Online Master’s Programs in Industrial Organizational Psychology

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Updated on: 10/04/2018

Online master’s degree programs in industrial organizational psychology focus on the analysis and understanding of human behavior and how it impacts the workplace. Companies want to maximize sales and employee efficiency, which creates job opportunities for organizational psychologists. Graduates in this field find they are well-prepared for advanced careers in the corporate world, whether as a director of human resources, a training manager, or the manager of the marketing department tasked with making products appeal to consumers. Here you can search for the best program to suit your needs, discover what courses to expect, the types of career paths available and how much professionals in this field typically make.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Industrial Organizational Psychology Program?

Coursework for a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology covers leadership development, workplace diversity, recruiting and retaining employees, training and development, researching best practices in the workplace, as well as determining employee performance and satisfaction – both factors in workforce retention.

These programs typically require 30 to 35 credit hours and can generally be completed in two years with full-time study. Some programs offer accelerated learning that leads to graduation in under two years, but the tradeoff is a heavier course load.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in industrial organizational psychology program?

Although each program will offer their own selection of courses, here are common classes that a student may find:

Employee Recruitment and Placement

This course covers prevailing strategies for effective job marketing to recruit the most qualified candidates, as well as identifying their best place within an organization.

Performance Evaluation and Feedback

This course examines how to review employees’ performance fairly and accurately, and techniques for delivering constructive feedback.

Theory and Design of Training Programs

What makes a good training program? This course offers answers to that question with an emphasis on designing training programs with measurable, quantifiable success rates.

Career Development/Personnel Psychology

Explores prevailing thought on best practices for promoting employee development, preparing the right staff for advancement/promotion and how to identify these individuals.

Labor Relations

This is a broad category of coursework that can include a focus on topics such as collective bargaining and interacting with labor unions, labor law and the National Labor Relations Act, and general studies in labor, which explores patterns in workplace-labor relations as well as human resources.

Compensation and Benefits

This course takes a look at how salary and benefit packages are calculated based on such factors as market competition, company and workforce size, and cost analysis of types of benefits offered.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Courses in the master’s degree program usually include a final exam or original research paper. Many online master's programs in industrial organizational psychology also require a final project or research thesis for graduation. Students are expected to apply what they've learned in the program to improve productivity at an organization or solve some sort of workplace problem.

What elective courses are available in a master’s in industrial organizational psychology program?

In addition to the common core courses list above, students can often choose electives that will take them deeper into a particular area of interest. For example:

Organizational Attitudes and Survey Development

This class digs in to the literature and strategies for collecting data about an organization and its workers, addressing issues such as job satisfaction and engagement in order to improve organizational effectiveness.

Performance Appraisal

Students explore how to effectively appraise the work of individuals, groups and organizations. Topics may include various appraisal tools, motivational strategies and legal issues.

Organizational Leadership

This course reviews the literature on what makes a good leader and delves in to the strategies used to foster leadership development in the workplace.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology Degree?

Almost any supervisory interaction with people in a workplace can draw successfully on the education received from a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology. Here are some potential career paths following graduation:

Director of Human Resources

Manage the department, supervise staff, design the organization’s benefits package for employees and adjudicate workplace disputes.

Training Manager

Develop and use training materials specific to an organization. Utilize technology and multimedia resources in preparing materials. Work includes video production, graphic design and layout, online/website training materials in tandem with other departments or outsourced.

Management Analyst

Work as an independent consultant to evaluate a company’s workplace operations, identify areas for improved efficiency and deliver reports to top executives of the organization.

Market Research Analyst

Help companies understand potential consumers of their products and design marketing campaigns to appeal to them.

Membership in professional organizations brings networking opportunities to meet other people in the field, learn about job opportunities through networking and stay current on best professional practices. Some well-known professional associations in the field of industrial organizational psychology include:

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Promotes the scientist-practitioner model of psychology to organizational and workplace settings. Members must be engaged in relevant professional activities, including research, teaching or practice. Membership includes a subscription to The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (TIP) quarterly newsletter, the Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice (IOP) quarterly journal and the Newsbriefs monthly e-newsletter. The organization also holds an annual conference and fall consortium. Graduate students are encouraged to join.

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management.

