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Implications of the Results of a Job Analysis of I-O Psychologists


Roger Blakeney
University of Houston

Robert Broenen
Broenen Consulting

John Dyck
University of Phoenix at Houston

Blake Frank
University of Dallas

Dana Glenn
University of Houston

Doug Johnson
University of North Texas

Clyde Mayo
Management & Personnel Systems

In the spring of 2000, the board members of the Texas Industrial-Organizational Psychologists (TIOP) commissioned a study of the job of I-O psychologist. They felt it would be useful to meet the pressures on our profession for licensing, as feedback to university training centers, for performance appraisal of our own people, to differentiate ourselves from other psychologists, and just for clarification of the KSAs required to succeed in our profession. The members agreed upon an open-ended approach using questionnaire and interview techniques. The research process was designed to be operational in nature, rather than scientific in the sense of seeking breakthroughs in job analytic technology.

Participants were asked to divide their jobs into categories or duties, to describe each, as well as to answer questions as to what was the most difficult part of the job, the most critical, the portion for which newcomers seem least prepared, and the most time consuming. In addition, each participant was asked to contribute critical incidents of poor and excellent performance. Sixty members of SIOP in Texas responded to either a questionnaire or a telephone interview. Roughly one-third were also members of TIOP. Approximately half of the participants were licensed psychologists.

The results from the study are displayed in Table 1 under the following categories: (a) common tasks or duties, (b) relating to audiences, (c) competencies, and (d) specialty areas. All were derived from content analysis of the responses of the participants by the interviewer (an I-O psychology graduate student) plus two I-O psychologists. Table 1 cross-classifies the results by type of inquiry. The reader will note that categories (b) relating to audiences and (c) competencies were influenced in their formation by critical incident analysis but also reinforced by other types of inquiry. The basic datum in the table is % participants responding.

The part of job column numbers are the percentages of people who indicated that the item was part of the job; the total for all items exceeds 100%. Logically the next four columns should total 100% since they asked for only one response per participant. However, some people indicated no response for some columns and others indicated two. For example, only 79% of the participants indicated a most difficult part of the job and only 88% indicated a most time-consuming part of the job. However, there was a total of 107% most undertrained and 114% most critical responses. Because most participants produced two or more critical incidents, this column totaled 255%.

Notice that categories derived from the part of job questions tend to be in the categories of conducting and administering projects, analyzing data, performing specific technical functions, and so on. Categories derived from the critical-incident questions tend to surface in the form of professional competencies. Asking the participants about what is difficult, critical, or undertrained produced results that tend to overlap with and reinforce the competency list.

In symposia at the 2001 meetings of SIOP and the Texas Psychological Association, the TIOP Board explored the results. Some of the topics that were discussed include implications for performance appraisal, training, and licensure.

Table 1.   

Category  Part of 
Most under-
Most time-
from CIs
Common Tasks and Duties
Administrative Management 77 7 41 7
Project Design & Development 48 2

Data Collection & Analysis & Diagnosis

42 7
Personnel Management 13 3
Program Management 13 7 2
Making Int. & Ext. Presentations 12 2
Report Writing 8 5 10
Personal Professional Development 5

Relating to Audiences

Marketing** 18 10 5 7 7
Client Relations** 20 7 23 17 23


Professional Judgment & Problem Solving** 22 10 2 10 45
Managerial Judgment** 20 2 2 7 27
Interpersonal Skills** 13 2 22
Work Habits*** 2 17 37
Integrity and Ethics*** 2 7 33
I-O Knowledge*** 13 18 25 28
Professionalism*** 5 18
Personal Maturity*** 15

Specialty Areas

Teaching 37 5
Research 30 7 5
Individual Assessment 20 2
Coaching and Counseling 18 3
Legal Expertise 18 3
Test Development 18 5
Training 18 5
Direct Interventions 13 5 7
Total 428 79 107 88 114 255

 *Each datum is expressed in terms of percentage of persons responding.

