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What is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist?

An Industrial Organizational Psychologist is a specialized type of Psychologist. Also known as: Organizational Psychologist, I/O Psychologist, Industrial Psychologist.

Industrial organizational psychology is an area of psychology that focuses on studying people in their working environment. The role can also involve focusing on workplace dynamics and organizational structures. Through the use of industrial organizational psychologists, work places can improve the success of their organization.

Industrial organizational psychology first began in the earlier 20th century when it was found that troops returning from World War I needed therapy to regain morale. It wasn't until after World War II that the field really grew, and as the 20th century progressed the use of a industrial organizational psychologist in the work place became more common.

Those who work as an industrial organizational psychologist can expect to spend a lot of time working with statistics. As developing initiatives on behalf of businesses depends on science-based research, the industrial organizational psychology relies heavily on working with large numbers.

What does an Industrial Organizational Psychologist do?

Industrial organizational psychology involves several different key roles. These include:

  • Identifying how attitudes and behaviours can be improved in the workplace

  • Ensuring that workplace moral remains high during periods of change

  • Observing the efficacy of training programs and assisting in developing them

  • Using science-based research to help human resources teams develop initiatives and hiring programs that will be successful

Industrial organizational psychologists who choose to work in business positions can expect to operate closely with HR teams. This can either be in direct relation to the well-being of individuals in the work place, or it can be related to how people fit into particular roles. Those who focus on the latter tend to match employees to certain tasks depending on their personal characteristics. In contrast, those who focus on the well-being of individuals in the work place will have a more varied role.

Overseeing the well-being of individuals in the workplace as a industrial organizational psychologist can involve several duties. A typical industrial psychologist will focus on how societal norms influence the well being of employees, as well as how managerial approaches affect morale. If an industrial organizational psychologist then finds that workers are being negatively affected by the operational side of their workplace, they can make recommendations for change that reflects science-based evidence.

Alternatively, the role can also include finding ways to boost productivity based on employee behaviour. This is an objective that will work in tandem with making sure all employees are healthy and happy, as the two factors are often interlinked. Enhancing productivity as an industrial organizational psychologist involves organizational management, performance management, training development, and ergonomics (which focuses on office design for optimal comfort).

For those who do not wish to work directly with businesses, the option of going into the academic field is available. Industrial organizational psychologists who choose to work in academics will typically conduct research, which is then published and used by those who work in the field. In addition to this, many deliver lectures at universities, training the psychologists of the future as they do so.

What is the workplace of an Industrial Organizational Psychologist like?

Although industrial organizational psychologists who work in the business industry can focus on organizations in general, it is normal for them to only work in larger organizations. Many of the psychological issues that pertain to the job role tend to revolve around organizations that have a large, set hierarchy, and as such smaller and medium-sized businesses tend not to be a primary focus.

In the academic field, those who work as industrial organizational psychologists can expect to work in universities and colleges. Although the field itself is specialized, academics who focus on this particular branch of psychology are just as likely to find themselves lecturing undergraduates as they are postgraduates.

Finally, industrial organizational psychologists can work on a freelance basis. This tends to come later in their career when a lot of experience has been gained, and involves being outsourced by larger corporations.

How can I become an Industrial Organizational Psychologist?

Becoming an industrial organizational psychologist will involve having a good grasp of, and keen interest to work with, statistics. Unlike other branches of psychology, it does not involve a lot of face-to-face or clinical contact; it is focused on groups of individuals as a whole.

Those who want to work in the field will be expected to have an undergraduate degree in psychology, as well as a relevant post-graduate degree in industrial organizational psychology. The majority of universities around the world offer degrees in psychology, but it is important for budding industrial organizational psychologists to ensure that both their undergraduate and post graduate qualifications come from an accredited institution.

It is important that all industrial organizational psychologists have an aptitude for working with and understanding people. Aside from the behaviours of others being central to the job role, those who work within a business will have to liaise with various members of the organization's structure. This can include HR teams, managers, and CEOs.

For those who would rather work in an academic arena, it is likely that a doctorate will be required.


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