you answer that question (which is why many faculty, myself included, don’t generally take students without such experience).

  31. Jorge permalink
    September 25, 2012

    Dear Mr. Landers,

    Thank you so much for the valuable comment. I think you were right on the money. I spoke to the doctored admissions officer and she mentioned that the degree is indeed in general psychology and it has 5 distinctive electives related to I/O Psychology (I/O Psych, Human resources, Systems, Leadership, Program Review etc.) The other 15 classes are from the general psych format.

    If I may, I came across with Keiser University program. This school seems to have a true I/O Psychology program but I am not familiar with the reputation of the university and if it will be a good institution to obtain such a high degree.

    Considering my background, in your experience, would it matter where do I get my PhD from. As I mentioned earlier, I have a bachelors in Psychology and a MS in Organizational Leadership ending with an empirical base research thesis dissertation. I currently work as an assistant professor tenure track for a city university in NY.

    Thank you again

    Jorge

  32. Trisha permalink
    September 26, 2012

    Thank you for your time Mr. Landers.

  33. September 26, 2012

    @Jorge – I’m honestly a little confused by your situation. Typically, the PhD is considered the entry-level degree for a tenure-track professorships, so if you’ve already got that, and that position is your end-goal, I’m not sure why you need a PhD. If this is about a salary increase and your goal is teaching where you are forever, then it probably does not matter much where you go. If this is about future career prospects and your goal is research, consulting, or upward/lateral movement within academia, then you want the best program you can get into.

    • September 26, 2012

      Dear Mr. Landers, thank you for your reply.

      The reason I am looking for a PhD is to further my career as an educator. I have been working as a surgical assistant for 17 years and I became an educator about six years ago. My position as an assisting professor tenure-track is at the associates level where the highest education required is a masters degree as well as publications, which I am still working on.

      My goal indeed, is to teach at a graduate level in a field related to my graduate degree and eventually move out of the associates level. My problem so far is identify the right school that offer the programs I need under the conditions I can afford at this present time. I am 52 and have a family to support, therefore the program must be online with no GRE requirements. I know I am asking too much. Keiser University asks for a Masters degree in lieu of the GREs. However, I am not sure if obtaining a degree at this school will be worth enough to accomplish my goal.

      Thank you for your time again and again,

      Jorge

    • September 26, 2012

      @Jorge – You still seem to be in an atypical position in comparison to the T-T positions I’m familiar with. In I/O, you generally need a PhD to be on the T-T at all (progression from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor to full Professor, which generally takes at least 12 years post-PhD). Assuming you want to stay where you are, I think you should speak to another I/O (or at least another psychologist) in your department; I can’t speak to the culture and technical requirements of your institution. If you want to go somewhere else, you will almost certainly need a PhD – at least 5 years to get the degree (sometimes longer) and generally 7 more years to earn tenure.

  34. September 27, 2012

    Hello Rich,

    First of all, thank you for your highly informative and factually rich article. Your candid and honest advice has clearly been valued by those who have read this article, and has personally provided for me an adequate amount of information in addition to what I have seen on the SIOP website to formulate my own opinions on the field.

    Now, I would like some candid and honest advice of my own. I am a fresh graduate from a major Big Ten university (Indiana – go hoosiers!). I demonstrated academic poise and discipline by finishing my undergrad in just three years, with a BA in Spanish, a Certificate in Business Operations, and minors in Linguistics and Latino Studies. Since graduation, I have launched a career in Account Management, but have noticed a keen affinity for structural and organizational affairs. I have assisted execs in developing initiatives in a newly-public company to add structure to a program that is meant to cover intraoffice diversity issues. I have long-term interests in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility, and am looking at MS programs in I/O psychology to get a formalized credential on my resume before I consider applying for MBA programs.

    Essentially, I am curious about a few things. 1) Will I be set back by not having an undergrad background in Psychology? 2) Will my current position (Account Management) be of hinderance in the application process as it is not the most comprehensive, analytical position? (Even though I have proven myself to work outside of the job description in a much more I/O psych flavored way?)

    I would appreciate your prompt response, although it appears that you have many questions to answer — consider that a compliment! You’re the pro! :)

    • September 27, 2012

      1) For an MS, I’m honestly not sure. If you were applying to PhD programs, zero background in psychology would definitely be a problem. I’d normally recommend taking a few undergraduate classes in Psychology at the nearest university, volunteering in a research lab, and completing the Psych GRE. In your case, I’d recommend contacting the I/O area director (or MS program director) at the schools you are considering and ask their opinion.

      2) Generally, no one cares about outside work experience as far as admissions are concerned.

      As a side note, it’s very unusual to think about an MS in I/O as credentialing along the way to an MBA; an I/O MS is a more rigorous degree than an MBA (I’d think of it as a step backwards, or at best, sideways).

  35. Trisha permalink
    October 3, 2012

    Hello again Sir,

    I came across a course on the SIOP website – MA in Human Resource and Industrial Relations, that is being offered by some universities.

    I just wanted to know if there is any difference between this course and I/O Psychology, in terms of course as well as future prospects.

    Thank You

    • October 3, 2012

      I think by “course”, you mean “program.” And no – they’re not the same. HRIR is going to be in a business school, and it is somewhere between an MS/MA in I/O and an MBA in HR. The job opportunities may be similar, but it depends on the school.

  36. Trisha permalink
    October 10, 2012

    Thanks a lot for your help Mr. Landers.

  37. Didrik permalink
    October 17, 2012

    I was wondering what your take on psy D approach. I’m currently looking at a IO masters and a psy D after wards in Org psych.

    I’ve been told that a psy d. is more applying info like a masters.

    Could could please shed some light on the difference?

    Thanks and great article

    • October 17, 2012

      PsyD in I/O is very uncommon. Most likely, it focuses on clinical with an I/O and counseling emphasis. You are correct that it will be more applied; however, you won’t get the same sort of training (or honestly, respect) as an I/O PhD will.

  38. October 22, 2012

    Dr. Landers,

    Thank you for a very informative and wonderful post.

    I am recently gaining a lot of interest in the Psych I/O field. I come from a very diverse background. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences and most credits in a Masters in Social Policy Admin/ Social Work degree (have not finished final internship and don’t intend to finish it either)..I have taken some psych classes during my graduate social work coursework.

    I want to apply to PhD programs in I/O Psych. Do you think that would be a realistic option given my background? I have a strong undergrad GPA 3.7 and a not-so-good graduate GPA 3.0.
    But I do have 2 published papers in the field of mental health.

    Would you give me some insight on whether I should even apply? Also, are you in a position to recommend schools I would be able to apply to given my background.

    Thanks in advance for your time.

    • October 22, 2012

      The graduate GPA will hurt you pretty badly. An axiom in I/O psych is “the best predictor of future performance is past performance,” so that will translate into poor predicted PhD performance for you. The two papers do make your case a little unusual though, so it’s hard to predict. I’d say if you have a really good reason for why your GPA is low and explain that well in admissions essays, you might still have a reasonable shot at decent PhD programs. So I’d recommend applying. But your chances may not be good (unless those are both top-tier pubs with you as first author). I’d recommend you apply to a school that shares your interests – I wrote an article on this topic: http://neoacademic.com/2011/08/03/grad-school-where-should-i-apply/

  39. October 22, 2012

    Thanks so much for the information and the link to the other article. Does a decent GRE score have the potential to cover up for the bad grad school grades? (315 on the revised GRE)

    • October 22, 2012

      It’ll really depend department-to-department – it could, but it’s hard to say. But I will say that if you don’t address the cause of the low GPA in your written materials, it will be a strong mark against you anywhere.

  40. Heather permalink
    November 8, 2012

    Dr. Landers,
    My MA is in Psychology with a 3.44 GPA. However, for my graduate program I changed disciplines and have completed classes for my MA in Anthropolgy/Archaeology with a 3.56 GPA. I am currently working on my archaeological thesis, and have been working in the field of archaeology for the past year. During that time I have reevaluated my future career goals and have decided to return to my initial interest in I/O Psychology. I am an Air Force veteran and my GRE scores were 746 Q and a perfect 800 V. However, I was not involved in any research projects during my undergraduate, and the only research I have been involved in grad school is my own thesis. I am applying to five I/O Ph.D programs for next fall, all ranked highly on SIOP. What are my chances of being accepted to one of these programs, and what could I do to increase those chances? Should I accept that my less-than 4.0 GPA and my lack of research experience will keep me from being accepted and simply apply to MA programs, and try again for a Ph.D program when I have an I/O MA? Or are admissions likely to take into account my ability to complete graduate studies even though it is in a different field, and my better-than-average GRE scores? Any advice on the correct course of action for my situation would be appreciated!
    Thank you,
    Heather

    • November 9, 2012

      First of all, there’s no ambiguous “admissions” group in small high-quality programs – the ones that make the decisions are the current I/O faculty at those institutions. Remember, you’re not applying to the school – you’re applying for a 5+ year mentoring relationship with a specific person or group of people.

      The lack of research experience in psychology will definitely be a negative for your application, unless you have published a few things in your current field, but it sounds like you haven’t. Most PhD programs at the highest tiers of institution don’t consider previous Master’s work unless it is VERY similar to what they want you to have completed at the Master’s level, so my suspicion is that completing a distinct I/O Master’s is probably a waste of time if you’re definitely on the PhD track. However, I think your situation is sufficiently unique that you should probably contact the faculty you’re thinking of working with at those institutions and ask their opinion.

      I’m also not sure what you mean by “ranked highly”. If you’re interested in top 10, for comparison, I went to a top-10 program , coming out of undergrad with a 3.9 GPA, 99th percentile GRE scores, and an in press publication. I was still in the middle of the pack of those admitted. You might want to set your sights slightly lower, where your high GRE scores are more likely to lead faculty to overlook the lack of psych research experience (but this will vary from professor to professor). I would personally be very apprehensive unless you had an extremely convincing personal statement that explained the switch very clearly.

  41. Patrick permalink
    November 16, 2012

    Dr. Landers,
    I am considering getting an undergraduate in Psychology, and I would like to go on to receive a PhD in I-O Psychology in the future. However, I am worried about the difficulties of getting a steady job in the field. I realize that earlier you informed Jeff that the employment for I-O Psychologists is supposed to increase 29% in the next decade, but since I-O Psychology is a small specialty, won’t this dramatic growth only amount to about 800 new jobs? Those numbers worry me a bit. I was also recently told that I-O Psychologists were among the careers with the highest current unemployment (around 10.4%). Is this true?
    -Thanks for the help,
    Pat

    • November 16, 2012

      More technically, employment for “I/O Psychologist” as a job title is expected to increase 29%, but this is 1500 new jobs (see http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3032.00). But I/O Psychologists work with many other job titles as well (e.g. VP of Human Resources, Director of Training, etc), so that is not exhaustive. I expect the number to be higher.

      Where did you see 10.4%? Can you cite a source? The unemployment rate for people with PhDs hovers around 1-2% (even during this last recession), so that seems very high to me. We’ve never failed to place a PhD student in a job, and the same was true for the graduate school I attended. Although I suspect that is less true for online institutions.

      The 10.4% number makes more sense if you’re talking about an undergrad “I/O psychology” degree. I wouldn’t recommend an undergrad psych degree alone (or any liberal arts degree) in terms of career prospects without a graduate degree to follow.

    • Patrick permalink
      November 16, 2012

      Oh. Quite. I had not considered that.

      As far as the unemployment rate goes, I double checked my sources and I believe you are correct. In the articles I read, I-O Psychologist was being placed among other undergraduate degrees, they just never explicitly stated that they were not counting PhD graduates. My apologies. I believe my entire question was one small misunderstanding.

  42. Terri permalink
    November 19, 2012

    Dear Dr. Landers.
    I have been looking into numerous programs as they relate to Human resources, organizational leadership, behaviors in the workplace and on productivity, etc. I have come across a few programs-the ED.d in Organizational Leadership. I am drawn to these programs and the I/O doctoral programsPhD.

    Can you tell me the difference in these two types of programs, for example the training received and would you they both prepare you for the same type of practical work. I would assume that with the PhD there is the option to be in academia, and that option would not be with the ED.d.

    The organizational leadership on some I/o programs is also a concentration within those studies and the EDd in many programs has most of the core couse work from the pyschology department.

    I am really confused as to the difference between these programs other than the fact that one is a Phd and one is an EdD.

    Can you p lease provide some clarification..
    Thanks.

    • November 19, 2012

      They are very different programs. An EdD is going to be more practice-oriented, but focused more narrowly than an I/O degree. An EdD will prepare you for leadership positions generally in higher education – VP of a community college, head of distance education, etc. There may be some focus on applied analytics, but less dedicated statistics and research methods training than you are likely to get in an I/O program. I don’t think many EdDs get jobs in industry, but I imagine some do. My suspicion would actually be that it’s more common for an EdD to become a faculty member than work in industry, but that’s a guess. An I/O degree, regardless of MS or PhD level, is much broader – you’ll get training across all areas of human resources and organizational behavior. If you take I/O courses within an EdD program, I’m guessing they are primarily focused on leadership/teams/org behavior, which is only a portion of an I/O degree. But again, this will differ from program to program – comparing any particular pair of programs, PhD vs EdD, either could be more rigorous/respected/likely to get you a job.

  43. Lorenz permalink
    December 3, 2012

    Hi Dr. Landers,

    I am currently enrolled in an M.A. I/O Psychology program. In the future, I have interests in becoming involved with developing start-up companies. I am curious about the role/need for an I/O Psychologist in the entrepreneurial world. Will there be value for I/O Psychologists in assisting business development for newborn companies? What would be the biggest challenges and how would these types of positions differ in comparison to those with established corporations?

    Thank you.

    • December 3, 2012

      That’s a pretty broad question. I/O provides a toolset for managing human resources, which I think is valuable in virtually any organization. However, many of our statistical analyses rely on large sample sizes (i.e. large organizations), so I think the biggest challenge would be adapting those analyses for use in small organizations. For example, if you’re hiring 30 people from a pool of 100, I have many tools to help you do that – but if you’re hiring 1 person from 5, I have some advice for you, but much less.

      To be honest, I don’t think that most small organizations (less than 50 employees) need a dedicated in-house I/O psychologist – they would be much better off outsourcing to an I/O consultancy. If you want to work with startups, I’d suggest joining (or creating) a company dedicated to working with startups. But I don’t think I/Os in such contexts are very common, at least right now.

  44. rey_lena permalink
    January 4, 2013

    Hi Dr. Landers,
    I appreciate your comments and information they are very helpful! I am a junior pursuing a degree in psychology with a minor in business. I am looking into receiving my MA in I/O-hopefully in Europe. Are you familiar with any I/O masters programs there? I plan to come back to the states to work, but would it be difficult to find a job here because I have been studying abroad? Any general challenges I should be aware of if I decide to do this?

    • January 4, 2013

      I/O is not precisely I/O in Europe – most European schools fall under the label “work psychology” and tend to focus more on the “O” side of I/O. That’s not universally true through. If you’re interested in more of the “I” side (which I’d say is where most of the jobs are), you’re probably best off staying stateside.

      Also, one of the biggest advantages to going to a respected program is that they will have connections to local (or at least regional) consulting firms where their graduate students tend to go. If you go to a European school, all of your connections will be European, and you’ll be best off getting a job in Europe (in fact, probably in the country of your school).

      Finally, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Europe are generally not “American-style degrees” – Master’s degrees for example typically are paired with undergrad degrees and often only involve 1 year of study. Even PhD study is typically quite different – more of an apprenticeship to a professor than a formal program of study. That’s not going to be universally true for all schools in Europe, but it does mean you’d need to do a LOT more research on individual programs to see how similar to US programs they are, if you want to eventually come back. If you want to stay in Europe, the differences matter less.

