1. Home »
  2. Degrees »
  3. Online Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Online Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology explores the mental, physical, and interpersonal well-being of employees in a company. Learners considering a doctoral degree in I/O psychology should identify their career goals to ensure a meaningful return on their investment. Depending on their preferences, these professionals can pursue research-oriented careers in academia or business.

An ideal candidate for this profession possesses the qualities of a self-starter who is capable of motivating and training large numbers of employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a steady 8% employment growth in the field of industrial-organizational psychology through 2026.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

There are significant differences between a master's and a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology. As a terminal program, an I/O psychology degree at the master's level leads to external consultant roles or positions within an organization where professionals apply the modern theories and practices.

Students who earn a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology, however, help to define best practices, knowledge, and theory by undergoing comprehensive research training. Doctoral programs require Ph.D. students to develop an extensive, years-long thesis project that focuses on researching a significant topic — perhaps bringing them to uncharted territory in the field that results in practical applications. Furthermore, some roles, including those in academia, require I/O psychology professionals to have a Ph.D.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in I/O Psychology?

While many positions available to I/O psychology professionals with a doctoral degree pertain to research or teaching, professionals can choose from multiple career paths. However, job seekers should note that most careers in the field do not include the title "industrial-organizational psychologist."

Many graduates pursue career paths in consulting, the government, or a specific industry. Consultant-related positions include principal or executive consultant, while job titles in government commonly include director or project leader. The prevalence of industry-related careers such as principal research scientist, area director of human resources, and chief human resources officer continues to grow.

Rather than focusing only on titles, graduates should consider the responsibilities demanded by their ideal job. I/O psychology professionals strive to resolve workplace issues, including the assessment of individual differences among employees and applying small group theory to teams within an organization. Graduates may also explore careers in learning development departments that require decision-making or human performance assessment.

Career Subfields for
Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Consulting: External contractor
Government: Specific sector or branch
Academia: Education, universities, research
Industry: Within an organization, such as the Human Resources Department

Source: Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Common Career Paths & Salaries

Students should keep in mind that advanced job opportunities in I/O psychology vary, as well as the titles of these positions. The list below includes some of the best and most common job titles for professionals with a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

I/O psychologists strive to create effective and efficient workplace environments by developing organizational infrastructure that supports the needs of an organization's talent. Accurately assessing environments requires knowledge and application of human behavior.

University Professor

Postsecondary I/O psychology educators instruct college-level students earning their bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree. Full-time professors earn tenure and often engage in research projects at the university.

Human Resources Director

Human resource directors develop policies and procedures that align with an organization's goals. These professionals also ensure the organization maintains compliance with state and federal laws. Other tasks include managing employee complaints and benefits.

Senior Consultant

Senior consultants specialize in a specific domain, such as change management. As an individual contributor or small group manager, senior consultants develop products, lead company initiatives, and act as expert consultants on projects.

Training and Development Director

These directors develop educational content for new and existing incumbents. Other tasks may include managing training budgets, enforcing policies, or tracking incumbent progress. Professionals often work with directors and all levels of management.

Salary Progression

Depending on education and experience, I/O psychology professionals qualify for a variety of positions. Professionals in the field must have a bachelor's degree, while many positions demand a master's degree. Similarly, specific jobs require a Ph.D., and others determine pay according to a candidate's combined education and experience.

I/O psychology earning potential varies depending on location. Washington, D.C., provides the highest salary potential for I/O psychology professionals, followed by Virginia and Pennsylvania. Similarly, the type of employer impacts earning potential. While the government follows a pay scale and offers great benefits, external consultants can set their own rates and client base.

Salary Progression by Degree

Degree Salary Range
Bachelor's $111,505 – $122,713
Master's $113,121 – $123,955
Doctorate $113,767 – $124,452

Source: Salary.com

Industrial and Organizational Psychology Ph.D. Program Requirements & Outcomes

Like undergraduate and master's degree programs, institutions offering an online Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology often examine multiple factors to determine eligibility, including GPA score, transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, career objective statements, and candidate interviews.

On average, full-time students can earn a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology online within 4-5 years. Most programs require students to complete 90 credit hours to graduate. Students may also complete additional electives or specializations that could extend the time spent earning a degree. Similarly, students with acceptable credits from an accredited program may qualify for an exemption, which could shorten the overall program.

Most Ph.D. programs require some in-person interaction for research purposes, internships, or residency. However, with the growing demand for distance learning class environments, some degrees offer coursework 100% online. Students often arrange internships or residency experiences at an approved local institution.

Common Courses

  • Culture and Psychology

    This course examines current theories and practices pertaining to the relationship between cultural studies and psychology. Students also observe theory and research through a cross-cultural lens. Other topics include psychological anthropology, psychological sociology, and ethnic studies.

  • Research Methods

    In research methods, students study how to analyze research designs, while fostering data analysis and statistical package techniques. This course also cultivates critical evaluation skills used to assess consumer research sources such as academic journals and government agencies. Additionally, students learn to develop original psychology research.

  • Applied Research Methods

    Applied research methods engages students in analytical tasks that lead to success as an I/O psychology practitioner. This course examines philosophical content and its relevance to applied research tasks, as well as emphasizing survey methodology, regression and correlation analysis.

  • Leadership and Leader Development

    Students examine leadership theories, leadership models, and influential factors. Leadership Development classes exercise learners' understanding of course content by working with case studies and engaging in discussions, in addition to highlighting modern issues in leadership and organizational change processes.

