Best Online Master's in Organizational Psychology Degrees

Feb 10, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Organizational Psychology Degree?

Master's programs in organizational psychology or industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology trains students to help their organization find, train, and develop quality employees. Students can commonly pursue online Master of Science (MS) degree programs in organizational psychology or I/O psychology, as well as online degrees such as a Master of Applied I/O Psychology. While organizational psychology does dive into the business landscape, a master's in industrial/organizational I/O psychology is different than a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in that it provides students with more specialized skills in psychology than broad business knowledge. Here we examine these online master's degree programs in greater detail to help students decide if the program is a good fit for them.

Why Should I Get an Online Organizational Psychology Master's Degree?

Students trying to determine if earning an organizational leadership master's degree is worth it, should consider all of the additional career options for graduates of these programs. In general, this degree not only prepares students for a career as an I/O psychologist but can also help them qualify for various psychology- and business-related positions within an organization. This typically increases job prospects. Many students may choose to earn this degree online to continue working full-time. The flexible schedules of these online programs allow students to take classes and complete assignments on their own schedules.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Organizational Psychology?

Online master's programs in organizational psychology may allow students to complete their degree in as little as 2 years. Some programs may offer different tracks for time to degree completion, such as a 2-year and a 4-year track. Many factors play into the time to degree completion, including program format, course load, and transfer credits. For example, several online programs in the field offer self-paced, part-time, and/or full-time formats. Going part-time or working at a slower pace may cause students to finish in more than 2 years. Other students may work at a quicker pace, take more classes each semester, and/or have prior graduate-level coursework that they can transfer in and count towards their degree.

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Organizational Psychology

Online master's programs in organizational psychology may require between 36 and 38 credits of coursework. The set up for the curriculum of these programs vary. Some programs may have some core courses and offer different specializations, while others simply have set core courses that must be completed. Still others may follow more of a traditional format and have some core courses and then allow students to choose from a list of elective courses to further focus their studies in areas of interest. Below, we outline the curriculum for these online psychology programs in more depth.

Organizational Psychology Foundational Courses

Students may take as little as 15 credits of required coursework or as much as 36 to 38 credits of core, required coursework, depending on the program. Core courses typically include some topics in research and quantitative skills. It is also fairly common for these degree programs to include required seminars and/or a final, culminating experience. Typically, this culminating experience is in the form of a capstone course where students complete a capstone project of some kind that requires them to apply the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout the program. However, some programs may include a practicum experience with the capstone or offer an internship option where students can gain supervised practical experience as their culminating experience. Although course titles change, core organizational psychology courses may include topics in:

  • Research methods
  • Ethics
  • Measurement theory
  • I/O psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Leadership
  • Organizational behavior
  • Personnel psychology
  • Training and development

Organizational Psychology Specialist and Elective Courses

Some online degree programs may not leave much room for electives, while other programs may allow students to choose up to 15 to 21 credits of electives in organizational studies, plus some general psychology electives. Still, other programs may offer additional areas of concentration, such as consulting psychology, human resource management, or evidence-based coaching, to help students prepare for specific careers within the field. In general, electives and concentration courses allow students to pursue their personal interests and career goals by exploring more specific areas of the field in greater detail. Some examples of possible elective courses include:

  • Conflict management
  • Intercultural communication
  • Consulting
  • Human resources
  • Talent management

Licensure and Certification in Organizational Psychology

Typically, most states require professionals using the title of 'psychologist' to be licensed, which usually requires a doctorate. However, students wishing to become an I/O psychologist may pursue professional certifications in the field with only a master's degree. For example, students may earn their Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology specialty certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP), a member board of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). This certification requires students to demonstrate competency in the field through one of several education or experience options and pass an exam.

Graduates may pursue other related positions that may require or have their own licensure and certification options. For instance, training and development managers may pursue professional certification from groups like the International Society for Performance Improvement or the Association for Talent Development. These certifications demonstrate competency and may make professionals more competitive in the job market.

Admissions Requirements for Online Organizational Psychology Master's Programs

Admissions requirements for online master's programs in organizational psychology vary greatly between schools. However, these programs typically require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some schools may not require this degree to be in any particular field, but students who do not have a background in psychology may be required to take additional courses in areas like psychology, statistics, research methods, human resource management, or organizational behavior. Some schools may not require students to take the GRE, while others may require students to complete the GRE Psychology Subject Test. GPA requirements vary as well, with some schools requiring a minimum GPA between 2.5 and 3.0. Students commonly submit their application online and may need to include items such as official transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, letters of recommendation, and/or a writing sample.

Choosing an Online Organizational Psychology Master's Program

Outside of some of the more common considerations when choosing any master's program, such as the cost of the program and availability of financial aid, there are several factors to consider that are specific to online programs in organizational psychology. Students may first want to make sure that they choose an accredited school, as an accredited degree is usually preferred by employers. Then, they may want to search for a program that provides the best opportunities and preparation for the student's desired career. For example, some students may want to search for a program that offers additional specialization areas. Within these specializations, some programs may help prepare students for professional certification, such as an evidence-based coaching specialization preparing students to take the Board Certified Coaching (BCC) exam. Other students may want to make sure they enroll in a program that offers unique hands-on learning experiences through an internship or practicum experience. Finally, students may want to consider the formatting of the program to find one that fits best within their personal schedule, whether that is a program that is self-paced, part-time, or full-time.

What Can I Do with an Organizational Psychology Master's Degree?