**Managing relationships with others




From the most undertrained category, the most prominent areas identified were job knowledge, problem solving, client relations, administrative skills, and interpersonal skills. Although entrants were not identified as being overwhelmingly deficient in any of these areas, the findings seem to suggest that there is room for improvement in university training programs, especially in applied areas. Interpretation of the responses to both the job-knowledge and the problem-solving categories suggest that many entrants have difficulty applying their knowledge to real-world situations. Since it is unlikely that these novices suffered from a lack of understanding of I-O psychology theory, principles, and methodology, the answer to improvement must lie with how these concepts should be implemented. Thus, more emphasis should be placed on the practitioner side of our scientistpractitioner model.


The next most problematic area, client relations, reinforces the idea that practitioner training needs improvement. The 1998 SIOP Salary Survey (see Burnfield & Medsker, 1999) indicated that about two-thirds of all I-O psychologists are employed as internal or external consultants, and are heavily involved in client relations. In addition, a substantial number of academic
I-O psychologists do consulting. New I-O psychologists, therefore, need to have a better understanding of how to initiate and maintain client relationships, to identify client needs, to avoid jargon, and to develop and sell business. Thus, training efforts should be focused on providing more intensive applied experiences that will allow them to learn to relate effectively to clients.

In comparing SIOPs Guidelines for Education and Training at the Doctoral Level in Industrial-Organizational Psychology (1999) training recommendations with the job analysis results, three suggestions for change can be made. First, the Guidelines identify judgment and decision making as a critical competency, but basically from an academic perspective. The results of our analysis suggest that the Guidelines and university training programs should be revised to incorporate more applied personal development experiences in problem solving and decision making.

The second suggestion is for improved client and interpersonal relations training. While relationship skills are given proper emphasis in the Guidelines, the development of client-relations skills is a difficult issue for training programs because opportunities to have such experiences are limited in academic settings. Opportunities may even be limited in internship and practicum settings, as supervising psychologists understandably may be reluctant to turn over their clients or potential clients to interns. Therefore, methods of teaching client-relations skills must be developed and shared if we are to prepare our students to enter work with effective consulting skills. Arranging for participation in student consulting groups could facilitate earlier development of such skills.

Finally, since the job analysis indicated that administrative activities were the most time consuming for our I-O psychologist sample, it is suggested that they be given more emphasis. Currently, the Guidelines intermingle administrative skills with consulting skills. We suggest that administrative skills be placed in a separate category where they can be expanded to include office management, budgeting, and basic accounting.



While not specifically advocating the licensing of I-O psychologists apart from psychologists as a whole, these results have implications for a variety of licensure issues. Since this job analysis was conducted on I-O psychologists practicing in Texas, the following discussion focuses on licensing issues relevant to the state licensing act for psychologists in Texas. However, the results should be applicable to other states as well.

In Texas, the practice of psychology is licensed, meaning that licensing is required for individuals offering psychological services to individuals, groups, organizations, or the public. Psychological services are broadly defined (e.g., application of established principles, methods, and procedures of describing, explaining, and ameliorating behavior, although some special areas are mentioned (e.g., career counseling and testing). The licensing requirements cover I-O practice, but do not differentiate, with the exception of school psychology, among specializations in psychology. Were the state to pursue the licensing of I-O psychologists as a specialization within the field of psychology, the results of the TIOP job analysis could be used to define the practice parameters for the specialization. Possible action steps include:

  • Encouraging unlicensed I-O practitioners to become licensed by focusing on licensable I-O practices.
  • Requiring non-I-O psychologists who wish to practice in the field to pursue additional training/experience that would qualify them for the I-O licensing.
  • Requiring I-O-focused continuing education programs to meet state-mandated annual continuing education requirements.

Current licensing examinations contain a small proportion of items directed toward I-O psychology. The results of the TIOP job analysis could be used to compose examination items germane to the I-O field. Assuming no specialty licensing, the job analysis could be used to improve current exam content. If I-O psychologists were licensed as a specialization, the job analysis results could be used to assist in the creation of a specialization examination.

