Industrial-Organizational Psychology Topics

Industrial-Organizational (I-O)Psychology is defined simply as “psychology applied to work” (APA 1971). It studies “work” in its broadest sense, including paid and unpaid effort, recreation, and any purpose-driven effort (sports, hobbies). Compared with other specialties, I-O is more “applied” – putting practice above theory, since it typically aims to solve specific problems, increase efficiency, and maximize outcomes.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology Research Topics

Compared with other fields of psychology, I-O psychology today has several features: (a) Small: I-O is a small specialty, including just 5% of US psychologists. (b) High-employment: Since I-O is in high demand in the industry; it has a negative unemployment rate below zero. (c) Lucrative: I-O has long had the highest salary, averaging at least 25% higher than 14 other psychology specialties. (d) Separate: I-O has become a very separate specialty within psychology, with its own independent association since 1987 – the Society for I-O Psychology (SIOP). (e) Hybrid: I-O overlaps with business and other social sciences. (f) Credentials: There is no one credential to define who is an I-O psychologist – be this a M.A., M.S., M.B.A., Ph.D., Psy.D., state license, APA or SIOP membership, or ABPP Diploma. (g) Demographics: SIOP members today are 6% ethnic minorities, 37% female, only 26% licensed, and 85% have a doctorate. I-O work settings vary greatly – employees in large firms, small “boutique” consulting firms, professors in psychology or business programs, or solo-practitioners.

Today, I-O psychology faces several challenges – such as globalization of organizations, the increased diversity of the US workforce, increased regulation by government and labor law, and the changing nature of work. These same challenges make a science-based I-O psychology more indispensable to successful organizations.


  1. American Psychological Association (APA). (1971). Effective practice of psychology in industry: Task Force on the practice of psychology in industry. American Psychologist, 26, 974–991.
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