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Business Psychologist Career Guide

Business Psychology Overview

In his TED Talk, “The Way We Think about Work Is Broken,” American psychologist Barry Schwartz said, “we design human nature by designing the institutions within which people live and work.”

In his talk, Schwartz encourages employers to stop thinking of employees as insignificant parts of a larger machine that are simply satisfied with a salary. Instead, Schwartz insists that there are intangible rewards that employees seek, separate from a paycheck, that many employers ignore.

These intangible rewards are one of the ways in which business psychologists strive to make workplaces healthier, happier, and more efficient.

If you have a deep interest in psychology and business management, are skilled at critical thinking and problem-solving, and seek to make a large impact on individuals and organizations with your career, then business psychology is right for you.

Business psychologists use the principles and foundations of psychology to assist in all modes of business, such as: 

  • Human resources 
  • Administration 
  • Sales
  • Management 
  • Marketing 

In this guide, we’ll outline what a business psychologist—or an industrial-organizational psychologist—is, what they do, what skills they need, and ultimately how to become a business psychologist. 

budget analyst crunching numbers

What Is a Business Psychologist?

A business psychologist works directly with businesses of all kinds, including teams, and individuals, to help them operate more efficiently. Using psychological insights, a business psychologist searches out any cracks in the foundation of a business and helps to chart a more productive path forward.

Having poor culture, process, or communication can be fatal for a company. A business psychologist’s job is to prevent those major structural pitfalls or to correct them once they’ve occurred. 

As a coach or consultant of sorts, a business psychologist focuses on individuals as well as entire systems. They look at how and why individuals thrive, or don’t, within specific systems. They then offer support at three key levels:

  • Leaders: How a leader leads sets the tone for an entire organization. Business psychologists help individual leaders build awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and of how they show up for their teams. They then assist them with communicating through change and inspiring positive momentum. 
  • Teams: At the team -level, a business psychologist can observe and identify broken processes, gaps in talent, and areas of friction. By conducting assessments, facilitating meetings, and providing training, a business psychologist can help teams function more smoothly.
  • Organizations: An organizational audit conducted by a business psychologist can identify major areas preventing the organization as a whole from growing in a scalable way. These types of issues might be causing retention problems or resulting in large dips in productivity.

What Does a Business Psychologist Do?

Now that you know what a business psychologist is, let’s talk about what a business psychologist does on a deeper level.

Here are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a business psychologist:

  • Examine employees’ and companies’ processes in order to boost productivity at work. This involves listening and critical thinking skills to determine what needs fixing. 
  • Assess new hires and leadership to make a match for the company. Determining if someone is the right cultural fit requires a deep understanding of behavioral science. 
  • Develop talent and leadership through training and skills programs. Creating and facilitating these programs involves teaching and leadership skills.
  • Help resolve issues within the policies or performance of employees. Empathetic communication is key here.  

Business psychology, or industrial organizational psychology, can be useful in every facet of business. Here are some of the teams where business psychologists can be most helpful: 

  • Executives: On a daily basis, understanding human factors can help executives anticipate and prevent workforce issues. Incrementally, business psychologists can advise on change management strategy and empathetic communication.
  • Human Resources: It’s crucial for HR teams to establish a long-term, supportive company culture, to determine the right job candidates, and to promote learning and development. Business psychologists can use neuroscience tools and behavioral science methods to assist with all of these things.
  • Marketing: On the campaign, product, and brand levels, marketing professionals already apply psychological principles when considering the most effective ways to target and resonate with their audiences. A business psychologist can further advise on understanding user behavior, developing the right messaging, and ultimately converting customers.

How Do I Become a Business Psychologist?

To become a practicing business psychologist, you’ll need to start by earning a bachelor’s degree. You’ll then need to pursue a master’s degree or doctoral degree. There’s also the possibility of gaining certifications, specializations, and continuing education. Depending on the field you wish to enter, an advanced degree in psychology may be required, but a business undergraduate degree or a psychology degree is a great place to start.

