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Licensing and
Industrial-Organizational
Psychologists:
Member Needs and News

 FEATURE STORY

Ted R. Axton
HR Avatar

Ben Porr
Federal Management Partners

Soner Dumani
American Institutes for Research

Meredith Ferro
PDRI, a CEB Company

Note: The authors would like to thank Mark Nagy, chair of the Licensing, Certification, and Credentialing Committee, for his tireless efforts concerning industrial-organizational psychologist licensure and for providing detailed information concerning SIOP’s progress on licensing issues for the current article.

 

Executive Summary

SIOP has been working to determine members’ needs and the best path forward in the licensing of industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists by state boards of psychology. The topic has received much discussion over the years. A key point in  this discussion is that according to the laws in the majority of states, as well as in SIOP and APA licensing policy, individuals who want to use the title “psychologist” must be licensed, although state licensing generally includes eligibility requirements that are often difficult if not inappropriate for I-O psychology. The result has been that most SIOP members are not licensed and are unable to officially label themselves “psychologist,” even though they are trained in psychology and apply psychological principles in their work. Currently, there is no established and relevant standard for I-O practitioners to demonstrate that they possess a requisite level of knowledge in behavioral science.
 
Several questions related to licensing issues were included in surveys of practitioner needs that were administered in 2008 and 2015 to gauge views of SIOP members. The results of the 2015 survey are presented below. Results suggest that most SIOP members are not licensed and do not even know if they are eligible to become licensed but would be interested in becoming licensed if licensure were more appropriate for I-O psychologists. However, the combination of a low response rate and a low base rate of SIOP members being licensed resulted in a small sample of licensed respondents, potentially limiting the representativeness of the sample and generalizability of the results.
 
A 2009 TIP article (Silzer, Erickson & Cober, 2009) described the licensing issue in depth, presented the results from the 2008 practitioner needs survey, and provided a number of recommendations for SIOP to address the licensing issue. We compare the results to the 2015 survey below and also provide an update on SIOP’s activities in addressing the 2009 recommendations. This is the fourth and final installment of a series of articles related to the 2015 practitioner needs survey.
 

Practitioner Needs Survey

The 2015 Practitioner Needs Survey had a total of 469 respondents and included questions about licensure. The response rate (10% across SIOP membership) was considerably lower than the 36% response rate in 2008 when 1,005 respondents returned the survey. The low response rate posed some challenges for interpreting results for licensing issues, because only 40 respondents indicated they were licensed and answered most of the relevant licensing questions. In addition to being a small number for conducting analyses, it represents less than .5% of the approximate 9,000 members of SIOP. Nevertheless, the results are presented in the interest of providing the available information and informing the issue to the extent possible. One important limitation imposed by the low response rate is that the results related to licensure are presented for the overall sample instead of by levels of percent of time spent doing practitioner work (practitioner category), which was done for the 2008 survey results.

Licensure Status 

The results suggest that the proportion of members who are licensed is on the decline. Only 43 of the 469 respondents (9%) indicated they were licensed. Conversely, 21% of respondents in the 2008 survey indicated they were licensed. Some of this sizable difference may be attributable to sampling error from the lower participation rate of the 2015 survey compared to the 2008 survey. One factor in particular that may explain the lower proportion of respondents being licensed in the 2015 survey is that 65% reported PhD as their highest degree, while 84% had reported PhD as their highest degree in the 2008 survey.
 
Another trend in the results that suggests decreased interest in licensure is that despite rather extensive efforts by SIOP to make licensing more relevant and to raise awareness among its members, the percent of members who know whether they are eligible appears to be trending down rather than up. More than half of respondents (54%) indicated they did not know whether they were eligible for licensure in their state, while 26% indicated they were not eligible and just 20% responded they were eligible (see Figure 1). The observation that a large number of respondents did not know whether they were eligible for licensure in the 2015 survey was similar but slightly more pronounced compared to the trend in the 2008 survey that ranged 36%–43% by practitioner category.
 
Are you eligible for licensure in your state?
 
Figure 1. Eligibility for licensure.
 

Licensure Preparation and Professional Training

The results provide some indication that those who got licensed believed that their professional training was at least moderately effective in preparing them for licensure, although the small sample size of 40 respondents precluded drawing firm conclusions. When answering the question, “To what extent did your graduate program prepare you to meet licensure requirements?” 78% said that their graduate program helped to a moderate extent or to a great extent (see Figure 2). This represents a substantially higher percentage compared to the 2008 survey, in which the larger sample size enabled responses to be broken out by practitioner category, and a smaller percentage that ranged from 24%–31% said that their graduate program helped to a moderate extent or a great extent.

To what extent did your graduate program adequately prepare you to meet licensure requirements?
 
Figure 2. Extent graduate program prepared you for licensure.
Note. The above figure is based on a very small sample size of 40 respondents who were licensed.
 