Academy of Management (AoM)

The Academy of Management is a professional organization that depends on members’ efforts to further the scholarship of management across many categories.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Industrial Organizational Psychology?

Over the course of a career, the professional with a master’s degree can usually expect to make more than those with a bachelor’s degree, depending on the job. The chart below provides a sampling of career options for those with an industrial organizational psychology degree, as well as the pay scales and job growth outlook for each occupation. Of course, an individual’s salary prospects can vary greatly depend on many factors, including education, experience, job sector and location.

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Human Resources Specialist Less than $35,810 $60,350 More than $103,570 +7%
Training and Development Specialist Less than $33,150 $60,360 More than $102,340 +11%
Training and Development Manager Less than $59,170 $108,250 More than $187,670 +10%
Market Research Analyst Less than $34,510 $63,230 More than $122,770 +23%
Management Analyst Less than $47,140 $82,450 More than $152,210 +14%
Human Resources Manager Less than $65,040 $110,120 More than $197,720 +9%
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Less than $50,730 $87,100 More than $184,520 N/A

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Job growth for professionals with a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology is forecast to exceed the national average of 7 percent for all other types of employment through 2026. With some professions, such as market research analyst, job growth is projected to outstrip the national rate by nearly 300 percent.

According to Tuoro University, the median starting salary with a bachelor’s degree in industrial organizational psychology is $42,740. However, with a graduate degree, the median salary jumps more than 60 percent to $76,405. In addition to increased salary potential, graduates with a master’s degree can expect more challenging work in the field of industrial organizational psychology with a greater level of responsibility. A director of human resources, for example, supervises staff and generally holds hiring and firing power within the organization, or at minimum makes recommendations on who the company fires, hires and promotes.

Online Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology Program Accreditation

Master’s degree programs in industrial organizational psychology are accredited by the American Psychological Association. Accredited schools will usually note this on their website. If not, contact the program and confirm. Accreditation means the program covers what the APA considers to be essential academic material necessary to achieve subject mastery at the graduate level. You may encounter some programs that list an application for APA accreditation or “pending” accreditation, according to the APA. Once the APA renders an accreditation decision, that information remains on the association’s website for a full calendar year.

Some master’s degree programs in industrial organizational psychology may cite accreditation by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. The Council was established in 1981 to set academic standards for counselor training programs.

If a school looks promising but there is no accreditation status listed, contact the program and ask. Accreditation is an academic seal of approval and, given the investment of a student’s time and money, should be a priority when searching for the right master’s degree program in industrial organizational psychology.

In addition to reviewing accreditation, graduate students shopping for a program may want to do their own due diligence. Check the program’s faculty listings to get a sense of the breadth and depth of expertise. Faculty in industrial organizational psychology programs usually present their academic credentials, published work, areas of expertise and even their employment history. Not only will this provide a measure of the faculty’s qualifications, it can help with networking after graduation. Professional relationships with faculty can lead to introductions at companies that may be of interest to the newly-minted graduate.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology Degree

The tuition for an online master’s in industrial organizational psychology degree can include factors such as state residency, the school’s academic reputation and technology fees, which are unique to online programs. Geographic location, the ability to customize a program of study with electives and flexible tuition payment options can also impact your decision to enroll in one program over another.

In addition to applying for federal financial aid, here are some ways to cover that cost:

  • Scholarships

    Highly competitive and often school-specific, scholarship money is still available for graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology. Amounts can vary widely. Always contact individual schools under consideration to find out what scholarship packages they offer.

    Also research professional association scholarship programs. For example, the American Psychological Foundation provides scholarships of $2,000 to $5,000 to help graduate students in psychology cover research costs for master’s and PhD students in psychology.

  • Research Grants

    Grant funding is available from individual organizations as well as the federal government. The American Psychological Association maintains a current listing of grant resources, both through the APA itself as well as other psychology-related organizations, which can help fund a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology. For example, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) awards research grants of up to $7,500 for projects of both academic and practical interest, as well as a grant specifically for graduate students studying diversity in the workplace.

  • Student Loans

    Individual programs in industrial-organizational psychology may offer tuition financing. Checking with the admissions office is the best place to start. The federal government’s SallieMae student loan program may also be able to help with financing your master’s degree.

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