It’s worth noting that the requirements for classifying yourself as a business psychologist vary from state to state. Research the exact requirements for your specific state before making decisions regarding your education.

Best Degrees for a Business Psychologist

Business Management – B.S. Business Administration

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:...

Hone your business acumen and garner added...

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish within 41 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,720 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Account executive
  • Business analyst
  • Program manager
  • Director or senior director
  • Vice president

This online degree program is an excellent choice for kick-starting your organizational management career.

Human Resource Management – B.S. Business Administration

A SHRM-recognized online business degree program:...

A SHRM-recognized online business degree program:...

A SHRM-recognized online business degree program:

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish within 35 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,720 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Human resource specialist
  • Director of talent acquisition
  • Recruiting manager
  • Organizational learning specialist
  • Vice president of HR

Earn your B.S. in Human Resources and help build strong organizations.


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What Skills Does a Business Psychologist Need?

A business psychologist requires a wide range of soft skills in order to be successful. These include:

  • Strong organization. Because a business psychologist often acts as a coach or consultant, they don’t have project managers to keep them organized and must possess this skill of organization.
  • Compassionate communication. Good communication skills are necessary for everyone in business (and in most fields) but especially for business psychologists. Communication skills include active listening, public speaking, writing, and much more.
  • High empathy. Business psychology roles have people at their center. Empathy should be at the heart of everything you do in this position. Having high emotional intelligence will also serve you well.
  • Active listening. Listening really is a skill, and one that most of us don’t do well. Business psychologists need to deeply understand the needs facing individuals as well as organizations—the first step of which is listening.
male budget analyst
  • Dedication to learning and teaching. Many business psychology jobs will require training and teaching others. Being a good teacher requires you to also be a lifelong learner, as knowledge is continually evolving.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving. Finding solutions to problems—whether individual or organization-wide—is a big focus of a business psychologist. You’ll need to be unbiased when seeking out the root of workplace issues and determining solutions that are right for the mission and culture of a workplace.   
  • Ability to work with all.  As a business psychologist, you must be capable of communicating effectively with people of a diverse range of ages, genders, ethnicities, and more.
  • Calm under pressure. By nature, a business psychologist works in exacting environments. The folks they’re working with are often undergoing change initiatives, having their processes questioned, or are experiencing other workplace issues. A business psychologist has the opportunity to bring a sense of calm to situations that are otherwise stressful.
  • Attention to detail. Psychologists must be in tune with individuals’ needs, team dynamics, and the organization's mission statement. This attention to detail will allow the psychologist to align their efforts with the people and goals of the organization. 
  • Data analysis. Business psychology requires hard skills, too, like data analysis. You’ll need to analyze data to make informed business recommendations. Additionally, you’ll need to know how to effectively communicate that data in a way that gives it meaning. This technical skill can give you an edge in the field, and a higher salary.

How Much Does a Business Psychologist Make?

$111,150

A business psychologist's average salary is $111,150 per year, with differences by state and other specializations. That’s an hourly rate of $53.44. You’ll see business psychologist jobs with salaries ranging from $51,080 to $197,700.

What is the Job Outlook for a Business Psychologist?

12%

There is a projected 12.3% increase in 10-year employment for organizational psychologists, with the highest growth rates in California, Virginia, and Maryland. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Business Psychologist?

6+Years

Depending on the degree programs, time to certification, and advanced master's and Ph.D. completion—becoming an organizational, industrial, or business psychologist takes at least six years. Many work in a related field before entering psychology careers through placements in hospitals, centers, and more, as a practical application to prove skill through official residency.

Business Psychologist FAQs

A business psychologist can apply their analysis and insight to almost any firm or organization, such as: 

  • Private practices 

  • Independent businesses 

  • Social services  

  • Medical clinics 

Yes, an associate or bachelor’s degree is required before other learning requirements like attaining a master’s or Ph.D.

Interested in Becoming a Business Psychologist?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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