For years, clinical psychology attracted more students than Emporia State University's other master's programs. Over the past five years, that has changed. Today, the Kansas-based university's industrial/organizational (I/O) master's program attracts the most students, enrolling 10 to 12 new students annually--double the number accepted in the early 1990s--while the clinical program only fills 9 of its 25 slots, which forced the department to re-assign a clinical faculty member to I/O.

Kansas laws that limit master's-level practice help explain the trend. "More students figure they need to go all the way to the clinical doctorate," says I/O program director Brian Schrader, PhD. "But with the I/O master's degree, students can go out and immediately apply it in human resources, personnel or consulting."

The growth of master's I/O isn't limited to Kansas. APA's Div. 14 (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, SIOP) listed 36 master's I/O programs in 1989 and now lists 95. During the same period, the number of I/O doctoral programs listed grew from 89 to 100. That relatively stable growth at the doctoral level is not a surprise to Jeannette Cleveland, PhD, fellows chair for SIOP and a psychology professor in the doctoral I/O program at Pennsylvania State University. She notes that, naturally, fewer students enter doctoral training because of such factors as different career goals, length of training and competition to get in. Penn State's doctoral program, for example, averages about 100 applications a year for five slots.

Whereas master's I/O programs generally prepare students for jobs in corporations' human resources and personnel departments, doctoral I/O programs are more geared to prepare students for management and consulting work on larger-scale projects and for academic positions. "So there's not really competition between the I/O master's and doctoral levels because they have different preparation goals," says Cleveland. "If master's programs are helping to get out good information about test validity and personnel selection processes, that's great."

At the master's level, clinical, counseling and school psychology still attract the most students, but the relative growth in I/O programs shows that more students seek them, says Laura Koppes, PhD, chair of the SIOP Education and Training Committee and director of the I/O master's program at Eastern Kentucky University. "Why is a program developed?" she asks. "Usually because there is a demand."

I/O in demand

New I/O programs continue to crop up, particularly at regional universities, Koppes notes. Her program launched in 2000, for example. Western Kentucky University has one, and Northern Kentucky University is considering starting one, too.

"There's a particular push for business development in Kentucky," says Koppes. "The idea is students will stay here and help develop the economy."

Along with the growth in I/O programs, however, has come something of a shortage of I/O faculty, says Rosemary Hays-Thomas, PhD, psychology professor at the University of West Florida. Psychology faculty slots compete with more lucrative jobs in industry, consulting and business schools, she explains. "Some departments are having trouble hiring I/O psychologists to do the teaching and supervision needed in a master's program," she says.

On the other hand, when faculty bring their industry contacts into training programs, students reap the benefits. At Middle Tennessee State University, for example, I/O Program Coordinator Rick Moffett, PhD, says that the I/O faculty have forged partnerships through which their students work with area businesses and organizations. Students are devising interview selection protocols for the Tennessee Department of Transportation and have developed Web-based training for Hollywood Video.

I/O in perspective

Such networking potentially leads students to internships and jobs, says Moffett. Typical jobs include working in compensation for Dell and Microsoft, in selection for BellSouth, and, recently, in quality control for Bridgestone Firestone. Once graduates enter a company, "most of them climb the ladder quickly," says Moffett.

Less realistic, says I/O associate psychology professor William Siegfried, PhD, is some students' aim to land higher-paying consulting jobs right out of school. For the most part, they first need experience in larger companies, says Siegfried, of the I/O program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. For those jobs, he says, "the placement rate is good. The main problem is we send students out on those projects, and they get hired before finishing the program."

But does the growth of I/O threaten more traditional areas such as counseling, clinical and school? Not so far--enrollment in other master's programs remains mostly steady. At Eastern Kentucky, for example, the clinical program has stayed consistent over 18 years, and the school program has grown slightly. Also, the degree is not necessarily an end in itself, says Eastern Kentucky's Koppes. She notes that some of her I/O graduates choose to continue with their graduate studies in psychology or other areas. "That's what I like about this degree," she says. "Even at the master's level there are a range of areas and opportunities you can choose."