Ph.D. Concentration in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

The Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology concentration emphasizes the application of psychological methods and principles to understanding human behavior in work settings. Faculty work closely with students to develop a course plan and research experiences that highlight personnel and organizational psychology or human factors and ergonomics. Many students also develop special expertise in quantitative research methods and occupational health psychology.

The design of the I/O concentration is predicated on the value of the scientist-practitioner model as the basis for educating I/O psychologists. Students are trained primarily as research scientists and secondarily as applied practitioners of the discipline.

As such, our program is characterized by a heavy emphasis on the development of research and measurement skills that can be used to address the problems of business, government and industry. The program is also designed to provide learning experiences for students to apply their research skills in organizational settings. Many students complete field research experience as part of their graduate training. This takes the form of formal full-time internships completed in any of a variety of corporate or government organizations or completion of approved field-based research project management activities. Those who plan to pursue academic careers are also urged to take advantage of opportunities for independent classroom teaching experiences.


During the first year of study, all students take a course in Research Methods and a two-course sequence in Quantitative Methods and Statistics. In addition, all I/O students take a common set of four "core" courses (Personnel Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Human Factors, and Occupational Health Psychology) that are completed during years one and two, and they enroll in Research & Practice of I/O Psychology every year until they complete their degrees.

Coursework beyond the common core is selected from a variety of advanced specialization seminars offered by faculty in the I/O program as well as courses offered by the Department of Psychological Sciences and other departments at the University. To meet the requirements of the I/O program, a student must complete at least four advanced I/O specialization seminars. These are chosen by students in consultation with their advisors from among those seminars that are available during the students’ period of study (see the list of Specialization Seminars below).

Although students will tailor the content of their specialization training to meet their own needs, the I/O concentration program has two general areas that students emphasize in their choice of coursework and research experiences:

  • Personnel and organizational psychology
  • Human factors/ergonomics. Many of our students also design their programs to emphasize occupational health psychology.

We currently have a training grant funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which provides support for graduate training in this area. In addition to seminars in substantive areas, students in the I/O program are advised to take Quantitative/Methods courses from the list specified below (beyond those required during the first year of study). As part of the graduate degree requirements in the Department of Psychological Sciences, students are also required to complete several elective courses outside the I/O program in order to meet the Department’s “breadth" requirement. Students are encouraged to select these electives in a manner that allows them to meet the American Psychological Association task force breadth recommendations for accreditation and licensing; students may also choose elective courses from other departments (e.g., Management, Communications, Engineering). Many of our students also take coursework that meets the requirements of relevant graduate certificate programs offered by the university (e.g., Occupational Health Psychology, Quantitative Research Methods).

Course Requirements

I/O Core Courses

  • Human Factors
  • Occupational Health Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Personnel Psychology

I/O Specialization Seminars

  • Design & Analysis of Human-Machine Systems
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Leadership
  • Occupational Health & Safety
  • Performance Appraisal
  • Selection and Placement
  • Simulation and Training
  • Work Motivation
  • Work Systems and Performance
  • Seminar in Industrial Psychology (selected topics: e.g., Occupational Stress, Work & Aging)

Quantitative/Methods Courses

  • Causal Modeling
  • Field Research Methods in Psychology
  • Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  • Item Response Theory (Educational Psychology)
  • Longitudinal Data Analysis
  • Measurement and Scaling
  • Meta-Analysis Theory and Practice
  • Multivariate Analysis (Statistics)
  • Multivariate Approaches to Survey Data
  • Research Methods in Experimental Social Psychology

Non-Course Requirements

Non-course requirements for the Ph.D. degree include completion of the MA degree, passing the General Examination, and preparation and defense of an acceptable Ph.D. dissertation. The MA degree, which is based in part on a master's thesis, is generally completed by the end of the second year of study. After completing the master's degree, many students opt to complete a Field Research experience in a business, government, industrial or research setting, which often occurs during the third year of study. When the MA and most course requirements have been met, the student must also pass a General Examination prior to working on the Ph.D. dissertation. The General Examination is usually taken just prior to students’ fourth year of study. Students’ remaining time of study is generally devoted to the dissertation and other research projects. Although the specifics will vary from student to student, the following “typical” course of study provides a sense of the timing of these activities.

Typical Course of Study

First Year Common Core Courses
  • Human Factors (or Occupational Health Psychology)
  • Organizational Psychology (or Personnel Psychology)
  • Research & Practice of I/O Psychology
  • Research Team in I/O Psychology
  • Experimental Social Psychology (Research Methods)
  • Foundations of Research in Psych Sciences I (Stat)
  • Foundations of Research in Psych Sciences II (Stat)
  • Research in Psychology/Thesis Prep
Second Year Common Core & Specialization
  • Human Factors (or Occupational Health Psychology)
  • Organizational Psychology (or Personnel Psychology
  • Research & Practice of Ind/Org Psychology
  • Research Team in I/O Psychology
  • Two Specialization Seminars
  • Quantitative/Methods or Elective course
  • Thesis Preparation and Completion (both semesters)
Third Year (or Fourth Year) Field Research Experience
  • Field Research Experience
  • Specialization Seminar
  • Quantitative/Methods course
Fourth Year (or Third Year) Specialization
  • Research & Practice of I/O Psychology
  • Research Team in I/O Psychology
  • Two Specialization Seminars
  • Quantitative/Methods or Elective course
  • Research in Psychology
  • General Examination
  • Preparation of Dissertation Proposal
Fifth Year Dissertation
  • Research & Practice of I/O Psychology
  • Research Team in I/O Psychology
  • Research in Psychology
  • Preparation and Defense of Dissertation

Research and Field Work

Field Research Experience

Many students opt to compete for full-time off-campus internships and other opportunities for field research experience in a variety of organizational settings. A sampling of organizations that have hosted internships fulfilling the field research requirement includes:

  • Aon Consulting
  • Compaq Corporation
  • Home Depot, IBM International
  • Liberty Mutual Safety Research Institute
  • NASA
  • PepsiCo
  • Pfizer Corporation
  • S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. West
  • Volpe National Transportation Research Center

Industrial Psychology Applications Center

The Industrial Psychology Applications Center (IPAC) is a non-profit applied research center that offers a range of professional services to organizations. IPAC projects are staffed by faculty and doctoral students in the I/O concentration. By establishing partnerships with public-and private-sector organizations, IPAC provides a forum for doctoral students in our program to interact professionally with organizational representatives and apply classroom knowledge to organizational problems.

Laboratory Facilities and Resources

Students have access to several research facilities dedicated to the study of work behavior. These include two suites of rooms designed for the collection of data from participants in laboratory studies, as well as workspace for development of survey measures and the collection and analysis of field data.

Laboratories are equipped with networked computers and specialized software for data collection and analysis. Specialized research equipment is available to support research on performance judgments, psychophysiological processes, team coordination, situational awareness, and acquisition of expertise. Equipment and support are also available to students for the design, electronic scoring, and online administration of survey measures, and preparation of digitized video research materials.