  45. Bad decision permalink
    January 16, 2013

    IO psychology is a generally horrendous field to go into. I’m finishing my masters and virtually no fellow students over the two years in my program or others I’ve met at the masters level find jobs that are even mildly related to the field. Expect exceedingly low pay near 30K with a ceiling below 50 after ten years. The only successful consultants went to highly competitive schools for PhDs. Let me reiterate this as clear as possible, DO NOT GET A MASTERS DEGREE IN IO PSYCHOLOGY. You will most likely regret the decision unless your goal is low pay working in HR doing mind numbing tasks. You will not hear this from professors but unless you score very highly on the gre, your odds of gaining acceptance to a good phd program are very low. Here is the remedy: get a degree in engineering and go into the oil and gas industry. There you will find respect, great compensation and a great job outlook. Do not fall pray to anyone who tells you that you are a “professional” at the masters level in io, you are not and will not be treated as such. I wish someone told me this two years ago before taking on the debt of a masters in IO because its almost as worthless as a masters in clinical. Do not do it, you will thank yourself later.

    • January 17, 2013

      While I appreciate that you’ve had a bad experience, I don’t think it’s the norm. What you’re saying doesn’t match up at all with the salary surveys conducted by SIOP or what I hear from students with Master’s themselves. What you describe actually sounds like the result of going to a Master’s program with a poor reputation (e.g. online or not specifically I/O focused). Like most business-related fields, I/Os is a people-business, and if the program you go to doesn’t have connections with industry or a good reputation, you’re not likely to get a good job. I/O also fights for respect in general – if you go somewhere without an I/O PhD that will supervise you, you will have to fight that battle. Most people don’t even know what I/O is – why would they respect it? But if there are already I/Os there, they will have already fought that fight.

  46. Bad decision permalink
    January 17, 2013

    To also continually spew this misinformation that most accepted phd students score in the top 5% is completely incorrect. The students accepted to almost any phd program average just under 1300 on the old gre scale. It is public information on their program pages, you can’t make numbers up. They are psychology students, not engineers, the scores are simply not that high, and you need to actually look up the info before you tell a woman who scored in the 99th percentile that she won’t get in because any psych program would roll out a red carpet for her.

    • January 17, 2013

      I was referring to quality programs. Usually departmental websites will give you a mean GRE score for their entire psychology program – that doesn’t take into account inter-program differences. I am getting my numbers from our own applicant and acceptance pool. We fairly rarely accept anyone with much below 1300 – but that is not necessarily true in other areas. I/O tends to have higher expectations for math skills than other areas. Also, if you think that “top 5%” is more stringent than “99th percentile”, I think that serves as pretty strong evidence that your quant training was not great. :)

  47. Bad decision permalink
    January 17, 2013

    I didn’t imply that the top 5 percent is more stringent than the 99th percentile. I was stating that most phd programs outside the top 5 accept students who score around 1300 on the old scale. There are also no a plethora of “respected” masters level programs that receive any of that respect outside of the realm of IO. Check the top google keyword searches for masters IO psychology jobs and you’ll see that it isn’t easily accomplished. Big IO firms don’t hire at the masters level primarily and if you actually want to do IO work on a salaried basis that’s about your only option. You “fairly rarely” accept anyone under a 1300? Got it. You’re out of touch with reality and giving people unrealistic expectations about the job outlook for IO masters and their odds of gained acceptance to a phd program. Inter-program differences are greatest between Neuro and everything else. Clinically generally has even greater applicant numbers than IO and higher gre scores.

    • January 17, 2013

      Why would you Google I/O jobs? I’ll reiterate – if the place you went didn’t direct you toward several potential employers, then it was not a good place to go. If you made a bad decision about where to go, just own it and move on. And I’ll agree in that case – if you can’t get into one of the better-reputed Master’s programs, you probably shouldn’t go at all. But that is true for any field, including engineering. And if you want a little career advice – the kind of bizarre arrogance you’re displaying here is a big turnoff for employers. Respect is not automatic, for those with Master’s degrees or PhDs. It must be earned no matter what, and it appears you expected it to be automatic.

  48. Joe M permalink
    January 21, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    I’m considering pursuing a career in I/O Psychology. However, my undergraduate degree was in accounting and international business. I have no academic experience in psychology other than an Intro to Psychology class my sophomore year.

    Assuming I am accepted to a master’s program in I/O Psychology and complete a master’s thesis, would that provide enough groundwork to apply to a doctoral program?

    You’ve responded to other posts mentioning the importance of going to a university with a good reputation. Would all of the Top 20 MA/MS programs listed on the SIOP website be considered quality schools? I know that might be a dumb question, but if there are only 40 schools to choose from, the top 20 doesn’t mean much. Also, some of the schools listed in the top 20 MA/MS don’t offer a doctoral program. Would it be a disadvantage coming from one of these schools when applying for a doctoral program at a different school after graduating?

    • January 21, 2013

      That’s a complicated question. If you know 100% that you want to pursue a PhD, you should try for a PhD immediately. It is generally more difficult to get into a PhD program if you already have a Master’s degree. And even with a Master’s degree, you may still need a full program (5-7 years) at the PhD level afterward, which means the Master’s just delays you career-wise. Most programs that have both the Master’s and PhD level don’t expect Master’s students to progress into their PhD program – if you wanted a PhD, it is assumed you would have applied there in the first place. There are exceptions; for example, at ODU, we occasionally accept people into our Master’s program if they are reasonably strong candidates but not strong enough to get into the PhD program (or we’ve run out of money for assistantships), and we want to give them a sort of “trial run”. But as a result, our I/O Master’s program is very small – maybe 1 student every 4 or 5 years, but they take classes alongside the doctoral students and most ultimately end up in the PhD program formally later. But that’s something that must be arranged beforehand with a particular faculty member.

      Rankings are tricky, because they are not always based on something you would personally find meaningful. If you’re looking at rankings based upon reputation from industry, then that sort of list would be helpful. If you’re looking at rankings based upon how happy the grad students are, that will be less helpful, given your goals. There is also some variance in how current those lists are, so I’d recommend checking publication date too.

      An extra problem for you is the empirical thesis dimension. The training in most Master’s programs, high quality or otherwise, is explicitly directed at getting you prepared to work in a Master’s type role. Programs vary in the degree to which they would prepare you to enter a PhD program – statistics training is generally weaker, as is research methods. Even if you do a thesis, it may not be empirical (e.g. case study research, or some types of program evaluation). This is something you’d need to investigate about each program.

      To be honest, you are not in a good position given your goals. I have heard of people going back to get a second Bachelor’s in Psychology in that situation, although that’s probably a bit extreme. If I were in your shoes, I would probably identify a particular faculty member that I was interested in working with and then contact them via phone to explain my situation and ask if they’d be interested in my volunteering to work in their lab for a year, 20+ hours per week, with the intention of applying to their PhD program if everything went well. If they were open to it, I’d then work my butt off to be an absolutely amazing research assistant over the next year. Even that strategy is not surefire – but at worst, you’d have some research experience to talk about in your applications elsewhere.

  49. Trisha permalink
    January 28, 2013

    Dr. Landers

    While filling out my applications, I realized there are some universities offering Masters in HR. These universities have also been listed on the official siop website.
    http://www.siop.org/gtp/GtpLookup.asp

    I would like to know how exactly the programs in HR are different from I/O, especially in terms of career prospects.

    Thank you

    • January 28, 2013

      To be honest, this is really a case-by-case sort of question. Some HR Master’s programs will be more like an MBA with an HR emphasis, others will be a blend of traditional MBA/HRM courses with I/O, and others will be mostly I/O. I’d say it is probably easier to get a job with an I/O background than an MBA, but it depends a lot on the school you attend either way. I’d recommend checking the programs to see what their curriculum looks like (mostly MBA courses or mostly I/O-type courses). If you see a lot of overlap with the traditional MBA program, it is probably more like an MBA.

    • Trisha permalink
      January 28, 2013

      Thank you Sir.

      Also, is there any reliable source to know about which schools are good, especially in terms of placements. Being an international student, most of what I know is through the internet. So a reliable source about universities would be really helpful.

    • January 28, 2013

      There’s really no single source, since it depends on what you are looking for in a program. Graduate education is much more complex than undergraduate. If you are interested in job placement, some programs self-report on their websites where their graduates tend to work. Here is an example from ODU: http://sci.odu.edu/psychology/io/alumni.shtml

  50. Jason permalink
    January 29, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    You’ve stated that you do not recommend attending programs that do not fund their students, and that “getting into the best program you can” is important for careers that involve research or consulting. What about applied work in organizational development or human resources management? Does it matter much then?

    What about a school like Louisiana Tech…they do not provide tuition waivers, but they provide a 15k/year stipend for their PhD students to work 1/2 time as research assistants, and the TOTAL cost of the program comes out to be between 15k-17k (about $2,300 + fees per 12 credit semester). This seems like a pretty good deal to me, and with an acceptance rate of around 50% (only 12 applicants on average according to SIOP), and fairly low GRE and GPA cutoffs, it seems like a good choice for applicants who are lacking in some piece(s) of their applications.

    However, having so few applicants and the inability to provide tuition waivers leads me to believe that this school is less “prestigious” than others…will this hurt a Louisiana Tech grad’s job prospects?

  51. January 29, 2013

    That is a tough question. RAs are generally considered better than TAs because you are paid for the research work that you are likely to be doing anyway. A lack of tuition waiver is unusual; tuition waivers are usually part of an RA/TA package, and that’s actually the first school I’ve heard of that doesn’t include one. But that doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of the program.

    I suppose the trade-off is that you can only get a PhD in a certain field once. Once you are “branded”, so to speak, that is your PhD granting institution forever. In academia, it could work against you to have a degree from a relatively unknown place. However, in industry, that will be less true. Once you have a few years of work experience post-PhD, it honestly doesn’t matter a whole lot which school you went to except in terms of training quality (higher quality programs tend to have better training especially in statistics) and alumni network (which, to be honest, is very convenient at times). I suppose I’d recommend asking their graduate/PhD programs director what their placement rates look like – I suspect most students end up going applied, but you want to get more information on where and approximate salaries. You might also consider emailing some of their graduate students and asking how they feel about their chances on the job market.

    Again, it’s important to remember that while I can give general recommendations, nothing will be better than getting first-hand accounts from current students from the particular programs you are interested in.

  52. Lucas permalink
    January 31, 2013

    Dr.Landers,

    I am a US Army Soldier, currently on deployment to Afghanistan. I recently completed my BA in Psychology through a regionally accredited online university. I am debating whether a Master’s in I/O Psychology would be the right choice for me. Due to my current line of work, I am unable to relocate in order to take advantage of a graduate school program at a physical university facility, so I am limited to those schools which have the program available online. One of the more reputable online programs available appears to be Colorado State University – it is, at least, a recognizable State run institution rather than a no-name, for-profit, or private university. Another option might be Southern New Hampshire University (private, non-profit, regionally accredited).

    I have read the information available here and on the SIOP website regarding the dim light that online degree holders are often cast in by employers compared to our traditionally educated counterparts. My question to you is as follows: do you believe that the circumstances of my education (i.e. obtaining it while in the service) would mitigate to some degree the negative impression that often follows online educations?

    Also, by the time my contract is up, I will have completed eight years of honorable service in the Army with three of those years as a Sergeant or better. Would a company interested in hiring IO degree holders view me as having had management experience based on this? I can assure you that an Army SGT is expected to deal with a variety of challenges that would probably cause even the most stalwart of corporate team leaders to pause for composure, but I do not know if this type of management/leadership experience is something that the IO / HR world recognizes as being transferable to a corporate setting.

    Any insights you may have to offer on these issues will be greatly appreciated.

    Lucas

    • January 31, 2013

      That is a very tricky question. One set of the primary advantages to an applied graduate program are the connections you gain by being a part of one. You just don’t generally get those in online I/O programs – at least right now. That may not be true for SNHU (I didn’t even know they had an I/O program), but I don’t know for sure.

      Your question also isn’t really the right one to ask – that being in the service would mitigate the negative impression. Even students in low quality brick-and-mortar I/O master’s programs have a hard time finding jobs – the issue there is that the training often isn’t as high quality, or as focused, or as intense. For comparison, our master’s degree training requires a full-time commitment. Many of our students at the master’s level spend 60-80 hours per week going to class, working on research, etc. More during crunch time. We also only have 5-10 students at the master’s level (PhD track or otherwise) at any given time. You just don’t get that kind of intensive training and one-on-one attention in any online program that I know of (the same is true in diploma-mill master’s programs, of which there is a growing number). As a result, you come out with poorer harder-to-employ training.

      I will add that Colorado State may be the lone exception to all of this. They have top-notch faculty (e.g. Kurt Kraiger, Jan Cleveland), so I would expect the training and alumni network to be top-notch too. But I don’t know anyone personally that has completed that program, so that’s a bit of a guess.

      As for your military experience, it is very transportable to I/O, but I think the value placed on it varies a lot by employer. While I’ve personally seen the discipline, level-headedness, and problem solving that veterans often bring with them to I/O, not all see that value. More of concern to me in your response, however, is that you are comparing team leadership with what you might be doing with an I/O master’s. I don’t think that is typically what I/O training would prepare you for – that sounds more like an MBA. I/O is going to have you doing things like creating surveys to assess employee engagement, meeting with HR to discuss current retention strategies, etc. – not quite the same.

  53. February 10, 2013

    Hi Dr. Landers,

    My post may not be as specific because I am just learning about this field (I/O P).

    Your article was highly informative. I graduated with a B.S. in Physiology and Neurobiology. (In high school, I began to take some college courses in Psychology.) I ended up taking a few years off post college. During this time, I worked in Human Resources. HR sparked my interest and now I am considering to get a degree to become a coach, consultant, or some type of person who admonishes in the corporate world. I have been doing some research, and I found a program that is a DBA specializing in I/O Psychology. Now, I read through some of the aforementioned questions and replies, but I did notice any question about DBAs. Could you explain if a DBA is well respected and/or accepted in the business world or would it be preferable to get a MS or Ph.D in I/O if I were interested in HR Coaching/Consultant or to be part of the organizational development team for a corp?

    Thanks,
    J

    • February 10, 2013

      I have never even heard of a DBA. Having said that, I am not in a business school, so it might be perfectly fine. However, in most business schools, a doctorate is a research-focused degree, and you generally only want one if you plan to be an academic researcher. If you want to do executive coaching – or anything applied, for that matter – you are probably more interested in an I/O PhD, I/O MS, or MBA.

  54. Wanda permalink
    February 12, 2013

    Thank you for this information as it was very helpful. I am wondering if you have any advice on someone trying to re-enter the field of I/O Psychology. I have an MBA in Strategic Management and would love to get back into the field after being absent for over 17 years (I used to be an HR consultant) I have been working in management (project and operations) and recently I miss the Field both academically as well as practically. Any advice/guidance you can offer?

    • February 12, 2013

      It would be very challenging to move into a PhD program, if that’s your goal. But if you wanted to try anyway, I’d recommend volunteering 10-20 hours per week at a local I/O psychology lab to get some recent research experience. With a year or two doing that, plus good GRE scores (start prepping now), you probably have a good chance. If you’re interested in a MS/MA, I’d recommend just applying – your extensive applied experience will be seen very positively, as long as your GREs are also strong.

  55. February 20, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    Thank for the article with the much needed clarity in the differences between Masters in Business studies and I/O psychology. This triggered to share a concern.
    I have done my bachelors in Engineering and I am a corporate trainer in the behavioral domain with experience in designing and delivering training programs for the employees of a firm in India. I have developed an interest for observing workplace behavior and how it can affect productivity. Given my experience and inclination for better understanding training effectiveness among employees and to contribute for better understanding of workplace attitude, I have considered pursuing MS in I/O and organizational behavior.

