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I-O Career Paths in Industry

I-O Career Paths → Industry

Click on a developmental level (box) to view additional details.

The career paths for industry were found to have five job levels (see figure above). Employees are often hired as an individual contributor and can advance as an individual contributor in a non-management track, or they can pursue a management track where they are responsible for supervising others within the organization. However, there is tremendous variability in the career levels available and the nature of work (e.g., specialist vs generalist).

Internal I-O Psychologists can usually pursue a specialist role (typically located within an HR department) focusing within one specific I-O related area (e.g., selection, training, or talent management); or a generalist role (often located outside of HR departments in organizations that typically employ few I-O Psychologists overall) working across multiple I-O related areas (e.g., selection, training, and talent management), most often with multiple departments or client groups external to HR (e.g., Finance).

Roughly 20% of the interviewees in this study worked in external consulting firms prior to obtaining an industry position. This experience helped the interviewees to:

  1. Think through problems more quickly because they had experienced how different problems were solved in a variety of other organizations;
  2. Have the opportunity to do projects earlier in their careers than if they had gone straight to working within an industry;
  3. Know what questions to ask their internal clients when discussing projects; and
  4. Develop specialty skills that may not have developed in a small internal company that doesn’t have specialist roles.

Across all levels of the Consulting career paths the following competencies and experiences were identified as most important.

Top Competencies   Top Experiences
  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Communication: Verbal
  3. Ethical Behavior
  4. Interpersonal Skills
  5. Accountability
  1. Execute and deliver on results
  2. Earn and maintain trust of leadership team
  3. Serve as a subject matter expert
  4. Work through ambiguity and uncertainty
  5. Collaborate with people from different teams on various projects

Job titles among I-O psychologists in Industry may vary substantially. The table below identifies some of the more common titles. This list contains general types of job titles that may appear within each of the different career levels. They are meant to further clarify the different responsibilities between career levels and may not present actual job titles in your organization.

Individual Contributor


HR Research Specialist
Project Assistant
Associate Consultant

Expert Individual Contributor


Chief Scientist
Principal Research Scientist
Principal Consultant
Managing Research Scientist



Director of HR Operations
Team Leader
Program Leader

Manager of Managers


Area Director of HR
Senior Team Leader
Principal Consultant
Program Director



Vice President of HR
Chief HR Officer
Global HR Officer
Executive Consultant
Senior Vice President

Click here to view a matrix of common job titles across each career sector.