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What You Need to Know About Industrial-Organizational Psychology Master’s Programs

In the past few years, global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and social trends such as the Great Resignation and quiet quitting have highlighted the importance of employee satisfaction and engagement.

As more organizations recognize that they must prioritize individual and team performance to drive growth in a volatile economy, demand for professionals with the skills to improve organizational relations and functioning is rising. According to labor market research firm Lightcast Analytics, demand for industrial-organizational psychologists in the United States will increase by 9.1% by 2032.

One way to join this rewarding profession is to earn an industrial-organizational psychology master’s degree or a master’s in a related field. But before you embark on a degree, it’s important to understand what outcomes and career options you can expect. 

What Is a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

A master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology (often called I/O psychology)  is a graduate program that focuses on optimizing workplaces using psychology principles and research. These programs, which prepare students to work within organizations of all types and sizes, apply the field’s knowledge of human behavior to areas including performance management, motivating and engaging employees, training and development and workplace culture. 

Who Is an Industrial-Organizational Psychology Master’s Program For?

A master’s in I/O is well suited for individuals who wish to positively impact individual and organizational productivity and outcomes. Professionals who choose this field are deeply interested in human behavior and what drives decision-making. 

This degree may be a good fit if you want to work in fields like organizational development, consulting, human resources, or training and development. It is not a clinical degree and does not involve diagnosing or treating individuals. 

What matters most when choosing a master’s program? Compare features, benefits and cost to find the right school for you.


What Will I Learn in an I/O Master’s?

Specific program curricula vary between programs. However, most I/O master’s degree programs include coursework in the following areas. 

  • Core psychological theories and research related to individual motivation, group behavior, interpersonal relationships and more. 
  • Psychology principles related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 
  • The principles of effective leadership and how to coach and develop leaders.

You can also expect to build actionable skills, including:

  • How to conduct and understand quantitative and qualitative research. 
  • How to design and implement employee training and development programs.
  • How to motivate and engage employees and build a positive workplace culture.

What’s the Difference Between an I/O Master’s and a Business Psychology Master’s?

Industrial-organizational psychology and business psychology are closely related, and both build on core psychological knowledge to explore human behavior in an organizational setting. However, there are key differences between the two approaches. 

“I/O psychology uses a top-down approach that starts with the organization, while business psychology uses a bottom-up approach that starts with the individual,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Ferezan, a faculty member in Franklin University’s M.S. in Business Psychology program. “Business psychology teaches us to suspend judgment and to understand another person’s worldview, which allows us to communicate and work with them more effectively. This knowledge can also help us understand team functioning and adjust team structures to improve outcomes.” 

What Are the Requirements to Enroll in an I/O Master’s?

You'll need a bachelor's degree to enroll in an industrial-organizational psychology graduate program. For many I/O programs, the subject area of the bachelor’s degree doesn’t matter, while some require undergraduate study of psychology or a related field. Many schools require a minimum undergraduate GPA as well as graduate entry examinations such as the GRE. You may also need to submit additional materials, such as letters of recommendation. 

Franklin’s M.S. in Business Psychology is open to graduates of any accredited bachelor’s degree program, regardless of major, and does not require test scores. 

How Much Does an I/O Master’s Cost?

Graduate degrees can be expensive – but if you’re savvy, it’s possible to find programs that deliver excellent quality for a better value. The cost of a master’s varies significantly by institution and delivery method. Online industrial-organizational psychology degrees are often more cost-effective than in-person options and come with the added benefit of cutting transportation expenses. 

According to US News and World Report, the cost of an online master’s in I/O psychology can be up to $48,000. It’s also possible to earn a degree for less. Franklin’s master’s in business psychology costs less than $30,000. 

How Long Does an I/O Master’s Take?

The time it takes to complete an I/O master’s degree can also vary depending on the school’s requirements and an individual student’s other obligations and priorities. Most degree programs take about two years of full-time study to complete. Some schools, like Franklin, offer accelerated options that allow students to complete their degrees in as few as 14 months.

How Can I Choose an I/O Master’s Program?

Choosing the right program is a highly individual decision. If you’re deciding between a few schools, reach out to faculty, admissions staff or students to get a better sense of what sets the program apart. Factors to consider include:

  • Cost
  • Time to completion
  • Flexibility (online vs. in-person, scheduling considerations)
  • Entry requirements
  • Specific curricular focus areas
  • Whether faculty are practitioners in the field
  • What level of career support you can expect from the university

It’s also important to consider whether a related program, such as business psychology, might be a better fit. 

Advance Your Career at Franklin

Today’s businesses face enormous headwinds, ranging from geopolitical uncertainty to rapidly rising inflation. Professionals who offer theoretical psychology knowledge and practical business acumen will thrive in this context. 

If you’re seeking a degree that will help you develop both of those skill sets, consider Franklin’s M.S. in Business Psychology. You’ll explore the latest in neuroscience and psychology research and learn how those concepts apply to everything from marketing to performance appraisal processes. 

Franklin’s supportive faculty and flexible online program allow you to build new competencies without missing a beat in your personal and professional lives. You can earn this transformative degree in as few as 14 months. 

Find out more about Franklin’s unmatched Master’s in Business Psychology program.

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