Potential for Public Harm

An important issue in licensing is the idea that being licensed helps reduce potential for public harm. Results suggest that there is risk for public harm. The opinions of licensed respondents presented in Figure 3 suggest that individuals or organizations were very likely to potentially be harmed if someone without advanced training in behavioral science tried to do their jobs (60%), and about half as many respondents believed harm was somewhat likely (29%). Combined, 89% reported there is risk for public harm. These results reflect a slightly higher estimation of the likelihood of public harm compared to the 2008 results, in which the percentages across practitioner category for harm for very likely or somewhat likely was 71%–77%.

Could individuals or their employer organizations potentially be harmed if someone without advanced training in behavioral science tried to do your work?
Figure 3. Potential for harm to individuals or organizations.
 

Member Interest in Licensure

Although only a small percentage of SIOP members are licensed and results suggest the majority do not even know whether they are eligible, there appears to be interest in getting licensed if it were perceived to be more relevant. To measure general interest in being licensed, respondents were asked, “If licensing were more appropriate for I-O psychologists, would you apply to be licensed?” The majority of respondents (59%) indicated they would apply to be licensed, while 41% said they would not. The results align with the finding from the 2008 survey that more SIOP Members and Fellows would apply to get licensed if more appropriate licensure requirements could be achieved for I-O psychologists.

Update on SIOP Activities With Respect to Licensing

SIOP has continued to work on licensing issues in a number of ways, including reconfiguring the State Affairs Committee to become the Licensure, Certification, and Credentialing Committee in 2014. This was an important step in broadening the scope of the former State Affairs Committee to include issues outside of licensure. Highlights of work that has been done to address the Silzer et al (2009) TIP article’s recommendations are provided below.

Consider whether SIOP members want to refer to themselves as “psychologists”
In a word: Yes. Members would like to refer to themselves as “psychologists.” A recent SIOP (2011) membership survey (not the practitioner needs survey that is the focus of the current article) indicated that 71% of respondents sometimes or always/often refer to themselves as a psychologist, suggesting that SIOP members continue to consider themselves to be psychologists and would like to refer to themselves as such.
  
Support the efforts to represent SIOP on the APA Task Force on the Model Licensing Act (MLA)
SIOP has continued to support the efforts of the MLA task force by working with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) on the MLA and establishing the Joint Task Force on Licensure of Consulting and Industrial-Organizational Psychologists (LCIOP) in January 2014 to further explore and address the issues of licensure of consulting and I-O psychologists. Some of the work done is highlighted below.
  • Consulted with ASPPB on clarifying licensure requirements.
  • Initiated dialogue with the Association of Canadian Psychology Regulatory Organizations (ACPRO) regarding obstacles to licensure for consulting and I-O psychologists.
  • Provided input to the ASPPB Model Act and Regulations Committee (MARC) on the need to recognize the distinction between Health Service Psychologists (HSP) and General Applied Psychologists (GAP), as well as on the need to incorporate supervision requirements that permit consulting and I-O psychologists to obtain the required supervision for licensure.
  • Continued to work on a definition of the practice of psychology that includes providing services to organizations as well as individuals but does not prohibit other professionals such as management consultants from also providing these services.
  • Recommended that ASPPB continue to work with member jurisdictions to clarify whether consulting and I-O psychologists must be licensed, can be licensed, or are exempt from licensure.
  • Recommended that ASPPB continue to work with their member jurisdictions, as well as consulting and I-O psychology educational programs, on developing feasible paths to licensure for consulting and I-O psychologists.
  • Recommended that ASPPB encourage jurisdictions to incorporate “grandfathering” language, where possible, when implementing new requirements for licensure of consulting and I-O psychologists.
  • Made steps toward working with ASPPB toward developing a set of supervision guidelines for education and training leading to licensure as a general applied psychologist.
Continue to raise the awareness of all SIOP members to professional licensing issues and hold a public forum on licensing issues at the SIOP conference
SIOP, specifically the State Affairs/Licensure, Certification and Credentialing Committee, has had several public presentations at SIOP, Society for Consulting Psychology (SCP), and ASPPB meetings (Blanton, Brannick, Crowder & Nagy, 2014; Crowder, Blanton & Nagy, 2013; Nagy & Crowder, 2014; Nagy, Crowder & Siegel, 2015; Nagy & Gormanous, 2013).
 
Initiate and complete the Practitioner Career Study
The SIOP Professional Practices Committee completed the Practitioner Career Study (Zelin, Lider & Doverspike, 2015), which provided information such as competencies and key experiences required at various career levels, that can be used to inform potential licensure and/or certification criteria. A series of TIP articles was produced to highlight some of the findings. In addition, a career paths website is currently under development and will be available via SIOP.org in the summer of 2016.
 
