What is meant by organizational psychology?

  • The study of the structure of an organization and of the ways in which the people in it interact, usually undertaken in order to improve the organization.
  • When you hear the words ‘organizational psychology’ you may picture a psychiatrist stationed in the office staff lounge next to the coffee maker, or a psychologist who can help you rearrange your sock drawer. But organizational psychology is something different.
  • Sometimes called industrial-organizational psychology, business psychology, or simply ‘work psychology’ – organizational psychology is the scientific study and application of psychological principles to organizations and the workplace.
  • It’s the science of how people think and behave at work. If this is your first time hearing about organizational psychology, you’re not alone. It’s a small field, but there are a number of reasons why you should care about organizational psychology.

Organizational psychology helps people :

  • From finding the right work-life balance to helping people become more satisfied in their job to workplace safety, organizational psychology helps people have a safe and satisfying work life. Given the amount of time you spend at work, it isn’t hard to picture the impact on well-being for an individual lacking these.
  • Organizational psychology has helped wounded veterans transition to civilian life and been used to fight poverty. Organizational psychologists are working to reduce workplace sexual harassment, prevent discrimination, and advocate for living wages globally. Through the world of work, organizational psychology acts as a lever to improve the lives of others.

Organizational psychology helps organizations:

  • Though you are unlikely to find an employee on a company’s rosters with the title of ‘organizational psychologist‘, organizational psychology is being used to better thousands of organizations worldwide.
  • By helping organizations pick people for the job that are a better fit, build a better workplace culture, and reduce the number of employees who leave a company organizational psychology is not only improving the lives of employees but improving organizations as well.
  • The United Nations is using organizational psychology to accomplish its humanitarian goals. The US federal government is using organizational psychology to train their employees and develop their leaders. NASA is using organizational psychology to get astronauts to Mars. Organizational psychology is the scientific study of work, and through using this science, organizations can flourish.

Organizational psychology is growing:

  • Though still small compared to some other subfields of psychology, the field of organizational psychology is growing rapidly. The number of members of organizational psychology’s national professional organization called the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) more than doubled from 1997–2018.
  • In fact, industrial-organizational psychologist was estimated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to the fastest growing job in the US from 2012–2022. With the beneficial, impactful work being done, it is easy to see why individuals would be attracted to the field in addition to a competitive salary and wide range of different career paths.

What does an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Do?

Early industrial-organizational psychologists mainly focused on job efficiency, such as optimizing the number of items a factory worker could inspect per workday. Today, I-O psychologists use scientific methods to apply psychological principles across a wide range of areas, including administration, human resources, personnel psychology, marketing, management, and training. Their ultimate goal is to identify and solve problems relating to the workplace.

Today’s industrial-organizational psychologists may:

  • Determine barriers to company growth and employee productivity
  • Design measures to examine workplace performance and job satisfaction
  • Formulate more effective training programs
  • Optimize the work environment to promote quality of life for employees
  • Identify core personality traits that work best for specific roles and skills
  • Help companies select and promote the best candidates
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of newly implemented training programs or workplace protocols
  • Research consumer behavior and marketing trends

Industrial-organizational psychologists may be employed in a variety of settings, such as consulting firms, I-O psychology consulting firms, research and development firms, colleges and universities, large corporations, psychology companies, and community organizations. In addition to working in-house or by consultation, I-O psychologists also work with research groups to explore aspects of employment such as using research methods to improve employee engagement, job analysis, company culture, sexual harassment, and stigmas in the workplace.


  • Organizational psychology as a field is growing, and with it grows the positive impact it’s having on individuals and organizations.
  • Who Should Study Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Students who are interested in applying psychological principles to real-world setting should consider industrial-organizational psychology. If you have a strong interest in psychology as well as related subjects such as product design, computers, statistics, and engineering, this may be the ideal field for you.


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