Business Psychology Degree and Career Guide
Business psychology, more commonly called industrial and organizational (I/O or I-O) psychology, is known as one of the top-paying psychology fields.1 Recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a specialty in professional psychology since 1996, industrial and organizational psychology is the study of human behavior specifically in the workplace.2 Industrial and organizational psychologists analyze and interpret workplace dynamics at both the individual level and the group level and offer solutions that improve the health of the organization as well as its employees. The Wall Street Journal identified I/O psychology as the fastest-growing field within psychology in an article about the hottest jobs of 2018.3 The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) considers it a specialty under the umbrella of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology, which includes I/O psychology and consulting psychology.4
While some business and I/O psychologists are able to find entry-level positions with bachelor’s degrees, most business psychologists obtain a master’s or doctoral degree in the field, and some become licensed in psychology in their state and/or certified by organizations such as the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP). There are several schools offering bachelor’s programs I/O psychology, but over twice as many award an Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the field. A bachelor’s degree in psychology is ordinarily preferred for entrance into one of these advanced degree programs.
- There are 123 colleges and universities with industrial and organizational psychology programs.5
- 5 schools offer a certificate in industrial and organizational psychology.5
- No schools offer an associate’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology.5
- 37 schools offer a bachelor’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology.5
- 88 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in industrial and organizational psychology.5
For not-for-profit colleges and universities.
Table of Contents
- Business Psychology Degree Requirements and Coursework
- Top-Ranked Business Psychology Degree Programs
- Best Value Schools with On-Campus Business Psychology Programs
- Select Business Psychology Degree Programs
- Business Psychologist Career Information
- Becoming a Business Psychologist
- Job Description
- Salary and Job Outlook
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Student Reviews
Degree Requirements and Coursework
In a business psychology or I/O psychology degree program, students will learn about the dynamics of the workplace, human resources management, employee training and development, performance appraisal and employee motivation, and how to effect developmental change. Since I/O psychology is already a subfield of psychology, it is considered a specialization (or concentration, specialty, or emphasis) in psychology, and further specializations are not usually offered.
Advanced degree program requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 and minimum GRE scores. Some programs prefer an undergraduate degree in psychology or business. Many programs are small and extremely selective. Terminal master’s programs in I/O psychology or business psychology typically take around two years to complete, and doctoral degrees in the field usually take around three to five years to complete and often include a master’s degree. Check with the schools of your choice to see whether the master’s degree is stand-alone or whether it is only granted as part of the doctoral program. Sample coursework for students of business psychology degree programs may include:
- Advanced Industrial Psychology
- Advanced Personnel Psychology
- Collective Bargaining and Arbitration
- Employee Selection
- Developmental Psychology
- Motivation and Job Attitudes
- Training and Development
Top-Ranked Business Psychology Degree Programs
Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s Top I-O PhD Programs Overall 2018
- Portland State University (#1; on campus)
- Pennsylvania State University (#2; on campus)
- Michigan State University (#3; on campus)
- Texas A&M University (#4; on campus)
- Old Dominion University (#5; on campus)
- University of South Florida (#6; on campus)
- Rice University (#7; on campus)
- University of Georgia (#8; on campus)
- Teachers College, Columbia University (#9; on campus)
- George Mason University (#10; on campus)6
Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s Top I-O MA/MS Programs Overall 2018
- Xavier University (#1; on campus)
- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (#2; on campus)
- Appalachian State University (#3; on campus)
- New York University (#4; on campus)
- Middle Tennessee State University (#5; on campus)
- San Diego State University (#6 tie; on campus)
- University of Maryland, College Park (#6 tie; hybrid)
- George Mason University (#8; online)
- Missouri State University (#9; on campus)
- Teachers College, Columbia University (#10; on campus)6
US News & World Report’s Best Industrial and Organizational Psychology Programs 2017
US News ranked I/O psychology programs at the doctoral level; therefore, all of the following rankings are for PhDs in I/O psychology, but some schools may offer master’s-level programs as well.
