Organizational Psychology: Career Options and Job Duties

Sep 21, 2019

A career in organizational psychology can involve working as a human resource specialist, a vocational counselor, or an organizational psychologist. Organizational psychologists are required to have a master's degree in psychology, while vocational counselors need a master's in counseling. Human resource specialists can enter the field with a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

The field of organizational psychology examines human behavior in organizational settings, such as the workplace. The study of human behavior can help organizations develop policies, programs and strategic plans to manage and train employees. Some jobs in this field can be found with just a bachelor's degree, though other careers require a master's degree at minimum.

Career Organizational Psychologist Human Resource Specialist Vocational Counselor
Education Requirements Master's degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree in counseling
Licensure and Certification State licensure/certification required Optional certifications State licensure required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 13% 5% 8% (vocational, guidance, and school counselors)
Median Salary (2018)* $97,260 $60,880 $56,310 (vocational, guidance, and school counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Jobs in psychology, human resources and vocational counseling are three options in the field of organizational psychology. Learn more below.

Organizational Psychologist

Individuals interested in becoming organizational psychologists, commonly called industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists, need to earn at least a master's degree in I-O psychology and must also gain state licensure or certification if they intend to offer their services directly to patients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry that employed the most I-O psychologists as of May 2013 was consulting services ( Many other I-O psychologists worked in scientific research, government and higher education.

Job Duties

The work an industrial-organizational psychologist performs can improve the quality of life for workers and help employers recruit, interview and train employees (both in the for-profit and non-profit sectors). Professionals in this field typically work with job applicants, employees and managers to accomplish specific goals, like effectively filling a job opening or motivating workers. A job as an organizational psychologist is one option, but not the only one; positions related to this area of study are also available in human resources and vocational counseling.

Human Resources Specialist

An education in organizational psychology can also prepare students for a career in business. Since human resources (HR) focuses on managing and understanding human behavior and its effects on an organization, organizational psychology training is useful for HR professionals. The BLS notes that an interdisciplinary background that includes courses in the behavioral sciences - specifically in industrial psychology - is important for prospective HR specialists. This position requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, though there isn't one required major that prepares graduates to enter the field. For management positions, candidates will want to pursue a master's degree with a concentration in human resources.

Job Duties

Human resources specialists can work to improve the performance of workers, reduce employee turnover and advance the quality of work life for employees. Individuals working in human resources can develop tests to evaluate the skills and personality of job candidates during the hiring process. Human resources specialists also assist the company in managing organizational change.

Vocational Counselor

Vocational counselors work with teenagers or adults to help them determine a suitable career path. Though similar to school counselors and guidance counselors, vocational counselors typically work outside of the school setting, according to the BLS. Additionally, vocational counselors offer their services to those coping with job-related issues, such as a layoff or firing, ongoing stress or a transition to a new role. The study of organizational psychology is helpful for vocational counselors offering these services. Typically, vocational counselors need to hold master's degrees and licensure or certification, particularly if they work in private practice.

Job Duties

Vocational counselors administer personality, aptitude, skills and interest tests to help individuals discover a career track that best suits their talents, abilities and goals. These counselors can also suggest an education and training pathway for individuals to follow to reach these goals. For clients undergoing career changes, vocational counselors offer support during the transition.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, I-O psychologists will see an increase much faster than average in employment opportunities from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average across all career fields. As of May 2018, I-O psychologists earned a mean salary of $109,030. Human resource specialists are predicted to see a job growth faster than average from 2018 to 2028, and they're estimated to earn a mean salary of $66,790 per year. The BLS also reports that school and career counselors should see an increase faster than average in job opportunities between 2018 and 2028. Vocational counselors, as well as guidance, school and educational counselors, are estimated to earn a mean annual salary of $60,160 as of 2018, per the BLS.

Multiple occupations are available to those interested in the field of organizational psychology. Industrial-organizational psychologists focus on employees and their work environment, while vocational counselors advise teenagers and adults about suitable career options. Human resource specialists must determine how to improve employee performance and address employee issues in the workplace.

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