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Changes Over Time in Members’ Graduate Education, Employment Focus, and Recognition by SIOP

Rob Silzer
HR Assessment and Development Inc./
Baruch College, City University of New York
Chad Parson
Baruch College, City University of New York

(Please note: this is a corrected version of this article. The original had some formatting errors in one of the paragraphs, and Table 8 has been replaced in its entirety. -Ed.)

SIOP members have regularly discussed how graduate education and employment opportunities have changed in our field over the years. With each new wave of SIOP members and changes in doctoral graduate programs there have been questions raised about how things are different now from 20 or 30 years ago. Many of the questions concern how the field, SIOP members, and the employment opportunities have changed over time. For example the questions have included:

  • Is the field of I-O psychology continuing to grow or has it plateaued?
  • How has graduate education in I-O psychology changed over the years, and has there been any shift in the graduate programs producing the most graduates?
  • How many SIOP members have degrees in I-O psychology versus other graduate degrees, and has the mix changed over years?
  • Are the employment opportunities for SIOP members changing over time?
  • To what extent have SIOP members taken academic positions in business schools versus in psychology departments?

We wanted to address some of these questions in order to better understand the current state of our field and how it is changing. Many of us have an intuitive sense of those changes, but there have been limited efforts to document them.

In order to address some of these questions, we analyzed SIOP membership data. Because we do not have access to longitudinal career data of SIOP members, we focused on relevant available data for 2011 SIOP full members. We have been reporting on this data base in several previous TIP articles (Silzer & Parson 2011; 2012a; 2012b; 2012c).

In particular we focused on the graduate major, graduate institution, and current employment focus of the 2011 SIOP full members (including Fellows). We looked at how these variables change over time depending on which decade the members received their graduate degree. Although it does not fully substitute for longitudinal career data, we think it provides some useful insights about our field.

Changes in Graduate Programs Over Time

In our last article we reported on the graduate programs that have produced the most SIOP members (Silzer & Parson, 2012c). We were interested in finding out if the most productive I-O psychology graduate programs have changed over time. We grouped members based on the decade that they received their graduate degree (pre-1970, 1970–1979, 1980–1989, 1990–1999, and 2000–2009).1 The results are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

There has been both stability and notable changes among the I-O psychology graduate programs that are the top-10 programs producing I-O psychologists (who are SIOP members)2. Some notable observations:

  • The University of Minnesota is the only program that has remained among the top-10 programs across all 5 decades.
  • Five programs have been in the top-10 for at least 4 of the 5 decades: University of Houston, University of Akron, University of South Florida, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and The Ohio State University.
  • Some programs are rising among the top-10: University of Akron, University of South Florida, Bowling Green State University, University of Georgia, George Mason University, and Colorado State University.
  • The number of graduates produced by the top schools has been greatly increasing each decade from 28 (in pre-1970), 109 (in 1970–1979), 170 (in 1980–1989), 222 (in 1990–1999) to 294 (in 2000–2009). Some programs have regularly increased the number of graduates each decade, such as University of Akron, University of South Florida, University of Houston, and University of Georgia
  • Based on information provided to us, some programs are no longer producing I-O psychologists: The Ohio State University, New York University, and University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • Only seven programs had more than one graduate in the pre-1970 period who were SIOP members in 2011 (so only seven programs are listed).

Some of these programs are quite large and produce on average three or four graduates each year who become SIOP members. It would be interesting to find out how many students they admit into the program each year and their graduation rates in order to regularly produce so many graduates. A few programs have been steady producers of graduates over the last 4 decades with only slight increases in the number of graduates.

Given the increasing number of graduate students that attend the annual SIOP conference, it seemed likely that the total number of graduates was also increasing each decade. Based on member data, we identified the members with I-O psychology degrees (versus all degrees) and the number of active contributing programs for each decade (see Table 3).

It is striking how much the number of I-O psychology graduates has increased for each decade. The increases in number of I-O graduates from one decade to the next have been 233%, 114%, 74%, and 47% respectively across the 5 decades. For each decade the number of graduates has been significantly increasing; however, the percentage increase to the next decade is declining. This is most likely because the number of graduates each decade is getting fairly large and becoming more challenging to exceed. In the most recent decade (2000–2009) our field averaged 88 new I-O PhD graduates each year, up from 16 graduates per year on average in the 1970s.