- Michigan State University (#1; on campus)
- Bowling Green State University (#2 tie; on campus)
- Georgia Institute of Technology (#2 tie; on campus)
- University of Minnesota–Twin Cities (#2 tie; on campus)
- University of South Florida (#2 tie; on campus)7
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Industrial/Organizational Psychology Programs
Many public and not-for-profit colleges and universities across the US offer on-campus business or industrial-organizational psychology programs at the graduate level. We researched these schools and narrowed the list down to those with the highest undergraduate graduation rates (60% or above) and the lowest undergraduate net price (under $20,000 per year) to include on our list. A higher graduation rate tends to be an indicator of a school’s success, and a low net price is important to prospective students as they consider the return on their investment. We also included other helpful information, such as degree names, US News & World Report rankings and the percentage of tenured faculty.
|School||Graduate Degree(s)||US News National Rank8||Grad Rate5||% Tenured Faculty9||Net Price5|
|CUNY Bernard M Baruch College||MS Industrial/Organizational Psychology||NR||70%||29%||$4,544|
|Appalachian State University||MA Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management||NR||73%||39%||$10,473|
|Missouri University of Science and Technology||MS Industrial Organizational Psychology;|
Certificate Applied Workplace Psychology;
Certificate Statistical Methods in Psychology
|Montclair State University||MS Industrial/Organizational Psychology||#169 tie||65%||23%||$15,224|
|University of Central Florida||MS Industrial/Organizational Psychology;|
PhD Industrial/Organizational Psychology
|University of Georgia||MA Industrial-Organizational Psychology;|
PhD Industrial-Organizational Psychology
|SUNY at Albany||MA Industrial/Organizational Psychology;|
PhD Industrial/Organizational Psychology
|Colorado State University-Fort Collins||Master of Applied Industrial/Organizational Psychology;|
PhD Industrial/Organizational Psychology
|St. Mary’s University||MS Industrial/Organizational Psychology||NR||63%||33%||$17,806|
|Clemson University||MS Industrial-Organizational Psychology;|
PhD Industrial-Organizational Psychology
|Texas A&M University-College Station||Certificate Industrial/Organizational Psychology;|
MS Industrial/Organizational Psychology;
PhD Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Select Business Psychology Degree Programs
Traditional Bachelor’s Programs
At Baldwin Wallace University, students can pursue an interdisciplinary bachelor’s in industrial and organizational psychology (I/O) psychology that prepares them for graduate school or a human resources career. The program is a second major available to Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Business Administration majors that comprises 33 credits in addition to the coursework in the primary major. Required courses include Human Resource Management, Research Methods, Psychological Testing, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and a capstone project. Electives include courses in psychology and business, but cannot be used for both the primary major and the I/O major. These courses include Human Relations and Group Dynamics; Business Communications; Employment Law; Personality Psychology; and Cognitive Processes.
CUNY Bernard M Baruch College (Baruch College) offers a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology through its Zicklin School of Business that prepares graduates for further graduate study or for entry-level careers in government, marketing, advertising, occupational analysis, or market research. The major itself comprises 25 credits and includes coursework such as Research Methods in Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences, Cognitive Psychology, and Psychology of Organizational Training and Development. Baruch College also offers a Master of Science (MS) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology.
Traditional Master’s Programs
Appalachian State University (App State) offers an interdisciplinary master’s program in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management (IOHRM) through its Department of Psychology and Department of Management, preparing graduates to work in business or government jobs. In line with the educational standards set by the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Society for Human Resource Management, the IOHRM program at App State emphasizes theories, methods, and research in behavioral sciences and the application of these to address business issues such as selection, motivation of employees, training, performance reviews, and organizational change. An internship is required for all students to gain real-world experience in the field. Students have completed internships with such companies as Delhaize, Volvo Financial Services, T-Mobile, Texas Instruments, and Reynolds America. A thesis is optional, and most students complete the master’s program in less than two years.
Minnesota State University (MSU) offers a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. The program emphasizes research and consulting and prepares graduates for careers in consulting, human resources, and market research. Students complete 44 credits to receive their MA, including a three-month internship and a thesis, and participate in real-world projects that prepare them to enter the workforce. A bachelor’s degree in psychology is preferred for admission, but prospective students who have a bachelor’s degree in another subject must have completed a minimum of 15 credits in psychology, including courses in introductory psychology, statistics, research methods, and social psychology. A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 is required for entry, as well as GRE scores with a Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning score in the 35th percentile and an Analytical Writing score of 3.0 or higher.
