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Best Online Degrees in: Organizational Psychology

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Psychology

Organizational psychology, more often called industrial-organizational psychology, is a field that applies the principles of psychology to the workplace. Those who work in this field study the attitudes and behavior of employees, devise strategies to train and cultivate leaders within an organization, and evaluate what can be done to promote happier, and therefore more productive, employees. This degree path is a good fit for individuals who have an interest in both business and psychology, and who want to lead change in organizations by promoting worker satisfaction and fair treatment of employees. The field is also ideal for those with a background or interest in human resources or human capital.

One way a person can prepare themselves for the field is to enroll in an online organizational psychology degree program at the bachelor’s level. While a graduate degree will typically be necessary to find employment in the field, a bachelor’s degree in the field can help build a solid foundation for future graduate study. Bachelor’s degree programs in organizational psychology are less common than master’s programs, but a few are available online or in hybrid format, requiring a combination of campus-based work and online work. While traditional bachelor’s programs are set up to be completed in four years of full-time work using a semester schedule, online and hybrid programs in industrial-organizational psychology may follow a term schedule that allows students to accelerate the program, and complete it in less time, particularly if students bring prior credits into the program.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in an online industrial-organizational psychology program is designed to equip students with thorough knowledge in both business and the behavioral sciences. Students start out taking general education requirements, such as college writing, mathematics, the social and natural sciences, humanities and fine arts, and computing. Students will also take basic psychology courses, as well as core courses including psychological testing, research methods and statistical analysis, training and talent development, employee motivation methods, and often the following:

  • Organizational Behavior. This course examines human behavior at work, and the elements that influence work behavior, such as leadership, work-related attitudes, motivation, teamwork, career mobility, and communication. An emphasis is placed on research-based best practices that promote organizational effectiveness, identifying the common sources of workplace distress, and various strategies for reducing that distress.
  • Measurement of Human Performance. In this course, students learn various methods for measuring the work performance and productivity of various employees for the purpose of identifying an organization’s progress toward its goals. Objective and subjective forms of measurement are typically explored. Students learn how measuring workers’ performance is the launching point for driving organizational improvement, making sure employees efforts are in step with organizational goals, and as a means of identifying high-performing and low-performing employees for rewards and training and/or discipline.
  • Social Psychology. This course explores how people’s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are impacted by society. Students learn how societal influences of family, membership groups, religious groups, mass media, and others can shape a person’s thought processes and behavior. Special emphasis is typically placed on group behavior, group processes, intergroup behavior, and conformity.

Homework and projects in an online organizational psychology program tend to emphasize writing and research, as these are key skills these students will carry with them in the workplace. Students may be asked to complete several small writing projects individually or in groups, or focus their efforts on one major writing assignment spread throughout a single course. Large-scale writing assignments are often full empirical research reports written in APA style, including a literature review where students cite their research sources. An instructor may break large writing projects into parts and have students meet certain benchmarks for the project throughout the semester or term so that students do not get overwhelmed.

Many programs require or encourage an internship or fieldwork. Internships provide an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience in assessment and intervention in a real-world organizational environment. Students may measure workers’ performance at an approved site, and, based on the data they collect, present usable recommendations and strategies that organization can put into place in order to foster a more positive work environment, improve communications, and boost employee productivity.

Building a Career

To become an industrial-organizational psychologist, you will need to possess a minimum of a master’s degree in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Since entry into graduate programs of psychology is competitive, it is important to maintain a high GPA in your undergraduate course work, pursue undergraduate research experience, and to perform well in your undergraduate research courses, as graduate-level work emphasizes research in greater depth. Industrial-organizational psychologists work in a variety of industries, with the highest levels of employment being in: management, scientific, and technical consulting services; scientific research and development; state government; and colleges, universities, and professional schools, the BLS explains.

Average salaries for industrial-organizational psychologists are higher than the average for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists. The median yearly salary for industrial-organizational psychologists was $87,330 as of May 2010, the BLS noted. In addition, employment for these professionals is expected to grow 35% between 2010 and 2020. However, bear in mind that employment prospects and salaries can vary greatly based on where you live, your level of experience, the economy, and the size of your employer or client base.

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