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Obscure niche in psychology

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One of the more obscure fields listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics is industrial-organizational psychologist.

It is also projected to be the field with the highest growth – measured by percentage – over the next 10 years.

Employment for industrial-organizational psychologists is expected to grow by 53.4 percent by 2022 from its 2012 level, according to the labor department’s most recent figures. The catch: There only are 1,600 of them now, so in 2022 the occupation is projected to have 2,500 employees.

The second fastest-growing occupation is personal care aides, a field that already has 1.1 million workers and is expected to grow by 48.8 percent.

Of the 1,600 members of the industrial-organizational psychology profession who are currently employed, about 10 percent work in the Pittsburgh area for Bill Byham at Development Dimensions International Inc., which consults on hiring and training.

Byham, CEO of the 1,190-employee company, said the job title of industrial-organizational psychologist will explode because there will always be a need.

“To me, I-O psychology deals with how to make working people more successful, happy and fulfilled in their jobs,” he said. “That’s done by getting people into the correct jobs, helping them be successful in that job and having a boss who encourages them to be successful.”

The psychologists, he said, are important not only to help hire the right people, but for training people to be effective leaders and good bosses. “People don’t leave jobs; they leave bosses,” he said.

In the realm of psychology, industrial-organizational psychology is the little sliver in the Venn diagram where psychology meets industry. The Labor Department says the median pay for the job is $83,580.

Douglas H. Reynolds, a DDI vice president who is also a former president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, said while just 1,600 people work as industrial-organizational psychologists, there are 8,000 members of the professional society, 2,500 of them students.

He said the disparity between the federal count of the occupation and the number of society members can be explained because at least half the members are psychologists employed in university business schools. They list their occupations as “professor.”

But outside of universities, he said, the field is rich for people who want to work in human relations at larger companies.

The profession has changed over the years. Reynolds said the traditional view of the personnel office was that it was nothing but a desk with a bunch of file cabinets for a job that was focused on pay and benefits.

Now, he said, with increased automation of the pay and benefits, personnel is more about talent management.

Byham said while the value of companies used to be measured by their inventory or equipment, “Now a company’s worth is influenced by the innovations that come from your company. … The unique advantage is coming from the people you have inside.”

It’s the management of those people – the workers who give the company value – that will lead to growth in the field, even if it is one of the smallest occupational categories.

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