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Amber Stark

Industrial-Organizational Psychology: Introductory Psychology’s Missing Piece

The following article submitted by Clemente I. Diaz, M.A., Baruch College, City University of New York, and Roni Reiter-Palmon, PhD, University of Nebraska at Omaha, can be found in its entirety on the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. It is being shared as a resource for SIOP members who are often asked about the importance of I-O psychology in the broad field of psychology.

Psychology is an extremely diverse field. Its diversity can be seen in its various subfields as well as the numerous career paths one can pursue. Consider the fact that individuals with a bachelor’s degree in psychology were employed in 92 different occupation categories, individuals with a master’s degree in 74 occupation categories, and those with a doctoral degree in 61 occupation categories (American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies, 2018). Although the field of psychology is diverse, there is one constant regardless of which career path one takes or which subfield one pursues: We will be working for most of our lives. Yet despite this, most introductory psychology courses don’t cover I-O psychology (i.e., the psychology of work). 

Why I-O Psychology Should Be Included in Introductory Psychology 
There are various reasons to include I-O psychology in introductory psychology courses, the most basic being that working is a fundamental aspect of human life and behavior. In fact, estimates show that we spend roughly one-third of our lives at work. It’s no surprise that under its guidelines for the undergraduate major, the American Psychological Association (APA) has specifically included professional development as a key goal (APA, 2013). Additionally, whether one agrees or not, the vast majority of students pursue higher education in hopes of increasing their employment outcomes (Eagan et. al, 2016, p. 70). Undergraduate psychology majors are not exempt from this trend given that over 56% of 2018 psychology graduates were either employed full time or seeking employment (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2019). Interestingly, and contrary to what most of us believe or would like to believe, the majority (56%) of psychology majors don’t pursue graduate studies of any kind (American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies, 2018). Although the inclusion of I-O psychology in introductory psychology won’t serve as a magic wand in preparing students for the workplace, it’s a good start.   

Tips for Incorporating I-O Psychology 
I-O psychology may not be included in introductory psychology for many reasons, but reason for exclusion generally revolve around the following themes (in descending order): 

  • not in designated curriculum/textbook
  • not enough time
  • lack of subject matter knowledge (Diaz, 2018).

The full version of this article goes into each of these areas in detail and provides tips and resources targeting each of these themes. 

In this article we have made the case for the importance of adding I-O psychology to the curriculum of introductory psychology. The concerns expressed by faculty members teaching introductory psychology courses have been noted, and we have attempted to provide solutions to each one. Specifically, resources are available via SIOP that allow for either a full unit on I-O psychology or integration of specific I-O topics into existing course materials. Further, expert resources such as speakers and podcasts are also available. We encourage SIOP members who are employed in academic settings to share this article and these resources with their peers who teach introductory psychology courses.


The Getting I-O into Intro Textbooks Task Force was created to increase awareness of I-O psychology and inclusion in introductory psychology textbooks. To access materials created by the task force, such as a book chapter and course presentation slides, visit www.teachiopsych.com. SIOP members, psychology instructors, and others interested in hearing more can contact Jen Gibson, Chair of the GIT Task Force, at textbook@siop.org.  

Bridge Builders, a subcommittee of the SIOP Education and Training Committee, exists to expose students and educators (not in I-O) to the field of I-O psychology. For more information and resources, please visit https://linktr.ee/SIOP_BB. SIOP members interested in promoting the field are encouraged to reach out to Clemente Diaz, Chair of Bridge Builders. He can be reached at Clemente.Diaz@baruch.cuny.edu.

Interested SIOP members are encouraged to reach out to members of either of these groups to learn more and get involved.

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