The number of graduate programs that have been producing those graduates has also been noticeably expanding. In the 2000–2009 decade there were 102 programs that were graduating I-O psychologists (up from 42 programs in the 1970s); some of these graduate programs are in other countries. When looking at members from all graduate programs (I-O and non-I-O majors) the number of graduate programs for the most recent decade has increased to 188 (up from 115 programs in the 1970s). This is a rather remarkable change and attests to the diversity in SIOP.

Changes in Graduate Majors and Employment Focus Over Time

Some members, who have been in their careers for several decades, have noticed changes in the graduate degrees of professionals who work in our field, as well as changes in the professional employment opportunities over time. We tried to document these changes based on membership data.

Changes in Graduate Majors

There have been long discussions, and disagreements, in SIOP about the name of our field. The choice has been mostly between industria-organizational psychology and organizational psychology. We were curious how common a graduate major in organizational psychology was among SIOP members and whether other graduate majors were becoming more or less common among members. The results of our analysis are presented in Table 4.

SIOP members with graduate majors in organizational psychology have been increasing each decade and doubled from the 1990s to the 2000s. However the total number of members with an OP degree is still modest (n = 101).

Similarly, the number of SIOP members with graduate degrees in OB has been regularly doubling from one decade to the next, reaching 109 graduates in the 2000s. This may reflect the increasing number of I-O academics who have joined business schools and are producing OB graduates. The total number of members with OB degrees is 206 (about 7% of the SIOP membership).

Members who have graduate degrees in other majors, such as clinical psychology and social psychology, show a more curvilinear trend. More of the members with clinical psychology and social psychology degrees received their degrees in the 1980s than in other decades. One possible explanation for this trend is that graduates in these disciplines are most likely to first explore career options in their own field and only later consider moving to I-O psychology interests and careers. In general these are relatively modest-sized member groups in SIOP. So although some members suggest that psychologists from other disciplines are flooding into our field, the membership data suggest that might not be true, or at least they are not joining SIOP in large numbers.

Changes in Employment Focus

In previous articles we have discussed the four primary employment focus groups of SIOP members (Silzer & Parson, 2011). The actual SIOP membership in each of these groups is:

  • Academics/researchers: 48.6% of SIOP membership (44% of members with I-O degrees)
    • Academics: 43.5% (universities and colleges)
    • Researchers: 5.1% (research consulting firms & government research positions)
  • Consultants/organization based: 49.3% of SIOP membership (56% of members with I-O degrees)
    • Consultants: 30.3% (consulting firms & nonresearch consulting positions)
    • Organizational-based professionals:19.0% (organizations & government positions with a practice focus)

We were interested in determining if this mix has changed over the decades based on when members received their graduate degrees. We do not have longitudinal data for SIOP members, but we looked at members by the date of their graduation to give us some insights into this issue. We expect that the upcoming SIOP Practitioner Career Study will more directly address this question.

Table 5 presents the employment focus for members with I-O degrees based on the decade of their graduation. The actual number of members in each employment focus area has increased for every decade. This suggests broadly based and expanding employment opportunities. The changes in number of members in each employment area, based on decade of their graduation, are different for each employment focus.

The number of SIOP members going into organizational positions seems to be growing the fastest and changed from 2% of the members with I-O degrees in pre-1970s to 27% in the 2000s. Organizations now seem to appreciate the value of having an in-house I-O psychologist.

The actual number of members in consulting positions is growing as well, but the percentage of the SIOP members with I-O degrees who are in consulting positions is falling relative to other employment areas. One possible explanation is that consultants are often hired into their client organizations. So some members may see consulting positions as a step toward an organizational position.

Academics and researchers are both increasing in number across the decades. However the percentage of SIOP members with I-O degrees who are in these employment areas is falling. Although the number of graduate programs offering I-O degrees is expanding, there still is a limit on the number of academic positions that open each year. This may be influenced by shrinking state budgets for education.

Changes in Employment Focus Based on Degree

Because the above analysis was based only on members with I-O degrees, we wondered whether the distribution would be different across the employment areas for members with other degrees. Analysis results are presented in Table 6.

Table 6 shows a comparison of members with I-O and OP (organizational psychology) degrees and members with other graduate majors across the four employment focus areas. About 70% (n = 2124) of the SIOP membership holds graduate degrees in I-O or OP, whereas 30% have other graduate majors. The percentage of members with other majors may be increasing. For example, for the 2000–2009 decade 10% of the new graduates who are SIOP members hold OB degrees (up from 6% in the 1980s).