Texas state law already differentiates the supervision requirement for licensing I-O psychologistsexempting them from formal internship requirements, but not from formal supervised experience. The TIOP job analysis results could be used to define content areas requiring supervisory oversight, and thus, could encourage nonlicensed I-O specialists to complete additional supervised experiences.

The Texas state licensing law has a provision for investigating complaints against practicing psychologists. The TIOP job analysis could be used to develop I-O practitioner assessment devices that could be useful in the investigation of complaints regarding I-O practice.

The TIOP job analysis identified a variety of I-O practice areas that are potentially licensable because they fall into the broad category of psychological services. The job analysis also compared the ongoing practice activities of licensed and unlicensed I-O practitioners. There was approximately a 5050 split between the licensed and unlicensed practitioners in the study sample. There was virtually no difference between the two groups in their practice activities. The implication of this finding is unclear. Should unlicensed I-O practitioners be required to pursue licensing? Could licensed I-O practitioners give up their licenses without fear of violating state law? Does licensing make a difference at all given that many non-I-O psychologists and nonpsychologists practice in the I-O field without regard to licensing?


Performance Appraisal

Finally, there is the issue of performance appraisal. Table 2 presents a usable arrangement of the results of the job analysis into four categories as follows: (a) competencies, (b) common tasks and duties, (c) relating to audiences, and (d) performing in specialty areas.

Table 2. Performance Appraisal Format for I-O Psychologists

Suggested Weights


Entry Journey Managerial
Managerial judgment x xx _____
Interpersonal skills x x x _____
Professional judgment & problem solving xx xx xx _____
I-O knowledge xx xx xx _____
Work habits x x x _____
Personal maturity x x x _____
Professionalism x x x _____
Integrity & ethics x x x _____
Common tasks and duties
Administrative management x xx _____
Personnel management x xx _____
Program management x xx _____
Project design & development x xx _____
Report writing x x x _____
Data collection, analysis, & diagnosis x x x _____
Personal professional development x x x _____
Making internal & external presentations x x x _____
Relating to audiences
Marketing x xx _____
Client relations x x xx _____
Performing in specialty areas
Training x x x _____
Direct interventions x x x _____
Test development x x x _____
Legal expertise x x x _____
Coaching and counseling x x x _____
Individual assessment x x x _____
Teaching x x x _____
Research x x x _____
Other (specify:___________) x x x _____
Other (specify:___________) x x x _____
Total _____

*Suggested rating scale: 7 = Well Above Average; 4 = Average; 1 = Well Below Average


With respect to the job analysis, the competencies were derived from the behavioral capacities suggested by critical incidents and given in answer to the special questions (i.e., most difficult, most undertrained, etc.). The common duties and tasks derived mostly from the part of job question. Relating to audiences was derived from all sources, and specialty areas were derived from answers to the part of job question.

With respect to competencies and relating to audiences, it is interesting that the subcategories of marketing, client relations, managerial judgment, and interpersonal skills have to do with managing relationships with others. Professional judgment and problem solving deal with relationship management in that it involves making inquiries of others. Work habits, integrity and ethics, I-O knowledge, personal maturity and professionalism would seem to be lumped under a self-management concept.

From the job analysis results, both of these concepts (i.e., managing relationships and self-management) are well documented in answers to the most difficult, most undertrained, and most critical questions, as well as the results from critical incident analysis. Table 2 is intended for use as a performance appraisal document in which each performance category is rated on a 7-point scale. At the right side of each category is a suggestion for weighting the particular performance for entry, journeyman, and managerial levels of I-O psychologists. For example, under competencies, managerial judgment is not weighted for an entry-level psychologist, has a normal weight for a journeyman-level psychologist, and has a double weight for a managerial-level psychologist.

All job analysis sources were used to create detailed definitions of each of the performance categories, and these are presented in Exhibit 1.


Hopefully the TIOP results will contribute to a degree of conceptualization of the job so that persons, firms, and agencies seeking more objective information about the practice of I-O psychology can be at least partially satisfied. In addition, newcomers to the field now have at least one systematic view as to what will be expected of them as developing professionals.