Touro College is home to a master’s program in Industrial-Organizational Psychology that equips students with the tools and knowledge needed to increase organizational effectiveness as well as develop and implement sound business strategies. A required 240-hour internship included in the curriculum helps students translate academic learning to real-world practice. The program requires 36 credit hours and can typically be completed in four to six semesters. Courses take place on the school’s Manhattan campus during weekday evenings as well as via live online webinars, though all course finals must be taken on campus. Touro College offers competitive tuition rates as well as financial aid opportunities, including work-study positions for qualified students.
The University of Tulsa’s Kendall College of Arts and Sciences offers three graduate programs in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology: a Master of Arts (MA), a Juris Doctor and Master of Arts (JD/MA) combination degree, and a PhD. The MA program comprises 37 credit hours, including 16 hours of I-O core courses, six hours of general psychology courses, nine hours of research methodology courses, and six hours of electives, with a thesis option available but not required. In addition, students must complete an internship of 200 hours and pass a comprehensive I-O psychology exam before obtaining their degree. The JD/MA joint-degree program offers a way for students to complete two degree programs at once, saving them 19 credits hours. There are two curriculum options for the JD/MA: one consists of 31 hours of psychology and 81 hours of law, and the other consists of 34 credit hours of psychology and 78 hours of law. The PhD in I-O Psychology requires 90 credit hours and trains graduates for roles in government and consulting settings or research and teaching positions at the university level.
Traditional Doctoral Programs
George Washington University’s (GWU) Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers a doctoral program in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology that culminates in a PhD for successful candidates and covers areas such as personnel selection, training and development, motivation at work, teams, and organizational development. The entire program consists of 72 credit hours, including 15 in methods/statistics, 21 in the I/O core, six in psychology, 15 in electives, and 15 in a dissertation. Admission is highly competitive; in past years, only three applicants out of 90 were accepted into the program. Prospective students should have an undergraduate degree in psychology, or at least have significant coursework in the field, to be considered for admission. The average undergraduate GPA for those enrolled in the doctoral program was 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. In addition to transcripts, applications must include three letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a statement of purpose essay. It typically takes students five years to complete the doctoral program, and candidates are expected to be full-time students.
Michigan State University’s Department of Psychology offers a PhD in Organizational Psychology, which focuses on quantitative methods and I/O psychology. The degree is research-driven, targeted at students who intend to become faculty at universities or to conduct research in major corporations, government, or other organizations. The program maintains a student population of around 15 to 20 full-time students and typically staffs around nine primary faculty. The entire PhD program takes an average of five years to complete, with the integrated master’s program taking two years, comprehensive exams taking place during the third year, and the fourth and fifth years being devoted to an internship and dissertation work. While some students complete the program in four years, most students choose to complete it in five years so that they can be more involved in their research and applied projects. As the program is heavily research-focused, students should expect to be involved in research at all times during their five years in the program. However, the program also boasts flexibility, allowing students to shape their study to more closely match their interests. Admission into the program is competitive, with incoming classes being as low as two to three students and as many as seven students.
Texas A&M University offers a doctoral program in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology with a major emphasis on academic careers, but also provides the skills needed for future practitioners. Since Texas A&M aims to enhance its national reputation in the field, most students collaborate with faculty in applied research projects during their studies. An average of 20 full-time students are enrolled in the program at any time, so admittance is highly competitive, with only three to four new students admitted every year (out of an average of 70 applicants). The I/O PhD can be completed in five full-time years, and all students must participate in a weekly colloquium series featuring guest speakers from various I/O positions. Formal internships are not required but are highly recommended for students who wish to become practitioners. Introductory coursework in statistics, experimental design, I/O psychology, management and test construction, and social psychology is recommended before applying.
