How to Become an Industrial Psychologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an industrial psychologist. Learn about the job duties, and read the step-by-step process for starting a career in industrial psychology. View article »

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  • 0:01 How to Become an…
  • 1:31 Step 1: Bachelor's…
  • 3:18 Step 2: Master's…
  • 4:01 Step 3: Consider a…
  • 4:28 Step 4: Consider Licensure

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Video Transcript

How to Become an Industrial Psychologist?

Industrial psychologists, also known as industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists, study the psychological aspects of the workplace. Several career paths are open to I-O professionals. Many work in human resources or management consulting, while others do research and teach in academic settings. Psychologists who perform research will work independently, for the most part, and spend much of their time in an office setting. Some of these professionals will assist with management or work in collaboration with human resources departments. The majority of psychologists work full-time, and those individuals who are self-employed or operate from a private practice may have more control over their schedule than those employed by an outside organization.

Degree Level Master's degree or doctoral degree, depending on career objectives
Degree Field I-O psychology or related field
Licensure and Certification Individuals using the title of psychologist may need to obtain licensure
Experience 1-2 year internship is required to qualify for licensure
Key Skills Analytical skills; an ability to teach and conduct research is required for university positions
Mean Salary (2015)* $92,320

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), ONET OnLine

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree Program

The first step for prospective I-O psychologists is to complete a bachelor's degree program. Although no specific undergraduate degree is required, students who do not major in psychology will want to be sure to take some foundational classes in psychological principles, statistics, social psychology and research methodology. Some colleges may offer a specific I-O major, which could be of interest to students who know early in their education that they want to pursue a career in I-O psychology. Students who decide not to go on to a master's or doctoral degree program may still find opportunities in marketing, business management or human resources.

Success Tips

Join a psychology-oriented student group. Groups such as Psi Chi, the international honors society for students of psychology, may offer opportunities to meet professionals from various fields of psychology. Learning about the job functions and career paths of established professionals may help students make decisions about their own careers.

Look for opportunities to complete an internship or work experience. Gaining experience in a work setting, either by shadowing an I-O professional or completing an internship, can help a student narrow down his or her career interests. This can also help in developing relationships with industry professionals who may be able to write letters of recommendation to accompany graduate school applications.

Get involved with research. Students who may want to complete a Ph.D. in I-O psychology need to show a commitment to and ability to conduct academic research. Gaining this experience as an undergraduate exposes students to new trends in I-O research and prepares them for successful graduate school applications.

Step 2: Master's Degree Program

Practicing I-O psychology in the private sector usually requires a master's degree. Master's degree programs vary in their requirements and in the types of careers for which they prepare their graduates. A Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) program, for example, may include an option to complete a thesis and could prepare students for both industry work and for further study at the doctoral level. Coursework in M.A. and M.S. programs focuses on research design and methodology and foundational coursework in I-O psychology. On the other hand, a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program includes substantial training in economics and management.

Step 3: Consider a Doctoral Degree

Students wanting to focus on research and teaching in their careers will want to complete a Ph.D. program. Doctoral programs generally take 3-5 years to complete, and coursework varies according to the interests of the student. Students usually complete about two years of coursework and spend the rest of the time doing research for and writing a dissertation. An internship or practicum may also be required.

Step 4: Consider Licensure

Most states require anyone using the job title of psychologist to be licensed. To become licensed, an individual must graduate from a doctoral degree program, complete a supervised internship, and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Licensure may not be appropriate for individuals working in the private sector or for some researchers and teachers. I-O professionals will have to inquire with their state's licensure boards to determine whether or not licensure is necessary.


Industrial psychologists, or industrial-organizational psychologists, require at least a master's degree and may need a doctoral degree depending on career goals. Some may need to be licensed as a psychologist in their state.


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