What Do Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Do?

Typical Job Duties That I-O Psychologists Perform

I-O psychologists apply psychological principles to workplace issues. Image: David Wall / (CC BY 2.0)

Industrial-organizational psychology apply psychological principle and knowledge to situations in the workplace What exactly does this mean? What types of tasks do I-O psychologists perform?

Here is just a quick look at some of the major topics that an I-O psychologist might explore in his or her line of work:

Recruit and Select Employees

Hiring the right people for the job is important to the success of any company, and I-O psychologists often work alongside human resources personnel to select job candidates who are best suited to specific job roles.

This process can start by developing a job description and hiring criteria, creating advertising materials to publicize the position to potential candidates, and then screening applicants for the available positions. Developing screening tests is another task that industrial-organizational psychologists might be involved with.

Job Training and Development

I/O psychologists are also concerned with using psychology to help train employees. This can include assessing which types of skills are needed to perform certain jobs as well and teaching managers techniques that can help them successfully motivate and work with employees. An I/O psychologist might be charged with developing a program designed to help managers improve their communication skills, develop a strong management style, and enhance their problem-solving abilities.

Maximizing Wellness and Life Quality

I/O psychologists also work to help maintain and mentally and physically healthy workforce.

This process often begins with the development of job roles themselves, and I/O psychologists may be tasked with designing jobs that are rewarding. Creating a healthy work environment, developing fair compensation programs, and ensuring that employees have rights are just a few topics of interest in this area.

As businesses increasingly realize that health employees are better performing employees, the demand for industrial-organizational psychologist may increase. 


One topic that comes to mind when people think about I/O psychology is the area known as ergonomics, or the process of designing equipment and work procedures that are best-suited to human abilities and limitations. Professionals who specialize in this area are often charged with designing work-related products and environments that are safe and maximize productivity. For example, an I/O psychologist might help create a computer interface or assembly line equipment that is suited to the physical abilities of workers.

Organizational Development

The hierarchy and structure of a business organization can often impact its productivity and profitability. I/O psychologists will often evaluate how organizations are structured in order to discover weaknesses and bring about positive changes that can maximize efficiency, employee satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness.

Performance Management and Enhancement

Businesses are also concerned with helping their employees perform to the best of their potential, and I/O psychologists will often look for ways to help people in the workplace do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. This often involves performing assessments of existing employees and providing feedback on how managers perform their jobs and interact with employees.

As you can see, industrial-organizational psychology is a rich and varied field and professionals who work in this area perform a range of different tasks. This can be an exciting and rewarding career area with opportunities for growth. According to the 2014 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial-organizational psychology is expected to be the fastest-growing career over the next decade.

Learn more about this career:


Munchinsky, P. M. Psychology applied to work: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2000.

Wuang, M. Industrial/Organizational Psychology. In Discovering Psychology (4th ed.). Hockenbury & Hockenbury. Worth Publishers: New York; 2007.

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