The University of Guelph offers a Master of Arts (MA) and a PhD program in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology. The two programs are considered an integrated whole, so applicants should only apply if they intend to complete both degrees. The master’s program takes two years and the doctoral program takes three years to complete, so students should expect to spend five years in the entire program from start to finish. Prerequisites include an honors psychology degree and high GRE scores both in the general exam and the psychology exam (the GRE Subject Test in Psychology is strongly suggested but not required for admission). Students with a high undergraduate GPA, especially those with high scores in methods and statistics, and who submit strong letters of reference with their applications, are among the most competitive. Courses include Employee Performance, Social Practices in the Workplace, Consulting in I-O Psychology, Employee Development, and Workplace Motivation and Leadership.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Colorado State University (CSU) offers an online Master of Applied Industrial/Organizational Psychology (MAIOP). The degree is practitioner-oriented, providing practical knowledge and skills focused on research and consulting. The MAIOP program consists of a total of 38 graduate hours and can be completed in six semesters by taking two courses each semester. No thesis is required. Coursework is focused on quantitative research methods and includes courses such as Applied Measurement Theory; Applied Organizational Development; Competency Modeling and Criterion Development; and Succession Planning and Leadership Development. Students will be grouped into virtual consulting teams who complete a series of projects together. The program is self-paced, allowing students to work while obtaining their degree. The GRE is required for admission, as well as a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework and a grade of B or higher for statistics courses.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers an online Master of Science (MS) degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. SNHU’s MS program offers its students a foundation of psychology research methods that can be applied in real-world organizational contexts. Coursework includes Measurement and Assessment, Motivation in the Workplace, Psychology of Leadership, and Organizational Consulting. The 36-credit online degree program adequately prepares students to apply psychology principles in organizations or to pursue a doctoral degree in the field. A Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in psychology is preferred, but a bachelor’s degree in another field can be accepted as long as the applicant has completed coursework in social science statistics and social science research methods. GRE scores are not required for entry. A capstone and seminar course ends the program, in which students execute a faculty- and peer-reviewed project focusing on a contemporary issue in the field.
Business Psychologist Career Information
How to Become a Business Psychologist
Business psychology can usually be practiced with a minimum of a master’s degree in the field. Consultants in business psychology can be hired by corporations with a graduate degree. Those who wish to become licensed as industrial and organizational psychologists need a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or a PhD in Psychology in any state. They must also complete one to two years of supervised experience in their field and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). While the steps for becoming licensed as an I/O psychologist vary by state, the basic steps are:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.
- Earn a master’s degree in business or industrial-organizational psychology.
- Get hired by a public or private organization and begin practicing in non-clinical business psychology roles, if desired.
- Earn an accredited PsyD or PhD in Psychology with specialization in Business Psychology.
- Accumulate the supervised clinical experience required by your state.
- Pass the required exam(s), including the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).
- Seek I/O certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP), if desired.
- Apply for and receive a psychology license from your state psychology board.
- Begin practicing as a business psychologist.
- Complete continuing education requirements in order to keep your license current.
Business psychologists study human individual, group, and organizational behavior within the workplace and apply their knowledge to help solve work-related problems. They seek to improve employee performance and motivation and help business leaders evaluate and develop their employees as well as effectively plan for succession. I/O psychologists may work in any organization or workplace setting, including manufacturing, commercial enterprises, labor unions, government agencies, and healthcare facilities. On a day-to-day basis, they may research methods of employee assessment, leadership development, workplace safety, work-life balance, and diversity. Business psychologists with a PhD may hold academic positions at colleges or universities. Others may work in human resources departments or work as independent consultants.
I/O psychologists can work in a variety of different job settings, depending on their qualifications and interests. A master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology will typically qualify you for work in the private sector, while a doctoral degree will qualify you to work in academia and prepare you for state licensure. Specific job titles may include:
- Business psychologist*
- Business coach
- Human resources coordinator
- I/O psychologist*
- Organizational development consultant
- Organizational effectiveness consultant
- Organizational psychologist*
- Personnel psychologist*
*A doctoral degree is usually required for this job title.