Academics make up only 39% (n = 820) of the SIOP members with I-O or OP degrees, but they make up 58% (n = 537) of members with other graduate majors. For the three other employment areas, the trend is the opposite direction. For example 23% (n = 488) of members with I-O or OP degrees are in organizations, but only 10% (n = 96) of members with other degrees are in organizations.

An interesting finding is that of all the SIOP members in academic positions (n = 1357) 40% of them hold non-I-O or non-OP degrees (and 20% hold OB or HR degrees). It is surprising that so many of the academics in SIOP are not I-O or OP psychologists. This may have implications for our graduate programs that are producing I-O and OP psychologists. It also calls into question the degree of influence that the group of OB and HR academics should have on professional psychology matters, such as licensing. For example when academics voice their views about licensing, perhaps the views of this group should not be included because they have no professional stake in that issue.

For the other three employment areas, 72%–84% of the members in each area hold either OP or I-O psychology degrees. It reinforces the conclusion that SIOP members who work in these employment areas are highly likely to be I-O or organizational psychologists.

Psychology Departments or Business Schools?

Another hot issue in our field has been the concerns about academics moving to business schools and away from psychology departments, allegedly because of the higher compensation offered in the business schools. We categorized SIOP members in academic positions in either psychology departments or business schools by their major and date of their graduate degree (see Table 7).

The results in Table 7 show that 74% (n = 427) of academics in psychology departments who are SIOP members hold either I-O psychology or organizational psychology degrees, and only 26% hold degrees with other majors. However for SIOP members in business schools, 49% hold I-O or OP degrees and 51% hold other degrees. There are still more academics with I-O psychology degrees in psychology departments than in business schools (427 vs. 318). However, more SIOP academic members are in business schools (647) than in psychology departments (576). This has implications for graduate education in our field; it also underscores the basic question in our field of whether we will continue to see ourselves as psychologists.

Across the decades an increasing number of I-O and OP graduates are going into academic positions. And in the 2000s they were still more likely to find academic employment in psychology departments (n = 185) than in business schools (n = 126). However we all have heard how active business schools have been in recruiting more senior academics in our field. For example, academic members who received an I-O or OP degree in the 1970s are more than twice as likely to be working in business schools (n = 50) as in psychology departments (n = 20). It will be interesting to see if this movement to business schools is only a temporary trend or if it continues into the future. We have heard both views from our colleagues so we will have to wait to see which is correct.

Follow-Up on SIOP Awards and Appointments

In previous articles we have discussed SIOP’s performance record in giving SIOP awards, making key appointments, and electing Executive Board members, and the extent they are inclusive of the diversity of the SIOP membership (Silzer & Parson, 2012a). We reported that a bias exists in favor of academic/researcher members (48.69% of the membership) when compared to members who are consultants or working in organizations (49.3% of the membership). This bias occurs when electing SIOP officers, electing SIOP Fellows, choosing SIOP award winners, making key SIOP appointments, and selecting Editorial Board membership for professional journals.
We wanted to follow up and provide an update on whether SIOP has made any progress in these areas in the most recent Executive Board term (May, 2011–April, 2012). Our analysis can be found in Table 8.

We looked at the key appointments, SIOP awards, Fellow designations, and Executive Board membership for the 2011–2012 SIOP term. The results suggest that no progress has been made in being more inclusive to practitioners (consultants and members in organizations). In fact the inclusiveness record for this period is very poor.

There are more consultants (nonresearch) and members in organizations in the SIOP membership than academics/researchers, and they hold an even larger share (55%) of the members with I-O or OP psychology degrees. However as Table 8 results suggest, SIOP continues to exhibit a lack of inclusiveness in awards, Fellow designations, appointments and Executive officers. In almost all cases the bias in the 2011–2012 term remains the same as the long standing historical bias in these areas, often reaching an 80% preference in favor of academics/researchers.

Our hypothesis is that these decisions are driven by, or at least approved, by the Executive Board. In 2011–2012, the Executive Board was dominated by academics (75%) and the president was an academic. It would seem that the dominance of academics in these positions may have a direct bearing on the continuing lack of inclusiveness in SIOP. There also is a trend for the executive board to now require that all members appointed to these positions have previous experience as a SIOP officer or committee chair. This is an additional exclusionary hurdle that seems to insure that the status quo gets preserved by these appointments and that the control of decisions in SIOP remains in the hands of academics/researchers. In the area of awards, the evaluation of “professional contributions” continues to be heavily influenced by peer-reviewed journal articles, while other types of professional contributions, such as those by practitioners, do not seem to be fairly considered or valued.