  • Qualitative Reasoning and Analysis

    This course builds upon students' qualitative research and data analysis skills. Topics in this course also include fieldwork strategy, qualitative inquiry, observation, and theoretical approaches. Students also explore aspects of quality assurance, including legal, ethical, and social implications.

  • Research Theory, Design, and Methods

    This course develops analytical and research design skills for students at the doctoral level. Topics include the philosophy of science, research processes, and the role of theory. Students also explore the implications of social change and ethical practices associated with research design and implementation.

  • Psychology of Organizational Behavior

    Students examine the application of behavioral theories in organizational settings. Topics include employee motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, organizational design, company culture, and development. While this course covers topics from an individual perspective, students also explore group and organizational behavior.

  • Leadership and Leader Development

    Students focus on leadership theories and models through case studies and situational factors. This course considers individual, group, and organizational perspectives on leadership. Students also explore the role of leadership, current challenges, and reasons for resistance to change.

Other Requirements

Dissertation

Earning a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology online often requires students to explore a specific area of interest. Students must draft a compelling proposal, obtain review board approval, and conduct all necessary research for their project under the guidance of committee members, the department chair, or a field adviser.

Comprehensive Exam

Students often complete a written comprehensive exam prior to graduation. Most universities inform students one month ahead of time. Students are often not required to answer every single question, which allows for flexibility in the responses they choose.

Practicum

Many I/O psychology doctoral distance learners complete practicum experience to develop scientist-practitioner behaviors. Some schools require multiple experiences throughout their programs. Students must experience direct exposure to applied problems in the I/O psychology field, in addition to balancing theory, research, and practice.

Doctoral Residency

An online I/O psychology doctoral program often requires students to complete a residency experience. Students examine empirical research approaches to understand behavior in the workplace. This experience also covers how individuals react to multicultural, social, and group influences while exploring mass communication and the analysis of psychological tests to assess learning outcomes.

Skills & Competencies

An online Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology helps students cultivate pertinent skills for I/O professionals. Employers seek candidates with skills from the following list:

  • Research and Inquiry

    Professionals must possess extensive knowledge of research methodology and strategy, as well as apply an understanding of statistics and psychometrics.

  • Analytical Observation Skills

    Candidates must draw logical conclusions from behavior in work environments through multiple forms of performance assessments, direct observation, and collaborative efforts with management.

  • Problem-Solving

    Professionals in the field identify and evaluate difficult problems, in addition to applying or developing methods that lead to effective and efficient solutions.

  • Effective Communication

    Prospective students must exemplify effective and meaningful relationships with clients and incumbents. Clear, concise, and compelling communication leads to maximum efficiency in the workplace.

  • Project Management

    Applicants must successfully manage time to meet deadline dates, which may include task management, delegation, and collaboration with team members.

  • Complex Decision-Making

    Ideal candidates apply knowledge of decision theory and judgment, as well as utilize empirical methods and data to support decisions.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology Licensure

In most cases, jobs that include "psychologist" in the title require licensure. However, I/O psychologists conduct research and perform other tasks that do not require licensure. A variety of professions outside of the I/O psychology discipline focus on similar content and carry out comparable tasks.

Some states provide exemptions for I/O psychology professionals. According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), I/O psychologists do not need to have a license to practice, unless required by their state. Licensed I/O psychologists may also work in other states that require licensure for a maximum of two months per year without needing to obtain licensure from that state. Students can view requirements for their state on the SIOP website.

Professionals pursuing licensure should consider the generic psychology licensure requirements, which include education, examination, and experience. Students must hold a degree from an accredited institution. Typically, programs should hold an American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation. However, the APA only accredits school, clinical, and counseling programs. While some programs seek designation by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards for additional validation, I/O psychology professionals should consider accreditation from regional or national agencies.

Generic licensure requirements also look for students with a passing grade on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Students should note that the exam includes content unrelated to I/O psychology, which may require additional study. Additionally, some licensing jurisdictions require up to two years of experience.

I/O Psychology Professional Organizations

While joining a professional organization helps professionals at any stage of their careers, students earning a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology online may find memberships especially helpful, as online programs do not always have as many opportunities for interaction.

Professional organizations often hold annual conferences, workshops, seminars, and create ongoing discussion boards that allow professionals to interact with each other. Professional memberships also create opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. Furthermore, professionals often enroll in continuing education (CE) courses to stay abreast of modern advances in their field or keep their license current. Professional organizations typically offer discounted or even free courses.

Many professional organizations have student memberships or local chapters. Therefore, colleges and universities often advertise membership. However, I/O psychology professionals may want to explore niche organizations if they plan to work in a specific area of I/O psychology. Active members can also become board or committee members, which helps professionals build stronger resumes and create impact in their field.

  • Psi Chi

    As an international honor society in psychology, Psi Chi members receive recognition for scholastic achievement, research, and leadership. Members also qualify for over $400,000 in grants, scholarships, and awards.

  • Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

    SIOP members receive access to modern research and practices within the field. SIOP also provides a vast network of members and mentorship opportunities.

  • Society of Psychologists in Management

    SPIM members include psychologists at the doctoral level working as leaders within organizations. Members gain access to CE courses and networking opportunities with like-minded professionals.

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

    As the largest scientific organization that focuses on human factors and ergonomics, HFES members have access to multiple networking and mentorship opportunities. Members can also access over 20,000 articles, books, and videos.

  • American Psychological Association

    The APA provides cutting-edge knowledge and research pertaining to all areas of psychology. The APA offers multiple membership opportunities that correlate with levels of experience. Benefits include insurance, training, and CE courses.