Degrees in organizational psychology (also known as “work psychology” or “industrial organizational psychology”) may lead to a variety of career paths and titles. Positions vary from entry-level to manager, director, or president. Most organizational psychology careers focus on one of the following areas:
In addition, careers may be available in a wide variety of fields. Organizational psychologists are commonly employed in healthcare agencies, marketing and sales, human resources, education, and more.
Internships are not required by all master’s degree or Ph.D. organizational psychology programs, but an industrial organizational psychology internship may be a useful endeavor for any student. First and foremost, the internship is an opportunity for the student to apply classroom theory to hands-on practice under professional supervision. Along with this, it’s also a way for the student to determine, beyond just classroom experience, whether the career itself is actually a match for his or her expectations. Finally, it offers the student a chance to make professional connections that may serve them well post-graduation as they pursue networking and job opportunities.
There are two types of industrial organizational psychology internships: internal internships and external internships. In internal internships, interns are embedded within the organization and work closely with one, or a small group of, organizational psychologists. An external internship refers to work at a consulting agency which specializes in a particular kind of human capital and is hired by other organizations for their expertise.
According to the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology, it’s important to remember that as an intern, your role may be limited, and you likely won’t have the opportunity to see a project through from start to finish, unless it happens to be shorter than the duration of your internship. Regardless, it’s your responsibility to observe and experience as many facets of the process as you can[i].
To obtain an internship that ultimately stimulates you, enhances your resume, and may provide solid professional networking contacts down the road, you may want to combine your own independent research with close collaboration with your advisor and professors. First determine the opportunities that interest you, and then run them by your professional mentors. They will be able to provide you with feedback on the quality of the organization, as well as the potential fit with your career goals.
The Society of Organizational Industrial Psychologists provides a list composed of common job titles for organizational psychologists. An organizational psychologist might have the role of president, vice president, director, manager, principal, staff member, or consultant. He or she might focus on organizational development, organizational effectiveness, organizational capability, organizational change, talent management, management development, workforce insights, or human resources, to name just a few. He or she might also work as a full, associate or assistant professor of organizational psychology or any of its other incarnations[ii].
Organizational psychologists tend to work in-house in an “expert” role, or at a consulting firm, hired on a contract basis for their expertise in a particular area. They may also teach and conduct research at a college or university. The business sector is a primary employer of organizational psychologists, particularly within human resources departments.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial organizational psychology job opportunities are expected to increase by 53% between 2012 and 2022[iii]. This is a robust figure and suggests that, for qualified candidates (and depending upon their location), organizational psychology careers may be abundant in the future.
[i] siop.org/IOInternships/internship.aspx | [ii] siop.org/userfiles/file/What%27s%20In%20A%20Name.pdf | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-6