Initiate an effort to educate members about the licensure laws in their home state
Links to various state boards of psychology are available on the SIOP website. However, many links periodically become broken and/or outdated, so a concerted effort is underway to continuously update them.
  
Provide support for those SIOP members who want to become licensed
A key part of the role of chair of the Licensure, Certification, and Credentialing Committee, currently Mark Nagy, is to be available to answer any questions SIOP members may have about becoming licensed.
 
Establish organizational contacts/liaisons with state regulatory boards and state psychology associations
In 2011, SIOP agreed to establish a liaison with ASPPB. Don Crowder was named as that liaison and has been invaluable in SIOP’s efforts to help I-O psychologists be eligible for licensure.
 
Influence I-O graduate programs to help prepare graduate students who want to become licensed
The LCIOP Task Force mapped SIOP’s 25 areas of competence for doctoral i-o programs and Division 13’s competencies for consulting psychologists and organizational consulting psychologists to the six competency clusters identified by ASPPB’s Competency Assessment Task Force (CATF) and the three core competencies identified by the International Project on Competence in Psychology (IPCP).  Input was then requested from individuals representing the groups involved. This input was reviewed and the task force continues to work on refining model competencies for consulting and I-O psychology.
 
To better understand graduate student needs with respect to licensing, the LCIOP Task Force collected data on 177 programs listed on the SIOP website as offering programs in I-O or consulting psychology. Division 13, Division 14, and ASPPB jointly funded a project to determine whether courses were required, optional, or not offered in the 25 Areas of Competence recommended in the SIOP Guidelines for Education and Training at the Doctoral Level in Industrial-Organizational Psychology (1999). 
  • LCIOP has conducted some initial analysis of the data, comparing to the SIOP Education and Training Guidelines (1999), SIOP Policy on Licensure (1996), and ASPPB Model Regulations (2013). SIOP is currently reviewing the 1999 Education and Training Guidelines, and when new guidelines are available, further comparisons will be made.
  • Once final results are analyzed, the LCIOP Task Force will further discuss how the findings might best be used.
Recommend standards and mechanisms to help state boards effectively evaluate I-O psychology applicants for licensing
SIOP members are in the process of providing information on licensing issues for consulting and I-O psychologists to the ASPPB Board of Directors and member jurisdictions.
 

Conclusion

The issue of licensure for I-O psychologists continues to be complex and unresolved. As professionals who are trained in psychology and practice applied psychology, members understand that it is important to have an appropriate level of training in behavioral science to do their jobs and naturally would like to refer to themselves as “psychologists.” However, the current process for becoming a licensed psychologist is oriented toward psychologists who provide health services and requires knowledge that is not relevant to what most SIOP members do. Although results indicate there is interest in becoming licensed if it were appropriate for I-O psychology, the current requirements for becoming licensed appear to have resulted in the vast majority of SIOP members abiding with the status quo and not pursuing licensure.
 
SIOP has been working extensively with relevant groups to develop licensure requirements that are more appropriate for the work I-O psychologists do. In the meantime, member participation in getting licensed has continued to be low and may even be decreasing. Despite the many efforts listed to raise awareness about licensing issues, there appears to be continuing confusion among SIOP members about eligibility for licensure in their state. On a positive note, there has been an increase in recent activity with the Licensure, Certification, and Credentialing Committee and the LCIOP, which are laying a foundation to reduce barriers to licensure of I-O psychologists. An upcoming TIP article from Mark Nagy is expected that will provide additional detail about the continuing efforts of the LCIOP Task Force.
 

References

Blanton, J., Brannick, J., Crowder, D., & Nagy, M. (2014, February). Navigating the rivers of licensure, regulations, and mobility: Do I need it? Can I get it? Is it worth it? Panel discussion presented at the Society of Consulting Psychology Conference, San Antonio, TX.
 
Crowder, D., Blanton, J., & Nagy, M. (2013, October). Evaluating the pay-out of licensure of non-health care psychologists. Panel discussion presented at the 53rd annual meeting of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, Las Vegas, NV.
 
Nagy, M. S., & Crowder, D. (2014, May).  Crucial developments in the licensure of I-O psychologists. Panel discussion presented at the 29th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Honolulu, HI.
 
Nagy, M. S., Crowder, D., & Siegel, A. (2015, April).  Why I-O psychologists should be concerned about telepsychology. Panel discussion presented at the 30th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Philadelphia, PA.
  
Nagy, M. S., & Gormanous, G. (2013, April). Vital issues and trends in the licensing of I-O psychologists. Panel discussion presented at the 28th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Houston, TX.
 
Silzer, R., Erickson, A., & Cober, R. (2009). Licensing and industrial-organizational psychologists. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 46(3), 89-99.
 
Zelin, A., Lider, M., & Doverspike, D. (2015). SIOP Career Study Executive Report. Submitted to SIOP Leadership by Center for Organizational Research at The University of Akron.