    Burnfield, J. L., & Medsker, G. J. (1999). Income and employment of SIOP members in 1997. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 36 (4), 1930.
    Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. (1999). Guidelines for education and training at the doctoral level in industrial/organizational psychology. Bowling Green, OH:


Exhibit 1

Performance Areas and Behavioral Capacities of I-O Psychologists



Managerial Judgment: Working with people, motivating, communicating, rewarding, reprimanding staff, making personnel decisions, and obtaining quality performance from subordinates; general leadership abilities.

Interpersonal Skills: Working and communicating effectively with colleagues and work teams; developing effective working relationships, facilitating groups, and communicating effectively with a wide variety of individuals and audiences.

Professional Judgment and Problem Solving: Asking good questions, synthesizing information obtained, and drawing appropriate conclusions.

Job Knowledge: I-O psychology content including theory, practice, statistics, methodology, and legal knowledge.

Work Habits: Initiative, thoroughness, and preparation. Possessing self-motivation, self-starting capacity, and a willingness to learn. Conscientiousness, skill at double checking and follow through, ability to plan project details, and meet deadlines. Supporting clients and handling midstream problems, completing project research in advance of presentation.

Personal Maturity: Self-control, accepting change, operating under stress, and avoiding overreacting to project midstream problems.

Professionalism: Ability to address problems directly, to know what behavior is appropriate in a professional situation and to execute it, avoiding behavior that distracts the client. Facing criticism of ones work without taking it personally. Referring matters outside of ones capabilities.

Integrity and Ethics: Behaving in an ethical manner; representing oneself and ones products truthfully. Using approaches pertinent to the requirements of the situation rather than products that might be more convenient or profitable; following ones standards and rejecting assignments that require compromising ones ethics and personal standards.


Common Duties and Tasks

Administrative Management: Planning, organizing, billing, collecting, filing, purchasing, documenting, business management, communicating philosophy and guidelines, handling departmental administration, evaluating performance, representing the organization at functions.

Personnel Management: Recruiting, selecting, training ones staff, managing work force, supervising and developing other psychologists, coaching ,and guiding staff members.

Program/Project Management: Guiding strategy and overseeing quality of organizational effectiveness programs of any type.

Program Design/Development: Designing and developing programs such as leadership development, succession planning, team building, performance management, employee relations, selection systems, assessment centers, promotion systems, change management and 360- degree feedback, compensation systems.

Technical Report Writing: Writing clearly, effectively, and accurately.

Data Collecting/Analysis/Diagnosis: Performing data collection (using surveys, interviews, and other techniques) and conducting data analysis related to program evaluation, training needs analysis, and organizational analysis.

Personal Professional Development: Seeking opportunities for continuing education, attending seminars and staying current with research literature.

Making Internal and External Presentations: Making internal and external presentations, making reports to management, offering presentations or giving speeches at professional conferences, trade shows, conventions, and so forth. Ability to present information in an interesting and accurate manner.


Relating to Audiences

Marketing: Developing prospects, writing proposals, presenting capabilities, fundraising, and promoting ones organization. Ability to sell the product or organization to the client and to recognize when to suggest new services.

Client Relations: Maintaining positive working relations with clients, communicating with clients about the work and anticipated results, delivering executive briefings in nontechnical language.


Performing in Specialty Areas

Training: Delivering seminars and workshops, performing supervisory or management training.

Direct Interventions: Performing direct interventions including organization development.

Test Development: Writing test items and questions, developing new instruments, developing selection tools and procedures, developing questions for structured interviews, developing materials and exercises for assessment centers, and developing promotional examinations.

Legal: Serving as an expert witness, preparing expert testimony, researching and presenting on legal questions.

Coaching and Counseling: Performing executive coaching, counseling and consulting with individual staff or managers, coaching one-on-one or with teams to help them deal with problems.

Individual Assessment: Conducting psychological assessments of individual candidates for purposes of selection, promotion, or counseling.

Classroom Instruction: Teaching undergraduate or graduate courses on a full-time or part-time basis.

Research: Conducting basic research in the field in which the primary purpose is knowledge acquisition or theory building rather than satisfying client needs.


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