Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology centers on the analysis and cultivation of effective individual behavior within a group or corporate context. From studying consumer behavior to developing employee training programs, I-O psychologists help improve business efficiency. Online I-O psychology doctoral programs operate diverse curricular content, enabling you to find degrees that fit their interests and goals, whether they be research, clinical application, or teaching.

By pursuing an online Ph.D. in organizational development and leadership, you develop the specialized psychological knowledge and skills to occupy high-ranking positions in your field. Furthermore, doctoral credentials help you earn and maintain professional credentials, including perfunctory state licensure as structured by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. According to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in this field will grow substantially through 2026. Training and development managers stand to benefit from a 10% increase while practicing psychologists enjoy a 14% expansion. Postsecondary teachers can expect a 15% growth.


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This ranking was created using information found publicly on the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator database. Combing through statistics such as retention rates, student satisfaction, gainful employment disclosures, and online fees, an initial pool of 90 schools were considered. This final ranking of the top 10 most affordable Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology was then chosen based on in-state graduate tuition rates and are listed in descending order.

Ranking Low-cost Online Organizational Psychology PhD Programs

3. Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

Online Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Tuition: $12,075


Through the Walden online Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology, students explore the connections between individual behavior and business success. Totaling 110 quarter credits, the curriculum includes courses like psychological motivation at work and consulting for organizational change. Students also complete a dissertation and four, four-day residencies. The Walden online Ph.D. in organizational leadership sets itself apart by offering students five specializations on top of the general practice track. Options include human resource management, consulting psychology, international business, and evidence-based coaching. Students can also design their own specialization. Distance learners may earn their degree entirely online or through a blended course format. Walden enables students to transfer up to 53 quarter credits toward program completion.

2. Northcentral University

San Diego, CA

Online Ph.D in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Tuition: $10,368


NCU operates over 20 doctoral programs, including the online doctor of philosophy in psychology with a specialization in industrial-organizational psychology. This 60-credit program spans four years, with classes starting every week. The degree plan includes courses like work motivation and attitudes; research design planning; and consulting in business, education, and health. Degree candidates also write and defend a dissertation. For students who completed graduate-level coursework at another university, NCU provides an accelerated dissertation completion pathway. To apply, candidates need a master's degree in psychology or a related field. Those who hold graduate credentials outside psychology can still apply on an evaluative basis, taking additional prerequisite classes. NCU allows students to transfer credits up to 20% of their total degree plan.

1. University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, Louisiana

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Systemic Studies

Tuition: $8,284


ULM offers an online doctor of philosophy in systemic studies, a theory-oriented program that teaches students to implement individual and social change. Like online Ph.D. degrees in organizational leadership, the ULM program centers on psychology, specifically the pragmatic practices and cybernetic ideas of systemic family therapy. Students complete 60-semester units of coursework in social ecology, the art of creative transformation, and qualitative and ethnographic research. ULM facilitates distance education through Moodle, employing a cohort learning model. The school opens admission in the fall, with the application deadline set for February 1. Candidates submit GRE scores, CV, academic writing sample, goal statement, and three recommendations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for an Online Doctorate in Organizational Psychology Degree?

A Doctorate in Organizational Psychology is a very specific degree. Many who take on the program already have a pathway towards becoming I/O, or industrial/organizational, psychologists, which is a type of professional who works with companies to increase workplace efficiency, among other things. It is an uncommon career, but it is growing in demand.

Another career option is that of an academic or a researcher. While these positions are available separately, most I/O psychologists tend to work as professors who do research for their university. This is an academic profession that is focused on research and education. It can lead to a tenured professor track or as a lead researcher for the government or major corporations.

It is also possible for I/O psychologists to create their own careers. Many open their own consulting firms, freelancing for companies who may have specific issues they need to be addressed. They can also work as freelance writers for major publications, write books on the topic, serve as conference speakers, or build their own organization to teach other professionals about the necessity of I/O psychology in the workplace.

What is the Salary Expectation for an Organizational Psychologist?