There are several job options for graduates with their master's degree in organizational or I/O psychology. Some of these graduates may go on to pursue a career in organizational management and development as an organizational development professional. They may work as an organizational consultant or organizational development consultant to help their organization continue to build itself upon quality employees. Students can also find careers in areas such as research, human resources, training, and leadership. Graduates may pursue specific careers as:

  • I/O psychologists
  • Operations research analysts
  • Training and development managers
  • Labor relations specialists
  • Management analysts
  • Business development consultants
  • Organizational effectiveness managers
  • Executive coaches
  • Recruiting managers

Job Outlook for a Master's in Organizational Psychology

In general, graduates with their master's degree in organizational psychology should be able to find a position due to the flexibility of the degree, which may qualify students for multiple positions. Specific job outlooks vary by job title, as well as factors like location and employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook from 2019 to 2029 for I/O psychologists was 3%. This positive outlook is as fast as the national average. The BLS also reported that other related positions for graduates, such as training and development managers, also had positive job outlooks. The job outlook for training and development managers from 2019 to 2029 was 7%, which is faster than average.

How to Become an I/O Psychologist

I/O psychologists usually need to have at least a master's degree in the field. These professionals must have prior coursework in areas like I/O psychology, research methods, and statistics. It is also fairly common for professionals in this field to have hands-on experience through internships or other practical experience. Experience and/or education may help students qualify for state licensure and/or professional certification in the field. I/O psychologists must be patient and have great communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills as they work closely with others and conduct research and analysis.

Per the BLS, the median annual salary for I/O psychologists was $92,880, as of 2019. These psychologists use psychology in the workplace to improve work life. This may require them to analyze factors like employee morale, workplace productivity, and more. Their findings may help influence policies, training, and other employee resources for the organization.

How to Become a Training and Development Manager

Training and development managers have to have at least a bachelor's degree, but some jobs may require or prefer those with a master's degree. Professionals may have a background in areas such as organizational development, business administration, human resource management, and more. It may be helpful for these managers to have coursework in various areas of psychology, including educational and behavioral psychology. Experience in the field is important, so some of these managers may start their careers as training and development specialists. Professional certification is also available in the field to demonstrate expertise. Training and development managers must have strong leadership, collaboration, decision-making, and instructional skills.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for training and development managers, as of 2019, was $113,350. These managers are responsible for improving the skills and knowledge of an organization's staff. This requires them to develop and implement training programs that align with the organization's goals. They may need to evaluate these programs and update them as needed.

Organizational Psychology Professional Organizations

Students in all areas of psychology can choose from a variety of psychology-related professional organizations. These groups all have different goals and unique characteristics but aim to promote the field of psychology and support professionals in the field. Organizations may provide membership and resources such as networking events, online libraries/journal access, professional development opportunities, and more. A couple of examples of available organizations for organizational psychology professionals include:

  • The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology- The SIOP provides membership and information for students and professionals concerning local I/O psychology groups. From the organization's website, professionals can take advantage of posted webinars, publications, podcasts, and journals. The group also has an annual SIOP conference, continuing education opportunities, and a career center for students to browse job postings and internships.
  • American Psychological Association- THe APA is one of the leading psychological organizations and helps provide ethical codes, standards, and guidelines for the field. The group offers membership, a variety of events, career resources, and various educational opportunities. Professionals can also take advantage of the group's wide range of publications and products, including videos, children's books, journals, magazines, and databases.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Organizational Psychology

The most common undergraduate degree for those wishing to pursue a master's degree in organizational psychology is a bachelor's degree in psychology or another subfield of psychology. Students with a psychology background may not have to take additional prerequisite courses for a master's degree in organizational psychology and may have already taken courses in areas such as research methods and statistics that will prove beneficial. However, most master's degree programs in organizational psychology do not require students to have a degree in any particular field. Students may also do well with undergraduate degrees in various areas of business or other fields that include coursework in psychology and statistics.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Organizational Psychology

Some students may wish to pursue licensure in the field to use the title 'psychologist', which will likely require them to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in I/O Psychology. There are some online PhD options available in the field. Some of these programs may offer a track for those who have already earned a master's in the field, and those with their master's may be able to finish their PhD in as little as 3 years. Depending on the PhD program, students may be able to further focus their studies with specializations like consulting psychology or evidence-based coaching. Although these programs are available online, some may require on-campus residencies.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants for Online Master's in Organizational Psychology Programs

When one considers the cost of tuition and fees, earning an online master's degree can be expensive. Students may need to offset some of the costs by pursuing various forms of financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should still be completed by graduate students to see if any grants or loans at the state and federal levels are available. Students may then look to their schools of interest and other outside organizations for additional grants and scholarships.

Professional organizations are also a great source for grants and scholarships for students and professionals in the field. The criteria for these different awards vary, as well as the amounts. In the case of psychology, the APA and other psychology-related groups, such as Psi Chi (psychology honor society) offer an array of scholarships and grants, including those specifically in I/O psychology. Some of these awards may be given based on research performed in the field. A couple of examples of available awards include:

  • APA Society Convention Research Awards- This scholarship is offered by Psi Chi for 2 undergraduate and 2 graduate students each year. Graduate students receive $500 for having the best research poster presentation at the annual APA convention.
  • Hogan Award for Personality and Work Performance- The APA offers this $1,500 award to the best publication in the field of I/O psychology examining how personality affects work performance. At least one writer on the publication must be a member of the APA.
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