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Dominance of SIOP Membership by Online Degree Holders Coming

2017 July 19

If you haven’t checked out the July SIOP Newsbriefs, there’s some interesting details buried via the “SIOP Membership Trends” article about I-O psychology online degree holders.  If you open that article (in PDF form, gag) and then delve deeper, you can find a series of visualizations put together by viz master and all-around great guy Evan Sinar.  The first two of this visualizations show the distribution of SIOP members by both country and by local area within the United States, which is pretty interesting on its own.

For example, I can zoom into southeast Virginia and see there are 39 registered I/Os in my vicinity.   Assuming this includes student members, that leaves about 15 SIOP members not affiliated with ODU living nearby.  Who are you people and why don’t you offer my students more internships so they don’t have to move across the country and stop working on our research projects for a whole summer!!!


Even more interesting to me is the third visualization in that PDF, which I’ve copy/pasted here.  (Hopefully Evan won’t mind!)


Current SIOP members by date of degree earned, taken from this PDF.

If you stare at this long enough, you’ll discover a few interesting but generally unsurprising tidbits: Akron dominated I/O graduations from 1980-2010, there are a bunch of Minnesotans from the 1960s hanging around, etc., etc.

But if you stare at it a little longer, you’ll notice something interesting on the right side: online institutions are generally replacing non-online as the most prolific institutions in terms of graduates.  Capella and Walden not only appeared but immediately achieved high rankings in the 2010s, and among current students, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, and the online Chicago School all appear.  Most of the “big name” schools that are generally synonymous with I/O psychology disappear entirely.  These programs are also a mix of Master’s and Ph.D., so these schools aren’t necessarily just churning out 2-year degrees (although that certainly contributes).

Are we staring in the face of a massive cultural shift in I/O psychology given this influx?  Or will differences in training mean that these students have a much harder time breaking into “real I/O jobs” and disappear from the SIOP membership ranks later?  I’ve talked about online programs and their rankings in my I/O graduate school series before.  I’ve also heard a few stories from people it has happened to that generally go like this: a student gets a degree from a online program without the training or culture of traditional programs, finds themselves locked out of most I/O consulting firms, and ends up taking a vanilla HR position somewhere for a much lower salary than an I/O degree is traditionally worth.

Online I/O degrees are not necessarily worse than in-person degrees, but the training does tend to be part-time, and as a result, it is on average much less intense preparation despite an equal number of years spent studying.  I’ve also met a number of online students who only came to the SIOP conference for the first time after graduation when they discovered they couldn’t get a job.  Many of these students would have excelled in a brick-and-mortar program if they’d had the opportunity/time, too.

So what do you think will happen, both to SIOP and to this influx of online students?

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Thoresen permalink
    July 19, 2017

    I have nothing against online programs.

    I do have two wishes for them
    A. Work with your students especially at the MA level to do internships
    B. Encourage local and non local networking. This is done in Brick & Mortar schools and I talk to a lot of people who might have a new shiny degrees, but then no expanded network in this discipline to work with when they get done.


    • July 19, 2017

      Totally agree on both fronts. Networks are one of the most important outcomes of graduate training. Even among brick and mortar programs, membership in different networks to a degree communicate different skillsets. For example, your average Big Uni grad might be extremely well trained in A, B and C, familiar with D and E, and have little expertise in F, and this rough balance is known to people that frequently hire grads. When I say, “I went to Minnesota,” people make immediate assumptions about what I’m capable of, both good and bad.

      Online schools are for the most part an unknown quantity – I honestly have no idea what they tend to be strong/weak in, how Cappella compares to Walden in terms of expertise coming out of them, how either compares to brick and mortar, etc. Lack of reputation makes professional networks even MORE important, and this is commonly missing in these programs. Internships are one way to address that in the short term, but as you note, they’re uncommon too.

  2. July 23, 2017

    It’s worth underscoring how few I/O psychologists teach in these online I/O psychology programs. We pointed this out in the 2010 SIOP report concerning online education that I co-authored, but the situation has not improved. The big online schools like Capella and Walden are employing more Psych PhDs to teach, which is good, but those gains are mostly in the counseling and clinical space. I/Os remain scarce.

    A huge chunk of the next generation of I/O psychologists will never have been taught by an I/O psychologist — that should be a bigger concern to SIOP than it currently appears to be.

  3. scheherazade permalink
    July 23, 2017

    The trend is worrisome and probably partly the result of IO psychologists flight to business schools where fewer IO psychologists are trained and also declining state support for PhD granting institutions in general which means that there is less money for graduate assistantships. My purely anecdotal evidence from colleagues and myself is that really strong faculty who used to advise 4-6 graduate students have now either left for a business school or are advising one or two students. Walking around SIOP poster sessions (where our new graduate students often present) in recent years has left me pretty horrified. I may just be getting old but it seems that we used to see much more technically and quantitatively competent “I” side research at SIOP, but this seems to have been replaced by often very “fluffy” research that is closer to what we see in social psychology and counseling psychology. Perhaps this reflects the growing influence of these online progams but I am not sure how employable these students will be in applied settings.

  4. Aileen permalink
    October 15, 2017


    Thank you. Great article. I was looking into a masters program in AZ. I’m in Phoenix. Any suggestions. I’d rather do a campus versus online.


    • October 16, 2017

      I would say that trying to figure out where you will complete a Master’s degree based upon location is not a great idea. I’m not sure if there are many programs in Arizona, but I’m confident there aren’t many. I would recommend applying more broadly, to at least a dozen schools. Most well-regarded IO programs are either in the midwest or east coast, so I don’t think you have many options out there.

  5. Erin McGinnis permalink
    January 8, 2018


    The Chicago School of Professional Psychology had accepted me and I do being their Master’s program today.

    I have a busy full-time job and appreciate the opportunity online classes provide by with allowing you to study nights and weekends.

    Do you find those with drive still in a tight spot from such schools? I want to make sure my money is not going to waste.

    • January 8, 2018

      I think almost all IO grad students have drive. Or at least I’ve never met one without drive. The trade-off is simply that you are just getting less intense and less comprehensive training than other people with the same degree title as you. That’s not a career kiss-of-death, but it does mean everything’s going to be just a little bit harder for you in comparison to someone who has the same degree but from a traditional program. That is what you give up to gain flexibility.

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