    I have worked with a social organization which has given me the exposure to understand what the measure of effectiveness of training programs would be in an open organization. Also, i am exploring the dimension of personnel selection too.

    I would want to know what the potential of areas of research in the field of I/O?
    I also would want to if my interests are aligned with what the programs have to offer?

    I am planning to apply for next fall for some of the top universities in the US. I have not majored in Psychology in my academics, would this affect my admission? One thing i have noticed is that universities ask for knowledge in Statistics.
    Can you guide me in filling this void in my qualificatiion.

    Thank you.

    • February 20, 2013

      Training effectiveness is certainly within the boundaries of I/O. I have created a model of training effectiveness myself as part of my research program. So I think you will find overlap there, although certainly not all I/O jobs involve training evaluation. If you want to pursue training evaluation specifically, I’d recommend identifying programs that specialize in training.

      For MS degrees, your lack of psych background may not hurt you, but I honestly don’t know. It would be almost impossible to get into PhD programs – I would never accept anyone without a psych degree or (instead) at least 3-4 years of lab experience in a psychology lab. I imagine MS programs care less, but I don’t bring on MS students, so I don’t have an answer for you. Many programs do expect a basic grasp of psychometric measurement (reliability, validity, constructs, etc) and basic statistics (from means up through at least analysis of variance/ANOVA). If you don’t have any background in statistics at all, I suspect you’d find most I/O graduate programs very difficult.

  56. Abhi permalink
    February 22, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    Thank you for addressing my conerns. I did get a chance to read and get insights about your research on training evaluation.
    In continuation with what i had asked earlier about the lack of introduction to Statistics, i wanted to know if it would help if i took up introductory course in Statistics online? Then, would a mere mention about my knowledge do or would i be required to produce transcripts about an institution certifying me in Basic Statistics.?

    And, Sir, You had suggested identifying progrmas that specialize in training, What would be some of he best sources to help me explore that field?

    On the other hand,my interests lie both in training effectiveness and in personnel selection, I wanted to increase my knowledge base with a Masters in I/O psychology as I believe it would introduce me to the different aspects of I/O and i would eventually choose courses that i want to specialize in. Would you say this train of thought is advisable?

    Thank you

    • February 22, 2013

      Informal statistical training probably won’t help you – you would need to take a course somewhere.

      To determine the specialization, you should look at the list of faculty for each institution you are interested in and read up on their recent publications and stated interests. If they are interested in training, they’ll say it there. And I would not trust a program that does not list its faculty online.

      As to your thinking with the Master’s, it sounds like you might be thinking about a PhD after the Master’s. I will say that it generally a bit easier to get into a PhD program without getting a Master’s first. So if you already know you will want to take classes past the Master’s, you should be aiming for PhD programs.

  57. Katie permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    Thank you for your very helpful information regarding I/O psychology as a career field.

    I’m currently a junior at a small, well-respected liberal arts school pursuing an undergraduate degree in pyschology. Up until this past summer I was interested in speech pathology but after doing an internship with SLP I switched my interest to I/O. Since then I have secured an HR internship which I am currently participating in and have tried to grab a couple of relevant courses such as Research Methods. My biggest concern is that because of the liberal arts emphasis of the school, the opportunities to conduct research are extremely limited and generally reserved for students in the natural sciences. I could try and find a research-based internship for next semester but by that point I will all ready be a senior and won’t be far into an internship by the time I have to submit my master’s applications; meaning I won’t have recommendations from research supervisors, etc. Do some master’s programs weigh research experience more heavily than others? How can I find information about this? Lastly, I’m curious whether you think my HR internship is a waste of time considering that the internship is very business-centric. T

    Thank You.

    • February 27, 2013

      If you only want a Master’s degree, research experience is not as vital. In fact, your HR internship is probably ideal for getting into a Master’s program, because it will give you plenty of opportunity in your various personal statements to explain what you see as attractive about HR, but why you specifically want to go into I/O.

      It’s only if you want to go into a PhD program that research experience becomes absolutely vital. To that end, students in SLACs (small liberal arts colleges) seeking research experience do a few things to get around this problem: 1) drive to a nearby university to participate, 2) work in a research lab remotely, i.e. online, 3) participate in a summer REU program in psychology. I’d strongly recommend REU, although most of their deadlines are probably around now or already due. You can get more info through this portal: http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/list_result.cfm?unitid=5054

      Other schools sometimes have REU programs outside of NSF, but it would require some googling to find them.

  58. Lenviev Nguyen permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Dear Mr Landers,

    I’m so thankful I find your articles and advice here. I’m an undergrad student majoring in Business in Vietnam and therefore I’m not familiar with the system and get quite confused. Please help me make clear a few things first:

    1) The PhD program in this context is a 2-3 year or a full 5-8 year? Do 5-8 year program require much research experience?

    2) Why a master degree will hurt my prospect of getting into a PhD program? A second balchelor in Psy is more desirable than a M.A in General Psy (or anything psy, even I.O if that’s available) to get in a full 5-8 yr program?

    My plan is to go to a MA prog (in Psy or in something business with extra courses in general Psy) then apply to PhD with or without some work experience in the middle.

    I get a faint notion from all the advice above that in this case, it’s best to get a second Balchelor in Psy then apply straight to PhD program. But I’m interested in getting a MA (or MS), just to be on the professional/applied side of things for a while before going for PhD. This may sound time consuming but as I’m not a Psy major, it’s either I study for another BA or MA before a PhD program.

    Also, truth be told, my GPA so far is poor (7.6 out of 10, about 3.0/4.0 correspondingly) while I only have 2 semester left so I’m hoping to start again. what would be the best course of action for me?

    Eventually my goal is to work in consultancies and do research but I also want a career that entails travelling. Do you have to be physically limited to a lab/country doing research?

    I hope to receive your advice and enlightenment and thank you so much.

    • March 15, 2013

      1) All PhD programs in I/O in the US are designed as either 5-year or 6-year programs. People that come in with a Master’s degree usually want to skip the first few years. This is not always possible and may be undesirable to the university.

      2) It is only potentially harmful if you want to use your Master’s hours to count toward your Ph.D. This is what most Master’s students want. Otherwise, you often need to earn a second Master’s degree in the new program. If you are willing to complete a second Master’s if the institution wants you to do so, this will help you and is something you should mention in your personal statement.

      Without a Bachelor’s in Psychology, you may be disadvantaged. Especially with a low GPA and/or low GRE scores. Given your relatively low GPA, and given your goal of a Ph.D., I’d probably recommend enrolling in a Psychology Master’s program, ensuring you get a 4.0 and a publication or two, and then applying to Ph.D. programs with a statement that you’re willing to get a second Master’s. If you can get a Bachelor’s in Psychology without going through a complete program (i.e. if you can do it within a year or two), a second Bachelor’s in Psychology would also be sufficient and possibly preferable. Also, you can sometimes apply your previous credits towards a new degree or second major in ways that aren’t immediately obvious; I’d recommend you talk to advising. A business major and psychology minor would also be a reasonable path for many schools, and you may have time to complete a psych minor right now, depending on your institution’s requirements.

      There are certainly jobs in I/O consulting that involve travel, if that’s something you want. International travel is uncommon, though.

  59. Jeremy permalink
    March 20, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    I graduated with a bachelors in music and am interested in eventually getting a PhD in I/O psychology. I am now in my early 30s and want to go back to school for psychology. Do you think that going back to school to get a bachelors degree in psychology would be a crazy idea at my age? Would that raise a red flag to graduate schools?

    • March 20, 2013

      I don’t think it’s “crazy” exactly. It is fairly uncommon. But as long as you get a 4.0 GPA, have high GRE scores, great recommendation letters, and lab experience (see the other pages in my grad school series here), it doesn’t really matter when you go.

      Since you are more advanced, though, you might consider taking a practice GRE test now to get an estimate of your what your score will be – practice/prep will increase it a bit, but not by a whole lot. So you might want to get a sense of which schools you would be qualified to get into and think about if that will meet your career goals before investing that many years.

  60. jeremy permalink
    March 21, 2013

    What are your thoughts or opinions on PsyD in I/O psychology?

    • March 21, 2013

      If your sole goal is to be a practicing therapist, PsyD programs are generally sufficient for that. If you might ever change your mind and want to conduct research (e.g. to identify better treatments for your patients than are currently permitted/supported, and to contribute to your field professionally at a larger scale), then most are not. You simply don’t get the right kind of training in most of them.

      I say most because there are more research-oriented PsyDs and less research-oriented PsyDs. The more research-oriented ones are generally better in terms of broad preparation (although you could not be an academic, you would more prepared to contribute to the field), but there are not as many research-oriented programs as practice-focused programs. ODU (where I am) actually used to have a research-oriented PsyD, in a consortium with neighboring universities (including William and Mary and UVA, I believe). But that entire degree program is being replaced with a PhD (this year, in fact).

      Non-research-oriented PsyDs are purely practical degrees – like an MBA. It doesn’t prepare you for anything other than the precise career path it is designed to prepare you for, and this specific path varies school to school.

  61. March 21, 2013

    Hi Dr.Landers,

    I just happened to read and research about schools offerign programs in I/O and OB and I didnt quite understand if there really is a difference between the two? Or is it true that OB is essentially a subset of I/O? I also happen to come across via thw web that I/O is a dying field ans that all focus has shifted to Ob which was quite a shocker to me. What would be your take on this?

    Also, what are the subtle differences between OB and OD (Organizational development), if any?

    Thank you,
    Abhinaya

    • March 21, 2013

      I/O and OB are quite different, in terms of training. OB PhD training will be so that you can become an academic – there is not much purpose to an OB PhD otherwise. I/O has career paths with both the Master’s and PhD. OB is not a subset of I/O – it’s the other way around, if anything. OB corresponds roughly to the “O” side of I/O, while HR corresponds roughly to the “I” side. However, both OB and HR cover some topics that I/O does not (like benefits and succession planning, in HR). I don’t think I/O is dying – otherwise, I don’t think we’d have a 100% placement rate for jobs here. However, I/O Master’s programs are popping up that don’t offer very rigorous training – you might be seeing some disgruntled I/Os that were in such programs unable to find a job (which is not surprising to me at all). As for OB vs OD, I am not very familiar with OD as a field – I was always under the impression it was one part of OB (the active change management aspect). But I have not looked into it very deeply.

  62. Jasmine permalink
    March 26, 2013

    I’m currently considering a masters in I/O. I’m very concerned about the cost of attendance and I’m more so concerned with the career prospects. I don’t want to go through the trouble of getting the degree only to obtain a job in HR making less than $40,000. I’m very concerned about what the starting salary would be. I’m also concerned that many of the I/O related jobs would require a PhD. I definitely don’t want to do a doctorate.

    I’m also concerned about getting into a good master’s program from a high ranking program. I graduated in a B.S in Psychology in December 2012. I graduated Cum Laude, completed special honors courses and completed an honors thesis, and I co-authored a research study with a professor in the psychology department. I don’t know if this is a good enough profile to gain admission into a top school.

    • March 26, 2013

      I would only recommend attending a Master’s-granting institution that has strong connections to industry and a track record of sending their students into I/O jobs. Such jobs generally pay over $60K. Honors, a thesis, and involvement on a study should be plenty for entry into a high quality Master’s program as long as your GREs are strong. Although I suspect there will probably be questions about why you finished off schedule (i.e. not in May) and what you’ve been doing in the interim and why.

  63. Jasmine permalink
    March 26, 2013

    How much of a risk do you feel it is to pursue a masters in I/O?

    • March 26, 2013

      It depends what you mean by “risk.” Having a Master’s (and not a PhD) means that you will always have the non-terminal degree of your field. As a result, as long as you’re working within another organization (i.e. not as an independent consultant), others will always be more qualified than you. If you’re happy following orders (and making less money as a consequence), and don’t care that you’ll never be in charge, a Master’s is fine – it’s really a matter of career choice and what you imagine yourself doing on a day-to-day basis for your career.

  64. jeremy permalink
    April 2, 2013

    Mr. Landers,
    How competitive is I/O psychology vs Clinical?

    • April 2, 2013

      By competitive, I assume you mean entry into PhD programs? I/O is less competitive than clinical. But then again, everything is less competitive than clinical. I remember in my graduate program, there was a lot of discussion about how our clinical PhD program rejected people with perfect GRE scores. I often find myself suggesting choosing a field other than clinical (and sometimes other than psychology) to undergrads that want clinical – usually they just want to “help people” in a clinical setting, That can be accomplished with a Master’s degree in Human Services, Counseling, Social Work, etc – a clinical PhD is generally not the best path to that sort of career.

  65. jeremy permalink
    April 2, 2013

    Sorry Dr. Landers…also, why do the I/O programs only admit a few students each year? If the profession is so small, why not increase the amount of students?
    Thanks!

    • April 2, 2013

      Undergrad and graduate work are very different, especially at the PhD level. In graduate work, you have a one-on-one relationship with your advisor, and the depth of that relationship varies by program, from “pretty intense” to “constant attention”. I probably personally spend 2-3 hours per week supervising each advisee individually when they are NOT working on their thesis or dissertation – so I top out around 5-ish students (which ends up being 8-15 hours per week dedicated supervision). During thesis and dissertation time, the time commitment increases dramatically. The only way to get more I/O PhD students while keeping student-faculty ratios about the same is to increase the size of I/O faculty programs, and there are many outside constraints to that problem (state-provided funding for tenure-track lines, for example).

  66. jeremy permalink
    April 5, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    As an I/O psychologist, do you work more for the company’s well being or the employee’s well being? For example, are they expected to be involved in helping a company increase profits or maybe helping a displaced worker find a position in a company that fits his/her abilities. 50/50 maybe? Also, do I/O psychologists work in the medical field? Where do you see the field 10 years from now?
    Thanks!

    • April 5, 2013

      I/O psychologists do not really deal with employee well-being as its own end. “Helping a displaced worker find a position” is not I/O – it is work counseling. If you want to do that, you should get a degree in counseling. We are focused on helping the organization reach its goals; however, that often (perhaps even usually) means helping employees along the way. For example, in working with an organization, we might discover that their team structure is dysfunctional and causing a lot of stress/strain for employes which limits the productivity of those teams, so we engage in work redesign to fix the problem – this helps the organization by helping the employees.

      I/O does do work in medical contexts (e.g. I saw a piece on figuring out the best way to keep doctors up-to-date in terms of training), but it is not a focal area.

      In 10 years, I think I/O will be much bigger – we are in the midst of a growth period, and I see no signs of stopping. One of the big challenges that we’re seeing now is that the “I/O” term is beginning to be used more broadly, and it is being used to sell products that don’t really represent what I/O is, or don’t represent it well. For example, training in I/O is no longer limited to PhD programs (which is fine), but a lot of Master’s programs have sprung up without the support structure such programs really need to ensure a high work placement rate (e.g. connections to local industry). So I anticipate some growing pains along with that growth.

  67. Jeremy permalink
    April 16, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    I assume work-life balance is probably studied a lot in I/O psychology, but what is the work-life balance like as a practicing I/O psychologist? Is it a 9-5 job or are I/O psychologists often conducting business calls during vacations or expected to work during vacations?

    • April 16, 2013

      It varies quite widely. Internal consultants (e.g. if you worked within a single organization’s HR function) and government-sponsored workers (e.g. Army Research Institute) are more likely to have a 9-5. External consultant schedules tend to be a little more chaotic, but vary from firm to firm – I know people who work 40 hour weeks and others who work 100. As with most jobs requiring an advanced degree, it depends more on the position than the job itself.