Salary and Job Outlook
I/O psychologists are well-paid, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting the 2019 average annual salary at $111,150.5 In fact, industrial-organizational psychologists are among the highest-paid in the entire field of psychology according to the BLS, commanding average annual salaries above those of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists.6 Most business psychologists are employed in the industry of scientific research and development services, which is also the highest-paying industry for I/O psychologists, at an average of $162,590 per year.5
The outlook for I/O psychologists is positive, with the BLS predicting employment growth of 13% between 2018 and 2028.6 This is much faster than the average growth predicted for all occupations though slightly lower than projections for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists (15% growth) and the overall psychologist category (14% growth).6
- The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP): The SIOP is the APA’s Division of Industrial-Organizational Psychology (Division 14), and has over 8,000 members who enjoy benefits like subscriptions to newsletters, networking, and savings on conference fees.
- American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP): Recently, the ABPP dissolved their I/O board and replaced it with the ABOBCP. This page offers important information about the specialty, certification requirements, and more.
- Alliance for Organizational Psychology (AOP): A federation of work, industrial, and organizational psychology societies around the world, the AOP provides access to white papers and works to promote the science and practice of organizational psychology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of degree do I need to become a business psychologist?
While it is possible to practice I/O psychology with just a bachelor’s degree, it is not common. Most I/O psychologists have an advanced degree. A master’s degree will qualify you to work in private or public companies and in consulting roles. A doctoral degree will afford aspiring business psychologists even more opportunities, such as working in research or teaching roles at colleges or universities. A doctoral degree is also required for prospective psychologists who wish to work in a clinical setting and use the title “psychologist;” in addition, state licensure is required for these roles.
How long will it take me to get an I/O degree?
The length of time it will take you to get a business psychology degree depends on the program, but most master’s programs take an average of two years and doctoral programs take an average of three to five years, so within five years it is possible to complete a terminal degree in the field (though some students may take longer).
How do I become an industrial/organizational psychologist?
To be an I/O psychologist, you will typically need a graduate degree in industrial/organizational psychology. A master’s degree will qualify you for most jobs in public and private organizations without any further certification. If your goal is to be a clinician (practicing psychologist) or work in higher education, you will most likely need a doctoral degree. Check with your psychology board in your state for more information about licensure as a psychologist.
What is industrial-organizational psychology?
I/O psychology, or business psychology, is the practice of studying the dynamics of the workplace and making recommendations on how to improve the company culture, relationships among employees, and productivity.
How much do business psychologists make?
Business, or I/O, psychologists are among the highest-paid psychologists in the country. According to the BLS, they earned an average of $111,150 per year in 2019, far above clinical, counseling, and school psychologists, who earned an average of $87,450 in the same year.10,12
65 Broadway #2
New York, NY 10006
The I/O Psychology program at Touro College is fairly new for this school. However, this department is growing very quickly. This is happening as a result of hard work and dedication of all department members of this program. My experience with Touro College has been a journey. This is because during my first year I knew very little about this program. Then with the help of professors and well-structured courses, I was able to find my passion for organization development and HR practices. Now, I have been working for almost one year for an organization and with the help of Touro also promoted to an HR Generalist role. Overall, Touro College has been a very positive experience for me.” – Student at Touro College
1. Rivier University, Top 5 Highest-Paying Psychology Careers: https://www.rivier.edu/academics/online/resources/program-resources/top-5-highest-paying-psychology-careers-rivier-university/
2. American Psychological Association, Specialities and Proficiencies, Industrial and Organizational Psychology: https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/industrial
3. The Wall Street Journal, “What Will Be the Hot Jobs of 2018?”: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704026204575266342935418962
4. American Board of Professional Psychology, Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology: https://abpp.org/Applicant-Information/Specialty-Boards/Organizational-Business-Consulting-Psychology.aspx
5. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
6. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, I-O Graduate Program Rankings Based on Student Perceptions: https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/TIP/TIP-Back-Issues/2018/April/ArtMID/20647/ArticleID/1394/I-O-Graduate-Programs-Rankings-Based-on-Student-Perceptions
7. US News & World Report Best Industrial and Organizational Psychology Programs
8. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
9. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193032.htm
11. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-5
12. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019, Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm