University of Minnesota
Department of Psychology

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Industrial/Organizational Psychology More Info

Since a major objective of the program is to train both good scientists and good practitioners, the PhD is directed toward developing proficiencies in scholarship and research while also providing opportunities for acquiring practitioner skills. For example, students can take advantage of local employment opportunities where firsthand experience in doing field research may be gained. However, it is our strong belief that the primary emphasis should be on scholarship, research, and the communication of what you know to your colleagues (i.e., publication). These elements are fundamental to an academic/research career and to the practice of I/O psychology. The most effective practitioners are those who can define new problems, collect new data, and develop new methods. To support this orientation, we require that each student, in collaboration with the faculty (and perhaps with other students), develop a first year research project. There are no credit requirements for the first year project, but it should lead to a conference presentation or journal submission, or to a written proposal for additional research. This provides critical research experience for the student and an early opportunity for developing methodological and substantive areas of expertise.

Within I/O psychology, a student may choose to specialize in such areas as personnel psychology, training and development, individual assessment, work motivation, group and organizational processes, or psychometrics. Such specialization may be achieved with courses in counseling psychology, advanced seminars in industrial/organizational psychology, personality assessment, social psychology, cognition, psychometrics, statistics, speech communications, sociology, industrial relations, marketing, political science, or management.

While it is difficult to describe a typical graduate student program, the following features characterize most of them. Since the department requires each PhD candidate to satisfy a set of General Distribution Requirements by taking relevant courses in each of four areas (individually chosen), most students spend a significant portion of their first two years taking the relevant courses. Most students then begin the I/O seminar at the start of their second year. This sequence runs for two years and is intended to examine all the major I/O topic areas in depth. It is also an opportunity to build professional identification with the field and to develop professional associations and friendships with students and faculty that will last for years to come.

After completion of the three-semester I/O seminar sequence students take a week-long take-home written qualifying examination. The examination has two components. Roughly half of the exam deals with material in the common core of courses taken by all students (i.e., the seminar sequence), and thus is common to all students taking the exam. The other portion of the examination is tailored to the interests of each individual student. With the approval of the advisor, the student designates six topics for examination in greater depth than the common core. The choice of topics may be a natural outgrowth of experiences in the program (e.g., topics the student pursued in depth in the seminar series; topics pursued in first year and subsequent research projects; topics examined in specialty seminars). The exam involves short and long essay questions which sample the common core and the student's chosen topics of interest.

The most significant single aspect of your graduate training is early and continued involvement with research leading to the completion of your PhD dissertation. Most often this is accomplished in conjunction with a fellowship, assistantship, or internship. Since a major objective of the program is to build research skills, our intent is to provide experience in doing both "basic" and "applied" research (although the difference between the two is not always easily distinguishable).

One question that most prospective students ask concerns job opportunities. Currently, the job market for PhD graduates in I/O psychology is quite firm, and there are more good openings than there are good people to fill them. In the recent past, our students have opted for a wide variety of positions. Roughly one-third have gone into academic careers. The other major categories of employment are corporate personnel research, firms specializing in applied behavioral science research, governmental research laboratories, and consulting firms of many kinds.

The content of I/O psychology as a subfield of psychology is very broad. It ranges from the study of basic human abilities important for task performance to the investigation of managerial problem-solving behavior to a consideration of how work motivation is influenced by characteristics of the organization versus characteristics outside the organization. Since the field cannot be described in a few paragraphs, the newcomer is advised to take an undergraduate course or two if possible and/or peruse a number of textbooks in the field and relevant chapters in the Annual Review of Psychology. The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology also maintains a website at

To give some idea of the range of topics that are possible, a sample of titles of recent dissertations done by our graduate students is shown.

In addition to our core I/O faculty, the Department of Industrial Relations in the Carlson School of Management also has six faculty members whose training and/or research are psychological in orientation: Joyce Bono, Michelle Duffy, Theresa M. Glomb, Lisa Leslie, Jason Shaw, and Connie Wanberg. There are also prominent organizational psychologists on the faculty of the Department of Strategic Management and the Program in Human Resource Development. Taken together, they represent a major resource for graduate education that we believe is second to none.