  68. Grald permalink
    April 16, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    There are very little jobs seen in this fields; estimates in 1200s. How translatable is this degree? Can you find occupations not related or is finding an I/O titled occupation somewhat feasible? I’m asking does a masters in the application of the field give leeway for possibly doing HRM or only I/O jobs. I see good outlook for the career but very little positions in general.

    • April 16, 2013

      Where did you see an estimate in the 1200s? That seems low to me, but at the Master’s level, could be accurate. But there aren’t very many I/O Master’s students, either.

      I don’t think there are many jobs with the title “I/O” other than professor. Most I/Os go into either specialist positions within HR (e.g. assessment specialist, training designer, executive positions) or into a consultancy.

      A Master’s degree as a terminal degree in I/O has not been around very long, and a lot of I/O Master’s programs are springing up. I honestly don’t know if there are jobs to support these students. The traditional degree is the Ph.D. But like I’ve mentioned before, most jobs in I/O, Master’s or PhD, come about through the connections your degree-granting institution has with industry – for example, most (but not all) ODU grads going into practice go to one of a relatively small group of consultancies, but given that, our placement rate for graduates is 100%.

      Just about the worst thing you could do would be to attend a relatively unknown I/O Master’s program – especially an online program – without a job lined up already. It would be exceptionally difficult to land a position with that sort of education and without industry connections.

  69. William permalink
    April 19, 2013

    Sir,

    Thank you for your very insightful posts, I have long had questions specific to IO psychology and appreciate your time.

    My situation feels similar to Lucas’s, who is in the armed services and seeking higher education that will, hopefully, somehow dovetail academic achievement with practical real life experience to afford some level of market sustainability.

    I am a full time commercial fisherman in Alaska currently getting my BS with a focus on Psychology from an accredited online university, GPA 4.0, and I plan on pursuing my Masters in Liberal Arts with a major in General (possibly Clinical) Psychology with the Harvard Extension School (my attempt to move closer to brick and mortar; as I will stop fishing for my educational interests the close of this year).

    I would like to apply my professional maritime credentials (I am licensed by the US Coast Guard as a captain as well as an engineer), combine them with psychology, and work privately as a consultant while researching psychology as it pertains to the maritime industry, working with companies with a focus on employee and career management. This has led to an interest in I/O psychology which I hope is not misplaced or unfounded.

    I feel this is a bit of a gray area to be asking advice about. On one hand I have professional contacts already, which is good, and I am not seeking an academic career, which might afford some flexibility. On the other hand, I do not know of much precedent of psychology specifically within the maritime industry and would appreciate your advice and insights as to how I might proceed, as I feel this would be an exciting applied field in which I am currently versed, though if it does lack a certain precedent this might place greater emphasis on holding a terminal research oriented degree.

    Best,

    William

    • April 19, 2013

      First of all, you will find little to no value in getting a clinical Master’s degree. The entry-level for clinical work in psychology is the Ph.D. or Psy.D. – the Master’s will usually not even get you licensed. I don’t see any compelling career-oriented reason to get this degree. If you want to enter I/O, I’d get a Master’s in I/O straight from undergrad, although it will be more difficult to get into such a program with an online degree. I would not recommend attending an online Master’s program.

      Second, your goals are extremely specific. Often, this means that you will be more difficult to employ, or that you will need to have extremely strong ability to explain how your developed skills will apply in the context you are seeking. I doubt there many jobs for “I/O Psychologist” in maritime management. However, there are likely to be many jobs that an I/O could fill within that field – e.g. training supervisor – but it would be up to you to figure out which jobs those were through your pre-existing network.

      Third, “a focus on employee and career management” is a little vague. Employee management – i.e. making managerial and supervisory processes more effective – is a part of I/O. But career management is not at all. That more often falls under either Human Resources or Counseling with a workplace emphasis (not part of Psychology). I’d suggest thinking about what you see yourself doing on a day-to-day basis and let that drive your career choice (“I want to use psychology” is not enough by itself).

      In terms of general recommendations, I’d suggest researching I/O Master’s and Ph.D. programs to identify some with connections to the industry that you are already in – then contact I/O area directors to explain your situation and ask for advice. If such programs don’t exist, then it will be all the more difficult later to find employment – but this would be a reality you should face head-on. If you want to be a private consultant, leveraging your industry network as clients, I’d also suggest pursuing a Ph.D.

  70. Jeremy permalink
    April 19, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    Why aren’t I/O psychologists refered to as psychologists when in the work environment? Do you think that may be a reason for the lack of knowledge among professionals about the profession? Also, is business psychology and I/O psychology the same thing? As an I/O psychologists, do you find the work you do rewarding?

    • April 19, 2013

      We sometimes are. But I think the reason most people don’t call themselves I/O psychologists in the work environment is because of the most common response one would get: “What is that?” or “Why do we need a psychologist?” The most common response I get now when saying I’m an I/O Psychologist is, “Oh I know someone you’d love to analyze!” The public misconception about what most psychologists do means that when you’re trying to sell your services to a client, it’s more profitable and easier to say “I’m a consultant” versus “I’m a psychologist.”

      Business psychology is mostly the same thing – there isn’t a field called “business psychology” per se, but I/O might be considered under that heading, along with Career Counseling and a couple of related fields. So I would say “business psychology” is a label that includes several distinct fields, including I/O Psychology, but does not represent a distinct field itself. The exception to this is “work psychology” or “work and organizational psychology” which are common European terms for I/O.

      And I absolutely find the work I do rewarding – few social sciences have such broad practical impact on people’s lives. Time spent at work makes up about half of most people’s waking lives before retirement. What better place is there to help massive numbers of people? Better training helps people do their jobs better (more satisfying to them, more value to the organization), better selection creates a more pleasant workplace (better coworker relations, less process loss within the organization), better leadership is more inspiring, better teamwork, etc., etc. These are all processes that I/O psychologists can influence for the better through both research and practice.

  71. Wayatt permalink
    April 20, 2013

    Hello Dr. Landers.

    I am really appreciate such an insightful thread and responses to questions in the field.

    There are some doctoral programs out there particularly, Louisiana Tech that are more focused on applied rather than research. From what I gather on the website, the program is a fairly new program about 4-5 years old. But the school has a well established Master’s program, I think the only one in the state. Although it is a small department it appears to be a program run by all I/O psychologist.

    It is a school that I am considering but I have my concerns because the program is new, and the school does not offer a tuition waver. Do you have any information on a program such as this one, and in your opinion would it be a good choice to submit an application to? I am considering their Masters program as well, I really don’t understand the difference in a Master’s program and a Phd program that is geared toward applied.

    Your comments would be appreciated.
    Thanks.

    • April 20, 2013

      No matter what, a Ph.D. is a research degree. The difference is going to be the focus. In a more academically-inclined program (although there are not many of these these days, if any) is going to focus more on research as a means to answer unique and interesting questions about I/O. An applied program is going to focus on research as a means to solve practical organizational problems. Most “traditional” PhD programs in I/O these days are somewhere in the middle – for example, we have dedicated research methods classes and students complete 1st-year research projects, but I also train my students in techniques to evaluate fairness and bias of selection systems (and the theory behind these processes), evaluate tests actually used in the field, etc. In contrast, a Master’s program is going to be more nuts-and-bolts – while you might learn to evaluate bias in a selection system there as well, you are likely to get less of the theory behind WHY you would do this, which will also leave you less prepared to adapt as standards change until someone else trains you how to use the new techniques. With the PhD, you would be better prepared to understand why that change was necessary and be the teacher rather than the learner when such changes occurred.

      As long as the department is APA-accredited (I/O is not accredited specifically), the program is probably fine. I don’t think there’s any harm applying to such a place in addition to anywhere else you apply – once you know everywhere you are accepted, you can choose the best option among that set.

      And again, the absolute best thing you can do is track down some recent graduates of the program and see what kinds of jobs they have. First-hand information is better than anything else.

  72. jeremy permalink
    April 22, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    The more research I do, the more it seems to me that the profession is business focused (profit focused). Where does the psychology come into play? Are there positions held by I/O psychologists that may be more employee focused? I see a lot of graduate students that have interests in subjects such as diversity or work-life balance, but I do not see any relationships between those subjects with the actual I/O job descriptions I have been reading in regards to employment. I can’t see myself working for a company like Walmart as a psychologist seeing as their employees are not treated or paid well. I don’t know if I explained myself well enough for you. There are just things I’ve been thinking about.
    Thanks!

    • April 22, 2013

      The profit-focused side is still psychology – for example, understanding what human characteristics best predict job performance – but you seem to want more of the warm fuzzy side. We’d call that “more of an interest in the O-side than the I-side of I/O.” That’s a matter of job title. If you want the more “employee focused” jobs, you want jobs with titles involving things like “organizational development.” However, there do tend to be more jobs on the I side.

      I will add though that the only way to improve the lives of those tens of thousands of employees at Walmart would be to work at Walmart and try to change things from the inside. There are many I/O’s trying to do just that – but it is a battle to convince upper management that such moves would ultimately be in the best interests of the company without obvious ROI. If you work in a company where employees are already happy and productive, what’s the point of your job? :)

  73. Lukas permalink
    June 15, 2013

    Dear Dr. Landers,

    Thank you for this very informative article! I’m an engineering undergrad from CalPoly in San Luis Obispo interested in a career in I-O Psychology. I recently came across this job posting at a software firm, and was wondering if you could provide some feedback regarding whether this job post describe some typical job-functions a practicing I-O psychologist would do.

    Thank you very much.

    Responsibilities:
    The role reports into the Senior Manager, Nuance University. The primary responsibilities are:
    Developing a career development framework, including supported programs, processes, and tools.
    Creating and managing a company-wide mentoring program to help employees tap into the vast reservoir of expertise that
    exists in the company, as well as contribute as a mentor.
    Career coaching to help employees explore new career directions.
    Job rotation program to improve internal mobility.
    Create a definitive, scalable, year-round career development framework encompassing programs, processes and tools so
    that all employees can easily navigate Nuance career opportunities.
    Support knowledge management company wide, create a mentoring program and integrate into a career exploration
    program that matches employees interested in exploring new career paths; implement program improvements as best
    practices evolve.
    Manage the Individual Development Planning Program and ensure it is integrated into the career exploration process.
    Provide 1:1 career coaching to employees interested in exploring new career directions.
    Maintain the complete library of job family profiles for use by all employees for career exploration.
    Partner with Engineering Excellence to implement a job rotation process for technical employees.
    Develop and deliver “train the trainer” workshops for HR managers to help them support career development programs
    globally.
    Create and manage a robust career development presence on the company intranet.
    Support various Nuance University programs as needed through facilitation, content development and program
    management.
    Qualifications:
    8+ years building employee development programs for mid to large global companies. Experience in technology industry
    strongly preferred.
    Knowledge of corporate career development best practices to provide well thought out plans for programs and
    improvements; able to assess organizational needs.
    Strong project management, communication, and influencing skills; strong collaborator with the ability to quickly build
    mutually beneficial relationships based on trust; able to work with all levels of employees and managers.
    A confident demeanor; ability to work in a fast-paced work environment covering both a “start-up” entrepreneurial
    atmosphere and large, established businesses.
    Exceptional influencing skills with the ability to drive change.
    Coaching skills and relevant, demonstrated coaching experience.
    Strong business acumen, creativity, and tolerance for ambiguity.

    • June 16, 2013

      Yes, that looks like something an I/O psychologist would be mostly trained to do. Development of theoretical frameworks, creation of company-wide developmental programs, development of mentoring programs, and management of train-the-trainer programs are well within the I/O wheelhouse. The only thing that might be on the outside would be coaching – which is in fact a part of I/O but is relatively uncommon. You’d really need to go to a school with a coaching emphasis to get much of that – or, for this ad, more likely you’d target it during your 8 years of experience!

    • Lukas permalink
      June 25, 2013

      Dear Dr Landers,

      Thank you for your prompt response! Would I be excluded from such a position if I only peruse a masters degree instead of going for the PhD? It seems like with appropriate experience having the PhD would not be as important, but then again a PhD would probably help to prepare for the authority that this position demands.
      I will be applying to both masters and PhD programs, but my ultimate goal would be to have a high degree of authority in my career.
      Regarding masters program, I could not find much information of the quality of the masters program at the San Jose State University, but it seems that the location of the University in the Silicon Valley alone could be of much help to form professional connections. Any suggestions on the quality of this program or the best way to go about finding this out if it is not directly available (statistics of placement etc) from the University would be greatly appreciated!

      Best,
      Lukas

    • June 25, 2013

      You would not be excluded if it is not in the job description, but I can guarantee you that the Ph.D. would better prepare you for that position than a Master’s would. If you went up against someone with a Ph.D. in the same field, you would not have good chances.

      As for the specific program, the best approach is to contact their current grad students. They should have them listed somewhere on their website if they are a decent program.

  74. Rachel permalink
    June 18, 2013

    I am currently a graduate from University of Phoenix with a BS in Psychology. I am going to start their PhD program in IO psychology. It includes a masters that rolls right into a PhD. What are your thoughts on this? Is this set up better then traditional masters then going into a PhD program?

    • June 18, 2013

      I would actually say that “straight to Ph.D.” is more traditional in I/O than getting a Master’s degree first. In fact, you do not even need a Master’s to get a Ph.D., and there is no value to a Master’s once you have a Ph.D., except for the networking connections that you might gain from exposure to an additional institution (which is one of the most important things to get out of these programs – but a high quality Ph.D. program will give you plenty). I don’t have a Master’s, myself – only the Ph.D. The quality of the program is much more important – there’s Master’s training at some institutions that is superior to Ph.D. training at others.

  75. July 29, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    I am considering Capella University for a PhD in I/O Psychology. I plan to complete the degree by 2018; the same year I can retire from the Army at 39 years old.

    I believe Capella is one of the more reputable online schools (http://www.chea.org/pdf/Chea-Chronicle_Feb2010.pdf) . I read SIOPs article on online schools which was inconclusive in my opinion i.e. more research is required (http://www.siop.org/reportsandminutes/CommitteeReports/Jan10/online_industrial.pdf).

    Do you think there is a stigma in the way the field or the clients would view a degree from an online university, specifically, Capella?

    Would you recommend obtaining this degree from Capella?

    Regards,
    Russell

    • July 30, 2013

      I’m not going to comment on the quality of any particular program in a public forum. But I will say that any online program CAN be a good program, given proper design and adequate resources. The keys are that the traditional one-on-one close mentoring relationship between advisor and student, intense focus on research, and traditional 60-100 hour per week workload is maintained, which is much more difficult to do online than it is in person, for both the student and faculty. It takes a LOT of time to learn all there is to know to earn a Ph.D., and programs that act as if you can gain that experience in 5 hours a week on weekends is either lying to you or not going to give you a worthwhile education. If Capella or any other online program maintains those high Ph.D.-level expectations and resources, I would support it fully. But right now, I think I am probably in the minority – many folks in the field simply don’t trust any online degrees, for better or for worse. That will probably change, but I couldn’t hazard a guess as to when.

  76. Juan Alejo permalink
    August 16, 2013

    Richard,

    Do you have an email address? I am torn between 2 Master IO programs with 2 different approaches and I would love some advice on which is the best option.

  77. Kevin Fielder permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    I would love to know your opinion on University of Phoenix’s Ph.D I/O program. If a graduate from this program applied for a professor position at OD would he be looked down upon because his degree came from phoenix?

    Do you have any opinions on The Chicago School of Professional Psychology? They offer a Master’s in I/O both on campus and online.

    What are some courses that a master’s program should at least include? According to SIOP the master’s guidelines should include:

    I. Core Psychological Domains (may be acquired at the undergraduate level)

    A. History and Systems of Psychology

    B. Fields of Psychology

    II. Data Collection and Analysis Skills

    A. Research Methods

    B. Statistical Methods/Data Analysis

    III. Core Industrial-Organizational Domains

    A. Ethical, Legal, and Professional Contexts

    B. Measurement of Individual Differences

    C. Criterion Theory and Development

    D. Job and Task Analysis

    E. Employee Selection, Placement, and Classification

    F. Performance Appraisal and Feedback

    G. Training: Theory, Program Design, and Evaluation

    H. Work Motivation

    I. Attitude Theory

    J. Small Group Theory and Process

    K. Organization Theory

    L. Organizational Development

    IV. Additional Industrial-Organizational Domains (educational experiences in these domains are considered desirable but not essential)

    A. Career Development Theory

    B. Human Performance/Human Factors

    C. Consumer Behavior

    D. Compensation and Benefits

    E. Industrial and Labor Relations

    Southern New Hampshire for example says it was designed to align with I-O competencies and standards defined by the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology but it seems strangely narrowed.

    Should a master’s in I/O include courses such as social, personality, and cognitive.

    Thanks for your help.

    • August 28, 2013

      It is difficult to give advice on a particular program because the standards within programs are constantly changing. So I’m not going to speak to the quality of either program. I will say that if your goal is to be a professor, you should not get an online degree at this time – the stigma is too great among hiring committees. This may change in a decade or two, but you probably don’t want to wait that long.

      For Master’s programs, I’ve also noticed that SNHU seems narrow. It’s hard to know exactly what content you get in those courses, though. It’s also important to realize that SNHU’s Master’s is not an I/O degree – it is a Master’s in General Psychology with a concentration in I/O (which seems to mean 4 I/O classes). That is less I/O content than you would get in a dedicated I/O Master’s program (which would more typically contain, e.g., 2 courses in statistics and research methods and 8 to 10 courses in I/O).

  78. Juan Alejo permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    Thank you for answering my emails the other day. I do appreciate it.

    I graduated in 2007 with a BA in Psychology. My goal at the time was to test the job market and see what developed. I have been underemployed the last 5 years, and my goal now is to go back to school and pursue a career in I/O psychology.

    My overall GPA was a 3.20, my GPA in the last 60 hours was a 3.36. I have never taken the GRE.

    I don’t have any research experience, though I did have an internship in HR primarily in employee selection.

    I keep reading that getting a Ph.D is better in the long run, but you need research experience to have good chance.

    I want to position myself the best way possible. If I can get accepted to a Ph.D program great, if not i do want to pursue a master’s.

    I am currently employed, working 40 hours a week. I don’t know what my options are if I were to get accepted.

    Do you have any advice on which routes I can take?

  79. Victor permalink
    August 30, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    I have several questions. Do you think a masters program in i/o should follow a scientist-practitioner approach, or an applied approach?

    What about faculty? Do you think learning from academic professors or researchers with Ph.D is better than learning from practitioners who don’t even hold I/O degrees but rather hold Psy.D or come from other disciplines. Should a student be comfortable knowing that he is learning from someone who has experience in the field but very limited research.?

    Considering that I/O is an applied field which method is best or ideal?

    • August 30, 2013

      I think all programs should follow the scientist-practitioner model, regardless of focus. I/O is, at either Master’s or Ph.D. level, a very research-oriented and analytic field. It is about problem solving in an organization through research to solve what is typically an ambiguous problem. So if a program pretends to be able to do that without giving you any of the “scientist” side, I would say it is not really an I/O program – it is probably closer to an MBA in HR. I would not trust a Psy.D. with I/O training for that reason – Psy.D. tends to be very light on research focus, which is core to the I/O education. The people you are learning from don’t necessarily need an extensive publication history (pubs aren’t everything) but they should be well-versed in I/O research, which means an I/O Ph.D. Publication history is a shortcut to saying “this person stays current on the I/O literature” but a person without a publication history doesn’t necessarily lack that. But that is a great question for current graduate students taking classes from that person.

  80. Karyn permalink
    September 17, 2013

    Hello. Thank you for your wise advice. I have been trying to make a decision on an online university IO PHD program and I cannot seem to find any rankings anywhere. I would like to go to one of the top rated online schools for this program but I am having a very hard time finding which one would be most well recognized. Can you please assist me with this??
    Thank you.

    • September 26, 2013

      As far as I am aware, there are no well-regarded online I/O Ph.D. programs. If you want a good Ph.D. program, your options are all brick-and-mortar.

  81. Tiffany McCormick permalink
    September 26, 2013

    Hi Dr. Landers,

    I wanted to get your advice.

    Currently I’m a professional in the electrical engineering field.

    While working in my position I have gained an interest to learn more about organizational leadership, management, and behavior.

    Upon further research, I have come to find that this is the area that best fits the path I want to pursue in my career. Though it is a change from one profession to another, that is fine.

    Now, questions on advisement from you would be:
    1. How would I transition from one profession to the next? Where do I begin?
    2. What would it take (steps) to accomplish this effort?
    3. Should I pursue a masters 1st, then determine after the masters whether or not I want to pursue my Doctorate?
    4. What programs or schools would be the best fit for me since I have a professional background?
    5. What type jobs/careers are available upon completion of masters and/or Ph.D?

    Thanks for the advisement, very much appreciated.

    -T.V.C.M-

    • September 26, 2013

      Before thinking about those questions in that order, I’d instead recommend starting from the other direction – figuring out which type of job/career are you thinking you want, and figure out which degree will get you there. OB and Management PhDs are for the explicit purpose of becoming a professor in a business school. If you just want to practice (e.g. to effectively manage electrical engineers), you might actually want an MBA with a focus in OBHRM. It depends on what you see yourself doing day-to-day.

  82. Victor permalink
    September 26, 2013

    What are your thoughts on professional schools in Psychology? Would you recommend a program with practitioners instead of researchers?

    • September 26, 2013

      For a Master’s degree, some of them are fine. It depends on the program’s rigor. I would not recommend a professional school for a Ph.D, because the training is not focused the same way. A Psy.D. in I/O is extremely unusual (and not as employable as a Ph.D.).

  83. Victor permalink
    September 26, 2013

    Do you think IO psychology has a future in the sports industry? If we look at Teams as an organization with ambiguous problems, and if we look at the players as employees is it possible for them to hire consultants?

    • September 26, 2013

      Most of the work in I/O psych as it applies to sports has been in player selection (what is now being called “Big Data” but has actually been used for decades). I don’t know of any Organization Development (OD) work in sports, but there is no reason it wouldn’t apply. Especially at the professional level, players are just highly specialized employees.

  84. Tamara King permalink
    October 8, 2013

    Hi I am currecntly an undergradute. I won’t be graduating until December 2014. I am majoring in psychology with a minor in cross-cultural analysis. Since I have to stick around until December to take one last class I was considering taking up a second minor in Statistics. Do you think this will give me an advantage when applying for a Ph.D program in I/O psychology? Are there anyother courses that you woould suggest taking up to help prepare me or give me an advantage? And I have work experience but none relating to this field. Is it difficult getting a job in the field with not real world experience? Lastly, I was looking up progams and I notices Columbia overs a Social-Organizational program oppose to and I/O is this program seen as much different or is it less appealing in the job market? I’d really appreciate your feedback!

    • October 8, 2013

      A minor in Statistics or Business would likely help you in Ph.D. applications to I/O programs. It would also be advantageous to take any graduate-level I/O or statistics courses currently offered within the Psychology department. You can often get instructor permission to join these classes. Work experience is not useful in applying to a Ph.D. program; you need research experience. If you are admitted to a Ph.D. program, you will have plenty of opportunity to get an internship during your Ph.D. work. Social-Org is not precisely an I/O program but will give you many of the same classes; as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, what is more important is that the university has a good history of placing graduates in good positions. This is something to talk to the graduate program director of the programs you are interested in about or by scouring program websites for data.

  85. Mangphd permalink
    October 8, 2013

    Hi,

    Thank you for the blog and helpful answers. I’m in a unique situation and wondered if you might be able to help me out with a little advice.

    I’m a first year phd student in management and organizational business studies. The program is usually ranked around fiftieth. I earned a masters in IO psych and consulted for 3 years at an IO firm previously to entering the program. As you’re probably aware OB track management profs and students study nearly identical phenomenon aside from a management twist in research and takin course like strategy and org theory. In management 90% or more of the students go into academia and I’m still interested in consulting after. This wouldn’t be viewed favorably in my department so I can’t really bring it up, however it’s a thought expressed by many students away from faculty. Have you known any management phd’s who specialized in OB that went into consulting? As I’m interested in going applied after, should I think about applying to an IO phd program or would currently being a mang phd student drastically decrease my chances of acceptance? I was accepted to IO programs but chose the phd mang program due to location being close to my partner’s job and the funding in management is nice/research similarity. Sorry if this situation is a little too unique to comment on but I would really appreciate any help. Overall I’m although the workload is very high (typical of a phd program, around 80 hours a week) I am enjoying the program but am worried about whether I’ll be able to get into consulting after.

    • October 9, 2013

      The topics we study are certainly similar on the surface – I’m on the executive committee of the OB division of AOM myself – but the preparation of an OB Ph.D. program is very specifically targeted at theory development and research literature creation within OB specifically. And as you might have noticed, the topics studied in AMJ/AMR are on average a bit more esoteric (and less practically useful) than is typical of the core I/O literature. OB Ph.D.s also aren’t generally well-trained (if at all) on the HR side, which is where a lot of I/O consulting work tends to fall – there’s an expectation that I/O-type consultants will be well-versed in all people-management sorts of problems (the OB-HR distinction is not perceived as a real one to most managers). I don’t personally know any OB Ph.D.s that have gone into consulting, except as a side-job to academia, and usually in a very limited capacity. In my mind, and I think for most people, choosing to go to an OB Ph.D. program is choosing to pursue an academic career. There are probably exceptions, but they are just that – exceptions.

    • Mangphd permalink
      October 9, 2013

      Thanks for your response. I agree with your thoughts on reasons why most people choose management being a desire for career in academia. The literature, especially strategy seems extremely theoretical to your point. My thought process was that my experience consulting and masters in IO would be complemented by further training in OB, writing, research and statitics, thus getting back into consulting after being possible. However now I’m very concerned that this is a very risky proposition. Would applying to IO Phd. programs from a current phd program be something that other programs would look at very unfavorably? Any other advice you might have for my situation would be very appreciated..Thank you again for your time.

    • October 9, 2013

      Ahh… well, you’d get all that in an I/O program, but with the consulting career prep. :) Let me be clear that it’s certainly still _possible_ to go into consulting with an OB Ph.D. – there just isn’t a pre-established pipeline to do so. In I/O PhD programs, you’re more likely to be connected to a larger network of practitioners where you’re likely to get a job. From an OB program, you’d need to join or build such a network on your own (assuming your adviser was not happy about the switch).

      I don’t think it would hurt to apply to I/O PhD programs, although I wouldn’t tell your current adviser/faculty just in case you don’t find something. Switching, you’d lose a year of academic progress, but it sounds like the prep would be better given your intended career path.

      A somewhat more common approach would be to try to switch to an I/O Psych program in your current institution if your current institution has one. This is contingent on identifying a faculty member willing to take you though. It is sometimes also possible to transfer coursework in this context.

      Regardless of where/if you apply, I would not switch to a low-ranked I/O program from a middle-rank business school. Lateral or upward only. I think you would still have better consulting chances with the “name recognition” from your b-school than a low-rank (e.g. online) I/O program.

  86. Jeremy permalink
    October 16, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    What is the stress level being an I/O psychologist?

    • October 16, 2013

      I suppose that depends on what type of job you end up with. It varies pretty widely. A traditional within-organization 9-5 job (e.g. working for Target) isn’t terribly stressful in the grand scheme of things; independent consultancy and academic are probably at the high end. Lots of middle grounds though.

      Except for grad school. Grad school is stressful no matter where you go. :)

      I suppose if you would feel overstressed at having hundreds or thousands of people’s work lives, chances at getting hired and fired, etc., dependent upon you, I/O is probably not a good choice, since that’s most of what we do.

  87. Alex permalink
    October 23, 2013

    Hi Dr. Landers,

    I have spent a significant amount of time reviewing your I/O psychology advice and it is all extremely insightful and greatly appreciated; however, I still maintain some concerns that are tailored more specifically to my [wishful] personal endeavors within this field. I am an undergraduate student at a SLAC in the Chicago area, slated to graduate with a BA in psychology come May of 2014 (3.9 GPA). I have been largely confused with choosing the exact career path that I wish to pursue, yet I am certain that graduate level study is necessary for a successful career in the field of psychology. Recently, I have garnered an interest in I/O psychology and am pondering options for I/O study at the graduate level. However, I am not entirely convinced that I wish to pursue a doctoral degree, therefore I am ultimately concerned with the potential limitations that a master’s degree in I/O psychology may offer. I have come to understand that you may suggest a master’s degree in this field as long as the program is well-regarded and presents ample connections within the industry. Do you know of any I/O master’s programs that may meet such criteria? In addition, is it realistic that one with a master’s degree in I/O psychology [from a program with such criteria] can receive an annual salary upwards of 50k?

    Furthermore, I am considering taking a year off of school after undergrad to be certain that I have fully prepared myself to take the GRE and perhaps to work in a HR setting to gain more business experience (If I have not taken numerous [undergrad] business courses, am I disqualified for pursuit of a graduate level I/O degree?). Based on your knowledge, are graduate level programs reluctant to accept students who have taken such a break in his/her education?

    I realize that you may not have exact answers for any of my questions or concerns, but any insightful feedback would be tremendously appreciated. Thank you greatly for your time!

    Best,

    Alex

    • October 23, 2013

      There are a few (but not many) Master’s programs that will give you that sort of prep while also adequately prepping you to apply to a doctoral program later without having to complete a second Master’s degree. At the top of that list is probably Minnesota State Mankato, but I’m hesitant to give any recommendations beyond that. Starting salaries for people with Master’s in I/O from a good program will probably be above US$50K – but that’s going to vary by the specific job you’re talking about a bit. The mean starting salary for people with Master’s degrees is around $50K currently. Doctoral starting salaries are generally around $80K, at least right now. See http://www.siop.org/2012SIOPIncomeSurvey.pdf for more detail. In terms of long-term earning potential, starting $30K higher for an extra 2 to 3 years of education will result in a better long term financial profile (likely more money over your lifetime).

      A break is not itself the problem but what you do doing that break. Taking off a year in general is not recommended unless you are getting lab experience during that year. You need direct experience with I/O one way or another, most critically. Experience at an I/O lab in the Chicago area would be my first suggestion. You need, in your personal statements and in the reference letters written for you, to convince the selection committee why you have sufficient experience/knowledge to know that I/O is the right career for you. HR experience helps a little, but not much. More though if you have I/Os at your organization that you make friends with. If not, you are much better off with I/O lab experience. If you don’t have any I/O experience (either academic or practical) from which to pull, you are unlikely to be accepted.

      It also wouldn’t hurt to sit in on some graduate-level stats courses locally if you have the option, e.g. psychometrics, regression, multivariate.

  88. Jeremy permalink
    October 30, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    Are there some undergraduate degrees to get in conjunction with psychology that might help with getting into I/O Psychology? I was thinking of behavioral science with psychology or economics with psychology? Do you have any ideas?
    Thanks

    • October 30, 2013

      It depends what you mean by “help.” If you mean getting into grad school, a second major or undergraduate degree won’t generally help your application. In terms of getting you ready to do the type of work you’d do in grad school, I’d suggest statistics or business. Behavioral science” is a broader term for social sciences that focus on human behavior (which includes psychology), so I don’t think that would help you much. Economics definitely won’t.

  89. Lidia permalink
    November 16, 2013

    Hi Dr. Landers

    I am an undergrad (senior) at University of North Texas, I will be applying to Master’s programs in I/O for the fall 2014. I currently have some research experience, a 3.5 GPA, 2 recommendation letters (I am working on the 3rd one) I have a minor in Business Management and Spanish and I am currently involved in a couple of organizations. I recently took the GRE and made a really bad grade, I don’t know how much this can affect me while applying to other schools. Do you think I still have a chance of getting accepted to a descent Master’s program.
    I eventually want to become an executive coach, but I have no idea what path I should take. I am the first in my family to go to college & just found out last semester about the GRE, also my school doesn’t have an I/O program so I’ve had very little advising .

    • Lidia permalink
      November 16, 2013

      Ps. I will be retaking the GRE in a couple of months and my recommendation letters will be from faculty.

    • November 17, 2013

      It really depends on how bad you mean by “really bad” and what kinds of programs you’re applying to. If you have below a 300, it will definitely hurt you for any reputable competitive program. Better preparing and re-taking the GRE will be, by a long shot, the best thing you can do right now. Normally you want several months of prep at a minimum (see http://neoacademic.com/2011/07/19/grad-school-prepping-for-the-gre/), so you should be studying daily at this point. A Master’s can potentially get you toward being an executive coach, although a Ph.D. is probably more common for coaching coming at it from an I/O direction. Have you taken a look all of the other grad school articles I’ve written (linked at the top)? There is a lot of advice in there.

  90. Jeremy permalink
    November 21, 2013

    Dr. Landers,

    Would concentrations in human factors or behavioral analysis undergraduate degrees help with getting into a PhD I/O program? Also, how saturated do you think the job market is for I/O?

    Thanks!

    • November 21, 2013

      If it’s anything other than “I/O”, it’s going to be more about the classes you take than the specific concentration. So whatever gets you more statistics. :)

      The traditional Ph.D. market is quite good right now. I could probably walk out the door of ODU and get a practitioner job within two weeks any time I wanted, and we have a 100% placement rate at ODU (Ph.D. only). That is probably not as true for Psy.D.’s or online Ph.D.s though. The Master’s market is also a bit more iffy, primarily because the quality of I/O Master’s degrees is getting a bit diffuse. If you attend a respected program, I doubt you’d have any trouble getting a job.

  91. Cody humbley permalink
    November 26, 2013

    What jobs may be available to somebody with a MS in I/O Psych and no work experience?

    • November 26, 2013

      It depends what you mean by “work experience.” If that includes internships, not many, unless the particular MS program you’re looking at has a pre-existing relationship with specific employers (e.g. all graduates of x university end up working for y employer). For broad options post-graduate training, you really need to go into an MS program where students complete internships, at a minimum, between 1st and 2nd year.

      It’s not as important to have work experience pre-graduate school, especially since it won’t be I/O work anyway. Doesn’t hurt though.

  92. December 13, 2013

    Hello Dr. Landers,

    I am currently a sophomore pursuing a BS in Psychology with a minor in Human Resource Management. My current GPA is 3.88.
    If I obtain MA in I/O Psych with a good GPA from a not-so-reputed University, and no real-life work experience (except for internships), will I be able to get a decent job?

    Please respond to this question. My university doesn’t have professors with a sold background in I/O like you do.

    Thank you very much.

    • December 13, 2013

      I’m afraid the best answer I can give you is “maybe.” It will depend entirely on the particular program. I would ask their graduate program director for stats on their placement rate in the first year after completion of graduate study. If it’s below 95%, or if they don’t have that information, I’d be worried.

  93. December 13, 2013

    Hi Dr. Landers
    I appreciate the quick response. Yes, I would definitely do that. Thank you. :)
    I was looking up jobs available for people with a MA in I/O Psych, and every employer requires applicants to have at least 4 to 5 years of experience.
    Would that mean that people with a recent Master’s degree and no experience are going to be unemployed?

    Also, what is the employment outlook for someone with a MA in I/O Psych?
    I would not want to regret my decision of grad school.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer this.

    • December 15, 2013

      If “every employer” required that, then yes, that’s what that would mean. However, the job market for I/Os – like many fields requiring advanced degrees – is not generally advertised. Most job opportunities spread by word of mouth, via online social networks, via various private I/O job market websites, by the job market at the annual SIOP conference, on government contractor sites, etc. So you are probably not finding most of what is available.

      However, that is why the quality of your graduate program is so important. They are the ones that will make these connections for you. Don’t go to a school without investigating their job placement rate.

  94. coco permalink
    December 15, 2013

    Hello Dr. Landers,
    I have a BA in psychology and I am wondering if it is possible to get into I/O psychology PhD program without getting a master degree first. If yes, what are some good PhD programs (prefer to be around California)? Also what are the chances of getting into the a PhD program? Thank you !

    • December 15, 2013

      It is preferable to apply directly to a PhD program post-BA/BS without a Master’s. Completing a Master’s first actually will generally lead to problems and/or make it more difficult to get into a PhD program. That is only a path you want to take if you are unable to get into a PhD program.

      That chances of getting into a competitive PhD program vary based upon your qualifications. But in terms of pure numbers, most decent programs have an acceptance rate in the 3%-8% area. That is why it is recommended you apply nationwide. I would not stick to California; there are fewer high quality I/O PhD programs the further west you go – schools are concentrated in the midwest and east coast.

  95. December 21, 2013

    Hi, Dr. Landers. I’m taking a serious look at psychology, particularly I/O. I graduated a few years ago with a bachelor’s in business administration. My final GPA was 3.5, though 50-something of my college credits, including most of the business classes, were through an online university (albeit accredited), and I have a few withdrawals. My work history is pretty thin. About how much work and time would I likely need to invest to qualify for a Master’s program (with good job connections) or Doctorate program, if I could even get accepted into the latter at this point?

    Also, are you able to verify the veracity of the following statement that I think is about counseling psychology, which I’m also considering: “I have a PhD but if I had to do it over again and if I stayed in the field, I would go for the LCSW instead. It is a more flexible degree, cheaper to get, almost as well respected, and pays similarly.”? Thanks in advance!

    • December 22, 2013

      You would not qualify for most PhD programs now, and it would be a long uphill climb to get there. I’d suggest you affiliate yourself with a local university for a couple of years and work as a volunteer research assistant for an I/O lab. Maybe audit a few graduate I/O and statistics courses (pay to sit in on the class, but don’t earn course credit). But that’ll be just enough to give you a chance.

      For a Master’s, it’s a bit easier, but it depends where you go. You need either research experience in I/O – so the plan I mentioned above wouldn’t hurt – or work experience in human resources. You really need one or the other though. If your goal is practice, I would find an entry-level HR job and work in it for 3-4 years, and then reevaluate I/O.

      That kind of sentiment is common for both clinical and counseling. But it depends on what you want to do with the degree. If your idea of counseling is to work with troubled populations, conduct research on new treatment techniques as you apply them, teach in a university setting, get grant funding, etc., then you need a PhD in Counseling. However, if your interest in counseling is some vague “I just want to talk to people and help them”, LCSW (i.e. Licensed Clinical Social Worker for anyone else reading this) is a much better path for the reasons you describe. It will qualify you for a much wider range of slightly poorer paying jobs. The tradeoff is that you eliminate the research component and thus the possibility for advancement is similarly limited – the high end of pay for a PhD Counseling is higher than the high end of LCSW (with some exceptions).

    • March 3, 2014

      Late followup here. Based on our exchange:
      * If I understand you correctly, a PhD is almost out of the question but I should qualify for a good master’s program if I do what you say?
      * Is there particular use to going for both research experience and HR work as to qualify for a good I/O pysch. master’s program?
      * If I work HR for a little while, is there anything that might be useful to know about the work/jobs to seek, particularly after I’ve been entry level for a little while?
      * If I go the master’s and not PhD route, how difficult will it be to get into work where I have a lot of autonomy?
      Thanks so far :-)

    • March 3, 2014

      You could probably still do either with sufficient preparation, depending on your GRE scores. But yes, a Master’s program is probably more realistic. As to whether research or HR or both will help you more, this depends a lot on the program. The very best Master’s programs will prefer both, but it varies everywhere below that. If you want to get the most relevant HR experience, you want experience in the areas of I/O psych that correspond to HR, which is not all of HR: employee selection and recruitment, performance appraisal, measure development, training and development, teamwork and leadership management, etc. Time spent in benefits, conflict resolution, strategy, compliance, etc. (any area of HR that is not part of I-O) won’t help you much (although it is better than nothing). As for getting a job… you can certainly eventually get into a job with a great deal of autonomy with a Master’s – you’re just less likely to get that job right out of graduate school. But this depends a lot, again, on which school you go to. No easy answers on that front.

    • March 7, 2014

      Thank you. More questions: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota and Massachusetts have by far the best ratio of IOPs to the general population; do you know why that is and how concerned should I be about locale with finding work in this area? It seems like the type of work that many businesses could benefit from. Would you say that I/O psychology generally shakes out to be a big business job?

    • March 7, 2014

      Minnesota is pretty IO saturated because the University of Minnesota (where I went, in fact) is a powerhouse of IO psychology. :) There are many jobs for IOs there, and they are mostly (but not exclusively) Minnesota graduates. Massachusetts I don’t know as much about – I’m not sure what schools or businesses might be driving that.

      Location is an important issue if you want to work as an “IO psychologist.” Most IO jobs are in Minneapolis, New York, Washington DC, and Atlanta. Then there are smaller pockets in a variety of other cities. But if you are willing to work in any human capital oriented position (e.g., VP of HR), then your options open up dramatically.

      IO is almost entirely a big (or at least large-ish) business oriented field. Most statistical approaches to talent management (which is what IO relies upon) require large samples. As a result, we can do less good in a 10-person company than one with hundreds. Plus, it is usually only companies with hundreds or more employees that can afford us. :)

    • March 9, 2014

      How much less value can IOPs bring to small and medium businesses?
      How hard would it be to negotiate such work with small or medium businesses as a consultant?
      How much control do they have over their work environment?
      How much schedule flexibility do they tend to have?
      How much, if any, of what an IOP learns is similar to counseling psychology?
      How different are mid-upper tier HR jobs that I/O psychology qualifies one for?
      Do you have information or insight about IOP job satisfaction/enjoyment? I couldn’t find any data on this anywhere, other than informal data on MyPlan.com, even with help.
      How structured does I/O psychology tend to be?

      You’ve been my most valuable resource on the subject so far, sorry for so many questions, thank you.

    • March 9, 2014

      That’s quite a few questions – here you go.
      1) It is a matter of “you must have money to make money.” I/O brings most of its immediate value through refinement of existing systems. So the bigger those systems are, the more value we can create. There is still good to be done in smaller organizations, though.
      2) Running a private practice is not something most I/Os do until mid to late career, if ever – sometimes 20, 30+ years in. And even then, it is entirely a matter of how well you can market yourself.
      3) Depends on the specific position – usually a lot, but it varies.
      4) Depends on the specific position – usually a lot, but it varies.
      5) There is very little, if any, overlap.
      6) Working in HR is not something you are directly trained for in I/O; it is generally easier to work HR than to be an I/O psychologist. There are skills you need in HR that you don’t get in I/O though. So it is entirely based on how well you can adapt to different work requirements and sell your skills to someone who could benefit from them.
      7) There are so many different jobs we go into, it’s hard to know that. Generally if you don’t like the level of intensity/challenge of your current job, there are others.
      8) Depends on the specific position – usually unstructured, but it varies. More structured at the MA/MS level than the PhD level.

    • March 10, 2014

      Thank you, am I able to donate money to you? Do you have PayPal?
      If I recall correctly, there’s a decent minority of IOPs who work independently, and I’m presuming the good majority stick to the handful of major metro areas you mentioned; do you see being an IOP consultant for small-to-medium businesses as feasible, or you think it would be too hard to make a decent living doing?
      Do you know how hard it would be to sell services as an IOP to big businesses outside of the metro areas you mentioned, or you couldn’t really say (i.e. is there good reason this job hasn’t blown up elsewhere)?
      Lastly, how come you’re willing to answer so many questions in such detail from everyone on the subject? :-)

    • March 10, 2014

      If you want to make a donation, feel free to donate to the university where I work (https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=1c0e01). But you don’t really need to give (me or them) anything.

      Yes, there are a number of private consultants. The issue is simply that being a private consultant is a combination of both I/O skills and business skills/entrepreneurship. And IO programs don’t train you in entrepreneurship. :) So trying to be independent carries with it all the risks of starting a business, as in any field. If you were popular, you could make a killing. But it’s all a matter of how well you can run your business.

      I wouldn’t go too far out of metros completely, just because you have access to more potential clients in a metro area. But again, it all depends on how able you are to run your own business. Or maybe you can manage it all virtually – that is becoming more realistic, although there is still a lot of cachet in face to face meetings.

      Why I answer questions… is a complicated question. :) I suppose the basic reason is that I/O has been good to me, I had stellar advising in grad school, and I feel a responsibility to “give back.” Plus a lot of people obviously need help with this!

  96. Jeremy permalink
    December 27, 2013

    Dr. Landers,
    What types of statistics do your graduate students study? Is it calculus based?
    Thank you!

    • January 8, 2014

      Calculus lies underneath many of the statistics used in I/O graduate programs, but most problems do not peek quite that far under the hood. I wouldn’t even say that an understanding of calculus helps all that much in understanding statistics or how to use them – they are very different skill sets. The stats in I/O start with basic z-tests and t-tests, up through ANOVA and regression, and all the way up to multilevel and structural equations modeling. But the most complex math you need, even at the high end, is probably matrix algebra. And a lot of students get away without even learning that.

  97. Juan permalink
    January 9, 2014

    Dr. Landers,

    I get the notion that Industrial Organizational Psychology prepares students for work as HR professionals. Looking at the Master’s level specifically is there much difference in a Masters in Human Resource Management or a Masters in Human Resource Development, even a Masters in Organizational Leadership compared to a Masters in I/O Psychology?

    I keep finding similar courses across all degree types. like organizational behavior, organizational development, organizational leadership. human behavior in organizations, org theory, design, and org change.

    Also how is a graduate level statistics course different from the undergraduate level?

    • January 9, 2014

      There is a lot of overlap, but there are some important differences.

      1) An I/O degree doesn’t provide the HR generalist skills needed for professional HR work. For example, after an I/O program (most I/O programs, anyway), you will know absolutely nothing about the administrative side, e.g. benefits and compensation, employee rights, organizational procedures, etc. which is what most HR generalists actually do on a day-to-day basis.
      2) In an HR program, you will come out knowing very little about statistics or interpreting scientific research, and you generally won’t be exposed to much organizational development work, although this varies a bit by program.

      Stats and methods courses vary a lot by program, but I can tell you what we do. Have you taken an undergraduate statistics course in psychology or business? That is about the amount of content we cover in the first 2-3 weeks of class. It moves forward from there. At the Master’s level, our students then complete an additional 2 statistics courses. After completion of the Master’s thesis, they then complete at least 2 more (sometimes 3). So most of our graduate students complete 5 statistics courses, and some do as many as 7. This does vary by program though. Less rigorous programs tend to have less statistics instruction.

  98. Juan permalink
    January 9, 2014

    Yes, I have taken an undergraduate level statistics course. So a graduate student at the Master’s level takes up to 3 stats courses and the PhD students take up to 7. The following courses are for an online PhD. Each course is 7 weeks long. Very pricey too! It is a Post-Master’s program. What are your thoughts on post-master PhD programs?

    The Curriculum

    Total Program Credits: 61

    Core Courses (58 credits)

    IO 519 – Statistics and Lab (4 credits)
    PB 400 – Professional Development Seminar (3 credits)
    PB 451 – Social Psychology/Behavioral Economics (3 credits)
    PB 455 – Research Methods (3 credits)
    PB 528 – Advanced Statistics (3 credits)
    PB 530 – Individual Interviewing and Assessment (3 credits)
    PB 534 – Business Development for Consulting Psychologists (3 credits)
    PB 535 – Business and Financial Literacy (3 credits)
    PB 536 – Strategic and Organizational Planning (3 credits)
    PB 537 – Change Management (3 credits)
    PB 538 – Advanced Consulting Skills (3 credits)
    PB 552 – Professional Coaching (3 credits)
    PB 565 – Group Facilitation (3 credits)
    PB 566 – Intergroup Conflict Resolution (3 credits)
    OL 621 – Qualitative Research Methods (3 credits)
    PB 620 – Competency Examination (3 credits)
    PB 610 – Dissertation Development I (3 credits)
    PB 611 – Dissertation Development II (3 credits)
    PB 612 – Dissertation Development III (3 credits)

    Electives (3 credits)

    PB 568 – Large Group Methods (3 credits)
    PB 574 – Talent Management and Succession Planning (3 credits)
    PB 575 – Psychometrics for I/O Psychologists (3 credits)
    OL 634 – Virtual and Global Leadership (3 credits)
    OL 637 – Team Interventions (3 credits)
    OL 640 – Governance in Non-profit (3 credits)
    OL 641 – Supervising and Coaching Employees (3 credits)
    OL 642 – Strategic Human Resources Effectiveness (3 credits)
    OL 643 – Social Entrepreneurship (3 credits)
    OL 644 – Leadership Ethics (3 credits)
    OL 645 – Diversity (3 credits)
    OL 646 – The Role of Technology in Organizations (3 credits)

  99. Khaoula permalink
    February 17, 2014

    Mr.Landers,

    Thank you for your information.
    I’m an IT master student with a minor in management. Do you think I can apply for a master in I/O psychology?
    I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and all its branches and thought I/O would be the closest one to what I’ve studied so far.

    I couldn’t go through all the comments you received in here, so forgive me if you got this type of question already.

    • February 17, 2014

      You can certainly always apply. A lack of psychology experience will certainly harm your application, but the requirements for entry into Master’s programs are not as rigorous – if you have stellar GREs, a high GPA, and strong letters, it won’t tank your application. But it would be much better if you could at least get some psych experience – for example working in a psych lab. The problem is that a person evaluating your application – like me – is going to question, “How do I know this people even knows what I/O Psych is well enough to start a career in it?” The degree to which needing to ask that question hurts your application differs by program.

  100. Mckenzie permalink
    February 17, 2014

    Hi, thank you for the information. It was very useful. I am however still confused about a few things. I am only in high school and I have been researching the field of industrial organizational psychology for the past couple months because it sounds very interesting to me. There are two universities near me that have programs geared towards this career but I don’t want to earn a masters degree in this field if I can’t get a job. The schools that I am looking at are: Oregon institute of technology and Portland state university. I understand that Portland state has a good Ph.d program but I haven’t found anything that says much about it’s masters program. As for Oregon institute of technology they have a bachelors program that specializes in I/O psychology but I don’t know if I should do this because I can’t find much information on it. Do you think this would be a promising path? Getting a bachelors at Oregon institute of technology and then transferring to Portland State University to earn my masters?

    • February 17, 2014

      I’m not going to comment on particular programs, because the specific strengths and weaknesses between programs are myriad – but I think you may not realize that you don’t really “transfer” from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s program. There is a fully distinct application process. If you want to pursue a career path in I/O, and you wanted to start down this path immediately after high school, I would recommend attending a university with an I/O program for both your Bachelor’s and Master’s. Both are important, although your Master’s institution is more important.

      For now, I would start by emailing a few graduate students in each department and asking how they like it, and if they’d recommend it.

      I’ll also say that targeting a particular school for a Master’s – or even a particular region of the country – is a terrible idea. You really want to cast a wide net and apply to a range of schools of different quality levels across the country. For college, I would apply to at least 6 or 7 colleges with strong undergrad I/O programs. Once you see where you get in, make the decision then – if you have the option between local and not-local, you can make that decision then. But if you don’t get in anywhere local, you don’t want to be forced to not attend college because you only applied to 2 places.

  101. Mike permalink
    February 17, 2014

    Is grade inflation present at the graduate level?

    • February 17, 2014

      Probably? But even if so, it does not really matter. Students who can’t hack it are usually filtered out through means other than grades (e.g. by failing candidacy exams, by being unable to finish a thesis on time, etc). After graduation, no one looks at a Ph.D.’s graduate school grades anyway.

  102. February 21, 2014

    Hi, my names Mckenzie and I am very interested in the field of I/O psychology. I live in Oregon and I am planning to study at Oregon institute of Technology and receive a bachelors in this field. Then I’m going to transfer to Portland State University and earn a masters degree. I was wondering if this sounds like a good plan and how difficult it is to get a job in this field of study with a masters. How much to people typically make. I know the average salary is around 90,000 but is that for master degree graduates as well? Should I even bother getting a masters degree in this field?

    • February 21, 2014

      Although you can aspire to attending a Master’s program at Portland, it is not a good idea to pin your hopes on attending a specific school. It rarely works out that way. You will need to obtain high GRE scores, a high GPA, and research experience during your time in college. And even if you have all those things, you won’t necessarily get into the programs you want to get into (for the reasons I detail here: http://neoacademic.com/2011/08/03/grad-school-where-should-i-apply). The median first-year salary for I/O’s with Master’s degrees is around $52K; the median first-year salary for I/O’s with doctoral degrees is $80K. This varies by position type though. I don’t know where you got $90K – that is around the 70th percentile (see http://www.siop.org/2012SIOPIncomeSurvey.pdf).

      I’m not sure what you mean by “bother”. You need at least a Master’s to pursue a career in I/O. A Bachelor’s alone will not enable that.

  103. Richard permalink
    February 21, 2014

    Dr. Landers.

    Are scholarships available for master students? I have heard that some graduate schools offer their students tuition waivers if they decide to complete a doctorate after completing a masters. Have you heard of this?

    • February 21, 2014

      They are, at some schools, but they are uncommon. When they are offered, it’s usually only for the top 1 or 2 students applying.

      For your other comment, I think what you probably heard is that if you progress into a PhD program after a Master’s program, you won’t qualify for a tuition waiver/assistantship while working on the Master’s, but you’ll still be able to get it if you get into the PhD program. That is common, among schools that have both terminal Master’s and PhD programs.

      You should also keep in mind that a tuition waiver is usually not offered independently of an assistantship; you are generally expected to work 20 hours per week (teaching, for example) to earn a tuition waiver as a fringe benefit of your assistantship (akin to health or dental). You usually can’t get a tuition waiver without working an assistantship.

    • February 21, 2014

      You will not be able to get into a Ph.D. program with a 3.2 GPA and no research experience. You will also have trouble getting into a Master’s program, at least one that will get you a decent job. If you want to pursue a career in I/O at this point, I’d recommend first completing a practice GRE to get a sense of what your scores would be – then check that against what the schools you’re thinking about consider competitive. If your score is high, you might be able to get into a decent Master’s programs with just that – maybe – as long as you get letters of recommendation from HR/psych folks wherever you work now. It would be preferable, however, to volunteer at a local university conducting Psychology research for a year or two before applying, and to get rec letters from the people running the lab.

      If your score is average or low, you will 100% need to get that kind of research experience and the strong rec letters with it, no matter what.

      If you do get accepted, any decent program would strongly recommend that you quit your job. Master’s programs will tell you to get loans. PhD programs will employ you as a teaching or research assistant (usually somewhere in the $12K-$25K range, currently). It is not a good idea to work a 40 hour job concurrently with graduate study in a decent program. You will be spending at least 30 hours on classwork, another 10-20 hours on research, and 20 hours on an assistantship if you get one (which will also get you a tuition waiver). If you’re thinking 70-hour weeks every week take a toll, you are right. If you try to make that a 110-hour week, you may not survive it.

  104. Danny permalink
    February 21, 2014

    I graduated in 2007 with a BA in Psychology. My goal at the time was to test the job market and see what developed. I have been underemployed the last 5 years, and my goal now is to go back to school and pursue a career in I/O psychology.
    My overall GPA was a 3.20, my GPA in the last 60 hours was a 3.36. I have never taken the GRE. I am considering professional schools that don’t require the GRE.
    I don’t have any research experience, though I did have an internship in HR primarily in employee selection.
    I know that getting a Ph.D is better in the long run, but you need research experience to have good chance.
    I want to position myself the best way possible. If I can get accepted to a Ph.D program great, if not i do want to pursue a master’s.
    I am currently employed, working 40 hours a week. I don’t know what my options are if I were to get accepted.

  105. Ben Craig permalink
    February 28, 2014

    I graduated in 12/2011 with a BS in Psychology with a 3.0 overall GPA and 3.7 in Psychology. I’ve been interested in I/O the entire time, but haven’t been accepted into a Master’s program yet. My GRE scores are 50-60th percentile, and haven’t done any formal research but I did have an internship in 2011 for 8 months in the HR dept, and have had an internship since September doing a huge job analysis project and working on creating an effective structured interview process. Other than improving my GRE scores, what else could I do to improve my chances?

    Alternatively, I was thinking of applying to an MBA program with a specialization in HRM. Do you think taking this route and then getting a PhD in I/O would is beneficial? My end goal is to have a PhD in I/O, but would I seem more valuable if I have an MBA instead of an MA in I/O?

    • February 28, 2014

      With both a low GPA and GRE scores, you’re not going to have any luck in either Master’s or PhD apps without research experience. So without research experience, I can see why you didn’t get any offers. Starting an I/O career given those credentials is going to be very difficult. You might be able to get into a practice-oriented Master’s program, but that will likely not get you into a PhD program (except perhaps at somewhere like Phoenix, but I wouldn’t recommend that). In similar cases, I’ve heard of people completing second bachelor’s degrees (with straight As). Another option would be getting extensive research experience – preferably in several labs simultaneously.

      You can certainly get an MBA – that won’t hurt, and might give you more career options – but it also won’t help you get an I/O PhD. If you did ultimately pursue an I/O PhD with an MBA, you would almost certainly need to get a second Master’s degree in I/O.

  106. Ben Craig permalink
    February 28, 2014

    Thanks for the response.

    Do you think it would be more beneficial for me to try and get extensive research experience, or go back and get a 2nd degree? I live in Nashville and MTSU has a very good undergrad I/O program that I could apply for.

    Also, what kind of research or what type of job would look most appealing to graduate schools?

    • February 28, 2014

      If you want to maximize your chances, both. Straight A’s across an I/O focused degree and starting to work in psychology research laboratories (preferably at least one I/O lab, plus at least one other) in your first year of that program would improve your standing dramatically.

      Having said that, it might also be a worthwhile exercise to stop and think seriously about if an I/O career is really right for you. At this point, if you won’t be able to get straight A’s in difficult I/O related courses (e.g. a double major in psychology and statistics with a business minor), it’s not worthwhile to attempt a second degree. You already have a low GPA degree, and you can’t escape that. So if you can’t get your GRE any higher, you’re already penalized in two ways; you need to be that much more impressive with your other qualifications, and that may not be realistic.

      When you have a long-term goal, and you’re highly committed to that goal, it’s easy to get trapped into thinking that it’s the only way forward. But if you sit down and think seriously about your career goals, you might find that there are other options. I don’t know if this will be true for you, of course – but it’s something you should really carefully consider before committing the next 3 or 4 years of your life.

    • Management Phd student permalink
      February 28, 2014

      Ben,

      I just want to try to help you out real quick as I’ve been down a similar road. I got an undergrad in psych with 2.5 years working in research labs and had similar grads. My GRE score at the time was 1150. I ended up gaining admission to all the masters I/O programs I applied for, some with scholarships or assistantships. I think it was mostly due to having research experience and working in a distinguished professor’s laboratory. Here’s the deal though, I accumulated about 60K of debt over the course of my masters as it’s not funded..like a phd program. However, phd programs in I/O from students I’ve met, still only pay around 1250-1350. I’m sure if varies but trust me, unless you want to live on rice, you don’t have a significant other to take out to eat, and you generally don’t want to leave the house, you will have to take out more loans. So now you’re looking at probably 80K of debt with a phd in I/O and probably 8-10 years of your life gone. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. Go be an engineer, please. Get a degree in petroleum engineering with all A’s and you’ll get job offers over 100K in 3 years versus waiting 8-10, accumulating huge amounts of debt and your job offers in the private sector will probably be 70-100k, while in academia, 50-65K starting. Of course if your parents are paying for everything and you don’t mind watching all your friends earn money for the next 10 years while you scrape by, then it’s your funeral.

      I/O programs are incredibly difficult to get into as I’m sure you understand after reading Dr. Lander’s blog and unless your find out about that career path option when you’re 18-20, I would never recommend someone take that route in life. There are better options.

      Also, if your ultimate goal is academia and the most money you can make, think about management programs. What you study if you go the organizational behavior route is exactly the same. You will have fewer classes dedicated to ‘micro’ level issues if you go to a program that exposes students to strategy and OT as well, which is a downside in my opinion. 116K was the average last year for new management doctorates. In my opinion, management programs are much easier to get into, you will be paid much more, close to 2K usually, and job options are essentially the same after. Full disclosure, I did make about a 1400 on the GRE and worked at an I/O firm for 2.5 years while being in the master’s I/O program. People will tell you that you can only go into academia because you have a management phd, but that’s just because they want you to publish with them and their program. You have close to the same consulting skills depending on the electives, statistics and comprehensive examine route you choose to take. I/O programs are dying off in some places as they just simply don’t get the funding they need. Professors are just as intelligent and hard working as the highest paid business prof’s but the business profs are paid TWICE as much. Just think about your options and don’t fall prey to an escalation of commitment sort of life choice.

    • March 1, 2014

      That’s a tad bitter/cynical, but still contains some good advice. :) I would actually rephrase it to say that a PhD is never worthwhile from an earning power perspective, in management, I/O or anything else. You should only pursue a PhD if you are passionate and self-motivated in your chosen area of study. There is not really any other good reason; there are majors where you can earn more than a PhD with a BS or MS, even within field (e.g., the salary of someone with a Bachelor’s of Computer Science is in many cases higher than the salary of someone with a Ph.D. of Computer Science). There are some important differences between business schools and I/O programs, but in terms of earning potential, they are not generally very important as far as prepping you for consulting practice goes.

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by “I/O programs are dying off in some places” due to lack of funding… here, we more often feel pressure to expand larger than we are comfortable doing given the resources we have (e.g., by being asked to add a large I/O Master’s program). The problem is not so much that programs are dying off, but that faculty as being asked to do more with less. But that is pretty common across academia, these days.

  107. Ben Craig permalink
    February 28, 2014

    That makes sense. To put things into perspective, I realized I wanted to do I/O AFTER my freshman year at an out-of-country uni of a different major where I performed very poorly. After transferring, my final 90 hours and major coursework were both above 3.5, but my overall is still 3.0. I’m involved in SHRM and am networking with local I/O consultants in the area.

    I’m confident that I can get my GRE scores up though.

    There’s no statistics major offered, but I was looking at an I/O major with a minor in Industrial Relations, and/or Statistics or Management.

    Any advice on the best outlets to get research experience? I know it can be difficult if you’re not a student at that particular university.

    • March 1, 2014

      AHh… well, when you say “3.0 GPA”, I think most faculty (myself included) would interpret that as “mostly Bs, with a mixture of As and Cs”. The Cs are going to be the red flag to selection committees.

