The following article provides information about the most important things to know about a business psychology career. You will learn what business psychologists do, where they work, job duties, how to become one, most common career choice, and more.
What We Do
If you enjoy both the business world and the field of psychology, you may find that becoming a business psychologist, occupational psychologist or industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologist are possible career fits. Many psychology professionals are especially attracted to applying psychology scientific principles to the workplace. It allows the professional to work in an area of psychology that is less well known, but becoming more important with every passing year.
Occupational psychologists and related professions are concerned with grasping how individual employees and organizations behave and function on the job. They are using most of the same skills as regular psychologists, but they are applying them to companies and other organizations.
Business psychologists apply their scientific skills to various organizational and workplace settings:
- Commercial enterprises
- Labor unions
- Healthcare facilities
- Manufacturing facilities
The focus of their work can vary from applicant and employee tests to assessment to helping business managers develop into leaders. They also may work in areas as diverse as staffing, management, team work, cross communication between departments, workplace safety and work life balance.
By understanding why and how workers behave in their workplace, business psychologists are aiming to enhance the effectiveness and profitability of the company. Improvements in how the company is run can be done by training or retaining employees, as well as instituting new company policies that lead to better overall employee performance.
Occupational psychologists and business psychologists utilize psychological theories and methods to assist organizations and their employees to work in a more efficient manner. By using their psychological skills and knowledge, business psychologists can assist many organizations to correct workplace problems and issues.
Business psychologists may work for any type of company or entity, but they are often brought in by large corporations that have hundreds or even thousands of employees. Organizations that are under pressure from owners or shareholders to improve productivity also may work with a business psychologist.
Some of their job duties may include:
- Apply psychological research to the company or business entity
- Work with the HR department to improve employee performance
- Assist companies in hiring employees that are more qualified for specific roles
- Ensure that employees are the right fit for the jobs they are hired for
- Improve training and motivate employees
- Assess how employees are doing their jobs
- Increase the efficiency of the business
- Improve how the company is organized
- Help with corporate mergers so that they are as smooth as possible
Where We Work
A business psychologist usually works on a contractual basis with a medium sized or large company. These professionals also may be brought into universities, nonprofit organizations or government agencies to increase the efficiency and/or profitability of the organization. In some limited cases, a business psychologist may be hired on a full time basis and work with the HR department to train, motivate and hire employees.
How to Become
Like any psychology field, becoming a business or I/O psychologist requires extensive study. You will need to earn a master’s degree in psychology with a focus on business psychology, I/O psychology or occupational psychology.
After you have graduated with your master’s degree, you must seek licensure and pass a state examination to become a licensed psychologist.
One of the advantages of the business psychology field is that you can often work as a consultant with only a master’s degree. Most psychologists who want to practice independently in other specialties must have a doctorate degree.
Some of the typical courses you will take in a business psychology master’s program are:
- Applied Industrial Psychology
- Applied Psychological Research Methods I
- Applied Psychological Research Design
- Competency Modeling and Criterion Development
- Seminar: Industrial/Organizational Psychology
- Applied Measurement Theory
- Applied Organizational Psychology
- Applied Cross-Cultural Industrial/Organizational Psychology
- Workforce Training and Development
- Applied Organizational Development
- Applied Psychological Research Methods II
- Succession Planning and Leadership Development
- Capstone: Practicum and Skills Development
Employment in the psychology field generally will increase by 14% by 2026, which is faster than average compared to other professions. Employment for I/O and business psychologists is expected to increase by 6%, which is about as fast as average. It is possible in coming years that specific industries will see stronger growth for business psychologists. Some industries are more competitive than others, and there is a need for these companies to retain employees and train them to be as productive as possible. Business psychologists who have the most experience and possibly hold a doctoral degree may have the best business opportunities.
The median wage for all psychologists in 2016 was $75,300, and the top 10% earned $121,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median salary for I/O psychologists was $82,700.
The American Psychological Association states that the median salary with a master’s degree at the start is $65,000 per year. If you have a doctoral degree, your starting salary may be $81,000 per year. Overall, the APA states that the median salary in this field is $80,000 per year.
A business psychologist or I/O psychologist will have many possible career paths. These business psychology professionals often work as private consultants, but they may also work for companies in consumer products, finance, education, engineering or human resources.
Client options in the field are almost endless today. I/O psychologists can apply their psychology skills to small businesses, corporations, healthcare organizations, schools and more.
All psychologists typically earn their bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field first. After that, students need to earn their master’s degree in psychology with a focus on business or I/O psychology. Some may decide to increase their job options by earning their doctorate in the field as well. Earning a doctoral degree in business psychology can provide you with the most lucrative job possibilities.
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After you earn your degree and complete your internship with one or two years of supervised work, you can pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Professionals who are interested in a business psychology career will generally study I/O psychology when the are in college. I/O psychology is defined as the study of human behavior in all types of organizations and the workplace. This specialty is focused on individual, group and organizational behavior and applying that knowledge to problems at work and how to solve them effectively.
Training and Certifications
If you want to enhance your career potential as a psychologist, you can earn your board certification as a psychologist. Fewer than 5% of psychologists attain board certification. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) oversees board certification of psychologists in the United States.
The ABPP board certification process includes the following steps:
- Review of your education and credentials
- Peer-reviewed practice samples
- Oral examination that is conducted by psychologists that are board certified in your specialty
- Some ABPP boards may have a written exam as well
- Psychologists. (2015, Dec. 18). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm
- I/O Psychology Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/action/science/organizational/education-training.aspx