We realize that our employment categories are based on primary work focus and that some members also get involved in a secondary work area, such as an academic doing some consulting work for an organization or a consultant who also teaches in a graduate program. However, we contend that the primary work focus is almost always the dominant work activity and takes precedent over all other activities. We would suggest that even this consideration does not justify or explain why SIOP undervalues members whose primary employment focus is in consulting or working in an organization.

It would seem that electing more practitioners (consultants and members in organizations) as SIOP officers should lead to more inclusiveness in these organizational decisions. Our interest is in encouraging more inclusiveness in SIOP. Some have suggested these data are divisive; however, in our view the status quo in SIOP has been divisive and is still exclusionary of large segments of the SIOP membership. It is long past due that SIOP be more inclusive when making these decisions so they include the full membership and not continue to give systematic preference to only one segment of the membership.


Many of our members are regularly involved in managing organizational change projects for our internal and external clients. We know that organizations can change if the outcome and process goals are clear and the organization supports the changes. What has been going on in SIOP and our field is essentially an organizational change process.    
In this article we have tried to document some of the changes that have been occurring in our field. Some of the key findings are:

  • The graduate programs that produce graduates (who join SIOP) have been fairly stable over the last 40 years. A number of programs have consistently been productive sources of graduates. A few programs have folded while others have emerged.
  • The number of graduate programs contributing graduates to our field and membership is definitely expanding. And the number of I-O psychology graduates has been noticeably increasing.
  • The number of members who hold degrees in OB and OP has been doubling every decade, but they still represent modest groups in the whole SIOP membership.
  • The number of members in each of the four employment focus areas has been increasing in each decade. However only the employment area of organizational positions has been increasing in the percentage of SIOP members who are in that area. The other three areas are not growing as fast proportionately.
  • 66% of SIOP members hold I-O degrees. For those members that hold I-O degrees, 38% are academics, 6% are researchers, 33% are in consulting (nonresearch), and 23% are in organizations.
  • Of the 1,357 members who are academics, only 60% hold I-O or OP degrees and 40% hold other degrees.
  • 74% of the academics members in psychology departments have either an I-O or OP degree. For academic members in business schools, only 49% have an I-O or OP degree.
  • New I-O or OP graduates (in the 2000s) are more likely to be employed in psychology departments (60%) than in business schools (40%).
  • During the 2011–2012 term, SIOP made no progress in being more inclusive of practitioners. Despite consultants and members in organizations representing 50% of the SIOP membership (and 56% of the members who have I-O degrees), they were hardly included in SIOP awards and recognitions in 2011–2012. They were only 17% of the new Fellows that were named, only 20% of the key SIOP appointments that were made, only 25% of the Executive Board, and were only given 1 out of 12 major awards that were presented. The rest were all given to academics/ researchers.

Change in our field is slow in some areas but faster in other areas. There have been changes in the:

  • Increasing number of I-O graduates
  • Expanding number of programs producing I-O graduates
  • Increasing number of members who hold non-I-O graduate degrees (i.e., organizational psychology, organization behavior, social psychology)
  • Expanding employment opportunities, particularly in consulting, in organizations and in business schools
  • Increasing number of academic members in SIOP who hold degrees in fields other than in I-O psychology or organizational psychology

At the same time some things are slow to change:

  • The top graduate programs that are producing I-O graduates (who are SIOP members) have been fairly consistent over the decades.
  • SIOP continues to heavily favor academics/researchers for awards, recognitions, Fellows, key appointments and officer positions. Practitioners (consultants and members who work in organizations) are significantly underrepresented in all these areas in 2011–2012.

Unfortunately change comes slowly to SIOP. The data suggest an ongoing lack of inclusiveness regarding the executive board, the awards, the appointments and the Fellows in SIOP. This will continue to be discouraging to practitioner members who are underrepresented and feel underserved by SIOP.


Silzer, R. F., & Parson, C. (2011). SIOP membership and representation. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(2), 85–96.
Silzer, R. F., & Parson, C. (2012a). Is SIOP inclusive? A review of the membership composition of fellows, awards, appointments, and volunteer committees. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(3), 57–71.
Silzer, R. F., & Parson, C. (2012b). Industrial-organizational psychology journals and the science–practice gap. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(4), 87–98.
Silzer, R. F., & Parson, C. (2012c). SIOP members, graduate education, and employment focus. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 50(1), 119–129.