      If you think you can explain that sufficiently in your application, it’s probably not worthwhile to get another degree – I would only recommend that if you have a fair number of Cs on your transcript. Getting research experience without being somewhere is tricky – the typical approach is to send emails asking about opportunities to local faculty that you think might have spots open explaining your situation. If you have connections through SHRM and current I/Os, you probably have distal connections to either I/O or Management labs already, but that you don’t know about. I’d recommend talking to some of your contacts and try to work your way back to some local faculty through those connections.

  108. Matt Thomas permalink
    March 6, 2014

    Hello Dr. Landers,

    I do have several questions. What is a practitioner based Masters program? I am currently a Masters student. I just finished my second term and have accumulated a Gpa of 4.0 so far.

    I am at a professional school, so your comments regarding professional schools got me worried so I did some digging. I found that majority of faculty are adjunct, with PSY D and PHD. Most got their education from for profit institutions. Also found that these faculty members are also teaching at for profit institutions. However they are “practicing I/O psychologists” A lot of the students who graduate from the professional school, come back and teach classes. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.

    From what I have seen, I think its a good program. I like to think it’s heavy on research since we are to write an research proposal over the course of the program. It is an applied research project that can be used in the workplace.

    My last point. If I were to transfer to another graduate school, will admission school committees look more heavily at the Graduate GPA than Undergraduate? Thanks.

    • March 6, 2014

      “Practitioner” is typically code for “easier to get into, less difficult, and less research-oriented.” However, as long as they have a pipeline into industry, that doesn’t matter much. When you say “a lot of the students” go back to teach, do you have a sense as to whether that is by choice? Some people find they enjoy teaching more than they think they would. But it may mean that the school artificially inflates its job placement numbers by hiring everyone that can’t get a job. I would dig further. :)

      So… for comparison in terms of “researchy-ness”, I would consider the first two years of our doctoral program (pre-Master’s) to be pretty “research heavy.” My goal with new students is to have them running a research project from Day 1 (called a first-year project) which they will complete by the end of the first year. Over the first summer, they develop a thesis proposal, which they defend in August, then run their project over their second year. The goal is for them to defend their thesis by May of their second year (or August at latest). I also try to involve them in 1 or 2 other projects during this time, and if they’re ambitious, they might start one or two of their own. My current first year student has already helped write a book chapter, is about to wrap up his first-year project, is starting up two additional projects, is part of the team for a fourth project, and is beginning to put together ideas for his thesis proposal. I’m also potentially pulling him in on a research grant or practitioner project (depending on how things work out) next academic year. So that is the kind of experience you are potentially competing with on the job market, and writing one proposal that you never actually conduct is not going to look very good, in comparison.

      Now of course, programs vary a lot, even within “research heavy” programs, and our program is in preparation for later doctoral work. But if you ever potentially want to join a doctoral program, you’ll need this kind of experience pre-Master’s. So if pushing on to the PhD is on your eventual career radar, I’d be careful now. Changing programs by itself also doesn’t guarantee you that kind of experience, unless you’re getting into a good program. If you are already in a job where people are saying “if you get a Master’s, you can move up the HR career ladder”, and that’s your only goal, it doesn’t matter so much where you go or how rigorous your experience is. But if you’re trying to gain a useful skillset, that is where you need to be more careful.

      If you change schools, you’ll need to include all transcripts, and they will probably pay more attention to graduate than undergraduate – but this will vary by faculty member reviewing your application. Note that it is impossible to “transfer” in the undergraduate sense – you will need to retake all classes. No graduate classes transfer across universities, unless you are post-Master’s and applying for PhD. Even then, you may need to retake some Master’s-level courses.

  109. Virendra permalink
    March 8, 2014

    Hello Ben,

    First of all I must say your article is so insightful that it already enlightened me about some of my queries. Apart from it, I’m preparing for GRE these days and aiming to apply to a Ph.D program for fall 2015. As far as my stats are concerned, I feel a bit skeptical about making it to the Ph.D. Anyway I have a Bachelor in App. Psychology (Hons.) from India with aggregate percentage of 68.50% which accounts for 3.87 GPA according to WES organization. I have also 2 research publication under my name as a main author but I don’t have real lab experience which makes me feel a bit low. I have still to appear for the GRE and have a TOEFL score of 87. So looking at my stats what makes you think ?? Do I have a clear shot to Ph.D or I should focus on terminal Master’s.

    Please let me know your thoughts. Any kind of advice would work which can help me to make myself a better candidate for Ph.D

    Thanks in advance..:)

    • March 9, 2014

      I don’t know who Ben is… but… I will say that your statement that you have two publications but no lab experience is a confusing one. If you mean you have two publications in low-tier or theory-oriented journals, that’s still great for an undergraduate. If you mean you have publications in for-profit journals or as conference presentations, that’s less good. No lab experience at all is going to be a problem; I would get that immediately. Master’s will certainly be easier than Ph.D.; if I were you, I’d probably apply to both simultaneously.

  110. Virendra permalink
    March 10, 2014

    Hi Richard,

    Sorry for the name confusion, I was reading the whole discussion and couldn’t remember your name and got confused when putting comment.
    Anyway, let me brief you about my experience a bit. I have 2 publications in which one has been published in profit making journal as it was not solid research work (it was rejected by the reputed journals so I had to submit it anyhow) but the last one has been accepted in one of the top psychology journal of India.
    The reason of not having lab experience for me is that there are not enough labs available in India which asks for Undergrads. Even you will find very few professors who are conducting research studies or writing their own papers apart from teaching. So it’s so hard to find such work in here. Though I have enough experience with statistical softwares i.e. SPSS, STATA & R program but not particular lab experience. I have worked on some small independent research project which constitute a cumulative of 2-3 months.
    So in nutshell does this experience is good so far considering the admission in Ph.D or I should just give up.

    P.S. what would you do to become more competitive for Ph.D if you are at my place. Any advice would be helpful.

    Thank you for your fast responce.

    • March 10, 2014

      If you have any publication experience, that is better than no publication experience. I’m not understanding how you have published anything without doing what we would normally consider lab work. Do you mean it is a theory development paper? As long as you can explain what this is in your personal statement, and can make an argument as to why it prepares you for grad school, this will be good. The experience you need is not precisely “working in a lab” but “getting experience with research.” Running participants, conducting analyses, writing up papers, etc. So if that’s what you did, you are positioned well (at least in this way). You still need a strong GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, etc.

  111. Virendra permalink
    March 10, 2014

    Yes Richard, I have done one of the kind of research work you mentioned. My last study was about examining the relationship between Interpersonal trust and team performance using correlation methodology (It was a quantitative study).
    I might be confused with the lab work as it is kind of work which I think you are assigned in a lab officially i.e. literature review and research paper editing and so on. But in my case I have done it by myself without any help from professors or any class teacher. Whatever help I needed was from library journals and online resources and some friends. As I told you earlier as well that I have worked on some research projects where I needed to submit a report at the end of every project but there were only two such projects which constitutes around 2 months. So far, this is what I have as a research experience. Now do you think I stand a chance ??

    Thanks for your earlier remarks Richard.

    • March 10, 2014

      That is more research experience than most students have. As long as you can explain all of that adequately in your personal statement, a lack of supervised lab experience won’t hurt you. You will still need everything else though, including strong letters that speak of your quality and potential as a researcher. If you can’t get those from a direct supervisor, you will need to get it from someone else familiar with your academic work.

  112. Virendra permalink
    March 10, 2014

    Yes I do have strong LOR’s from 3 Ph.D’s in which one of them is my OB teacher. I was just skeptical about the research experience considering Ph.D but now I think you have made it all crystal clear.

    Thank you Richard for your insight and help again. I hope you will keep resolving our dilemmas like this in future too.

    Best of luck with your future blogs.

  113. Jimmy permalink
    March 12, 2014

    Dear Professor Landers ,

    Thank you for all the posts. I have found them very informative and helpful.

    I have some questions about the I/O Psychology program as well as the job outlook.

    I understand that I/O psychology has high job outlook in the States.
    I would like to ask you if this is the same case in Canada.
    All the positive statistics and sources seem to pertain to job market in the States.
    I am from Canada and I haven’t been able to really find much information about the job outlook in Canada.

    I have been recently admitted to a Ph.D program in I/O from a university in Canada.
    According to your previous comments, it seems like the program quality is somewhat reflected by the number of statistics courses offered in the program.

    The program that gave me admission require two statistics courses, and four seminar courses in i/o psychology.

    Would you think that such course requirement will provide me with sufficient training as a doctoral student in i/o psychology, at least in terms of coursework?

    Also, I would like to ask you if I/O psychology has significantly better job outlook compared to other pure research psychology fields such as educational psychology or social psychology.

    At last, it seems like that some I/O psychologists end up working at elementary and middle schools. I wonder how these i/o psychologists could end up working in schools and I am curious what they would do in such work settings.

    Thank you

    • March 12, 2014

      I honestly don’t know much about the Canadian job market. That would be a good question for the graduate students at the program you’ve been admitted into (e.g., How worried are you about finding a job?).

      Two stats courses is ok, but on the low end. Sometimes they have more stats courses available, but not required. If they only have two, and you can only take two, that’s not a good sign. Four seminar courses in I/O is also a little low if that’s literally all the I/O content. Sometimes schools have I/O elective courses that aren’t listed with seminar courses though, so there may be more than that – a good question for the programs director.

      I/O psychology has a substantially better job outlook than ed psych. My understanding is that ed psych is mostly for people who want to go into academic work. Some I/O psychologists do end up in education, but it’s usually as some sort of data analyst, since I/O stats training tends to be a bit stronger than Ed stats training. Still varies a lot though. But any I/O that goes into a school as a counselor didn’t really get trained as an I/O, as least in the US – the certifications required to be a school psychologist are not included in I/O programs.

  114. Marilee permalink
    March 14, 2014

    Thanks for the info! Was wondering if you had any recommendations for what to minor in other than business management?

    • March 14, 2014

      Within business, but not Management, I’d suggest Human Resources. Business Statistics would be fine too. The only minor outside of business that I can think might help with your application would probably be Statistics.

  115. Juan permalink
    March 14, 2014

    Do you think acquiring a second Masters in Data Analytics would be a good idea with someone with only a MA in I/O psychology?

    • March 14, 2014

      Doesn’t hurt? I don’t know if it would advance a traditional I/O career trajectory very much, but I can certainly envision jobs where both sets of expertise would be valuable. But I will say that if you had a good statistics foundation at the Master’s level (let’s say 3 stats courses), data analytics will cover a lot of the same ground that you already covered. The main difference will be the addition of data mining. But otherwise, it’s fairly similar (descriptives, ANOVA, regression, etc.).

  116. Lidia permalink
    March 28, 2014

    Hi,
    I applied for 6 MS programs in IO psychology for the fall 2014, and as much as I don’t want to think about the possibility of not getting accepted into any I still think I need to have a backup plan. I am graduating this May 2014 but if I don’t get accepted I was thinking if it is a good idea for me to postpone my graduation? at least one more semester until
    December when I can apply again. Or if I do decide to graduate, what is something I could do (IO psychology related) during that semester that could help me make my applications for IO programs stronger.
    I also wanted to know what is the difference between an IO psychology program and a program in applied psychology with a concentration in IO and if they offer the same job opportunities?
    Thank you

    • March 30, 2014

      If you don’t get in anywhere, I’d recommend taking an internship or job in HR while volunteering in an I/O research lab in your spare time. I would not postpone graduation unless you can take a variety of difficult I/O-related classes during that time (e.g. Statistics, graduate level Psych or Business courses).

      It’s difficult to know differences between programs based on the name alone. You really need to research the specific programs you’re considering. But an I/O program is generally going to have more I/O specific coursework than a general “applied” program. Job opportunities will vary by program also; for that, I’d ask some current graduate students and/or recent graduates in both.

  117. Juan permalink
    April 11, 2014

    Hello Dr. Landers,

    I wanted to get your opinion on what I believe is a key factor in selecting a graduate program: The Graduate training approach. As you may know, there are 2 different approaches to graduate training. The is the Boulder model (scientist-practitioner model) and the Vail model (scholar-practitioner). I read an article that was published on SIOP stating that the Vail model has already been adopted in several Clinical Psychology areas (It was approved by the APA in 1973). The Vail model has flourished in Clinical Psychology as now over 50 clinical psychology programs use it.

    The article states that I/O psychology would benefit from a Vail model approach just as Clinical Psychology. Furthermore, most professional psychology degrees use the Vail model (that’s why most offer the PsyD vs the PhD)

    What are your thoughts? Do you think I/O psychology is moving in a direction where more programs will adopt the Scholar Practitioner approach? Is this a good approach to follow?

    I currently attend a school that uses the Vail model. I have noticed the program only offers 1 stat course, and 2 applied research method courses that .5 credit each totaling 1 credit hour. I wish I would have researched the differences in graduate training before I decided to enroll. I am still early in the program where I can leave and attend a school that follows the boulder approach (assuming this approach is the best graduate training method)

    Here is my concern. After reading most of the comments, I think the consensus is that a Masters program needs to have more than 1 stat course and heavy on research methods. However, if one wants to be a practitioner rather than a researcher, do you think taking less statistics is not necessarily a bad thing? I have spoken to a lot of people in the field of I/O and the majority mention that statistics being used in the real world is really going to depend on the type of job you get. For example an executive coach or a OD consultant probably won’t require a lot of stat courses.

    I know your not a fan of online degrees. But let me ask this question to you. What if the program is based out of a traditional brick and mortar school, and the curriculum is the same in the classroom and online. Essentially everything is the same (assignments, lectures) Does the method of delivery still matter at this point?

    Thanks for your time in answering my questions.

    • April 11, 2014

      There are many more than “two” approaches. You’re actually describing models that have historically been much more relevant to clinical psych and its exploration of the Psy.D. model than I/O. As you may know, Psy.D.s are generally not as respected within the scholarly community as Ph.D.s because Psy.D. programs are not generally as rigorous. Although they purport to be a “scholar-practitioner model”, in my exposure to Psy.D. programs, there’s usually relatively little scholarship going on (with a few notable exceptions). They are the vocational schools of doctoral education. While a person with a Psy.D. is perfectly qualified to conduct therapy, they generally aren’t well versed in conducting research (at least in comparison to Ph.D. programs).

      I/O, even at the Master’s level, has historically been treated as a research degree. If your goal is to be an executive coach or consultant, I suspect you get just as much value out of a “Vail model” I/O degree as you would get out of an MBA, so that’s not really an I/O specific problem. But if you want to work in the most common I/O jobs – job analysis, selection system design, training and development, performance management – you need stats. If you don’t really want an I/O job, and just like the idea of “consulting,” you don’t really need an I/O degree in the first place.

      Frankly, a lot of I/Os are upset at people not trained as researchers giving organizations advice as if they are I/Os. Many of these consultants borrow a “theory” or two from psychology and apply it in completely inappropriate and nonsensical ways without rigorous research-based evaluation (core to all I/O methods). When that approach fails to produce any results, it discredits our entire field and devalues the degrees we grant. That is partly why it is so hard for people with online Master’s to get jobs – the people willing to call themselves a “consultant” with a couple years training are a dime a dozen. It is the research orientation that distinguishes I/Os in the market.

      As for online vs brick-and-mortar, it is really less to do with just “being online”, and more because most current online programs are terrible. If your in-person and online courses truly are equivalent, or if you take advantage of the capabilities of online specifically, it doesn’t really matter.

      For example, I probably have about 25-50 contact hours each year with my Master’s level students outside of any classroom – casual discussions in the hall, meetings to discuss research and practice, lab meetings critiquing articles related to lab interests, occasional happy hours to socialize. Those out-of-classroom experiences are important socialization into the profession. While you CAN get similar experiences online, most online programs don’t bother. Which is, honestly, a shame.

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