Like many doctoral students, the question of salary can loom large in the mind. I/O psychology is a small but growing field, and many wonder if earning a doctorate can actually affect how high a salary becomes.

In the case of researchers and academics, the salary can range from between $81,000 to $100,000 a year. This range is based on the fact that most researchers and professors work within public and private research institutes, colleges, and universities. Those who work in private institutions make more than those who work at public universities and for the government.

I/O psychologists who work in the business sector and as consultants have a starting salary of $80,000. However, over time and with more experience, it is possible for these same professionals to make up to $250,000 a year. This salary can depend on bonuses and other forms of compensation.

As always, students must research their area of residence to see what salaries look like around them. Salaries tend to be higher in metropolitan areas but are more competitive; rural areas provide more employment opportunities and a lower cost of living.

What are the Various Disciplines of Organizational Psychology?

Organizational psychology is an applied discipline, meaning that it takes from seemingly disparate disciplines in order to educate professionals. Students who are already familiar with the field will know what the field focuses on, but others may not.

This field relies on research, statistics, math, science, technology, psychology, management, and behavior. Some in the field may also work in the business sector, meaning they also need to understand branding, marketing, human resources, and business as a general discipline. Researchers and academics, alternatively, focus on history, theory, and analysis.

Is a Master's Degree Necessary to Apply for a Doctoral Program in Organizational Psychology?

Schools vary on when they will accept doctoral candidates that do not have a master's degree in psychology. While it is rare that an undergraduate student would skip a graduate degree and move straight into doctoral work, it does happen, and so it's important to go over the options a student has.

Some programs will not consider any student that does not have a master's degree in psychology. A few schools will go one step further and not admit students who don't have a graduate degree in organizational psychology. This is because these programs are built to provide a pathway to licensure and therefore builds on top of education that is already taught at the graduate level.

Other programs will accept students who do not have a graduate degree, so long as their undergraduate degree and previous work experience is in the realm of psychology. Students will some experience in organizational psychology are preferred, but acceptance is on a case-by-case basis.

There are some schools, such as a few in the ranking above, that not only accept students without a graduate degree, but provide a pathway towards earning their master's while in the doctoral program. This is sometimes referred to as a "concurrent degree plan," meaning that a master's degree is conferred first while the student continues their education towards earning a doctoral degree. These schools are prized by many I/O psychologists, because it keeps them in the same department at the same school during their graduate education.

Students must do their own research to find out the requirements for admission to a particular program. Those guidelines will clearly state if a student needs to have a graduate degree or not or, in some cases, whether a school will consider an applicant without a graduate degree.

Is Licensure Necessary for Doctorate Students?

Most students will be aware that licensure for industrial-organizational psychologists comes after obtaining a doctorate degree as well as passing the EPPP, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. It is a long road to earn licensure as an I/O psychologist, which is the very reason so many professionals in the field choose to pursue a doctoral degree.

Doctoral graduates nearly always sit for the EPPP after obtaining their doctoral degree. This is because it is a mark of excellence among these psychologists and enables them to practice their specialty in the field in their state. It also distinguishes them from other employees who have yet to earn their doctorate.

Professionals without licensure are generally not employed by major corporations and they are also barred from using the title "Psychologist" in their name. In fact, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology discusses the various restrictions for each state in the country when it comes to the field.

In short, all students who take on this degree should expect to sit for licensure once they have graduated. It is not only a good choice professionally, but it also is the capstone reward for a long educational pathway.

Organizational psychology is an important part of the workplace, probably more so now than ever. With technology changing the way Americans do business, it is critical to understand how communication, psychology, and behavior can have an impact on the workplace. With the help of the GSH staff, this ranking highlights the best programs in the discipline, demonstrating how important the field is to the month/year atmosphere of the workplace. These top online Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology degrees will help even the most ambitious professional find a new career and strengthen their positions as experts in the field.

GSH Staff

This concludes our ranking of the Top Ten Most Affordable Online PhD in Organizational Psychology Programs.