Psychology of work and organizations: a profession with a future

Psychology of work and organizations: a profession with a future

Many students begin their degree in psychology thinking of dedicating themselves to clinical psychology, but as the career progresses, they realize that it is increasingly complicated to dedicate themselves to this area of psychology . At present, one of the fields with the greatest professional output is that of psychology of work and organizations, in which many psychologists go on to form part of a company’s human resources department.

However, human resources and organizational psychology are not exactly the same thing, and to be a human resources professional it is not a requirement to be a psychologist . On the other hand, an organizational psychologist, in addition to the one in the human resources department, can perform his or her functions at the management level or in the area of commercial research and marketing and even production.

In today’s article we are going to review the organizational psychologist functions and we are going to go into the differences between this one and the human resources professional.

What is a work or organizational psychologist?

The work or organizational psychologist, also known as industrial psychologist or company psychologist , is a professional who applies the principles of psychology in the organizational and work environment. To this end, he has studied mental processes and human behaviour (both individual and group), and puts into practice his training in problem solving in the workplace. His general role covers the study, diagnosis, coordination, intervention and management of human behaviour within organisations .


You can work as part of the company, that is, as an employee within the organization’s own organizational chart (for example, in the recruitment and training department), although, sometimes, you can work as part of an external company outside the organization, performing functions of performance evaluation, work climate and worker health or offering coaching services for employees or managers, among other functions. Some organizational psychologists choose to develop their professional careers as scientists or teachers.

Functions of the occupational or organizational psychologist

Basically, the organizational or work psychologist has an important role in three main areas:

  • Human resources (training, capacity building, etc)
  • Marketing and Social and Commercial Research.
  • Occupational Health and Safety (Occupational Health Psychology)

But what are the functions it performs? Some of the functions of this professional are the following:

  • Plans, organises or directs different functions within the organisation , such as the admission, evaluation, compensation, retention and development of people.
  • Observe, describe, analyse, diagnose and resolve conflicts in human interactions. In this way it ensures a good work climate and develops the organizational culture.
  • Analyses and modifies the physical, social and psychological elements that affect work performance and impact on the efficiency of employees.
  • Applies questionnaires and interviews for the correct diagnosis of the climate , productivity and occupational health, and carries out preventive actions to correct possible maladjustments.
  • Advises the scorecard when necessary , for example, on collective negotiations, possible business strategies, improving the corporate image, etc.
  • Analyzes and puts into practice different psychological techniques to increase productivity, improve the organizational climate, avoid fatigue and prevent accidents or occupational health problems, such as: burnout or boreout.
  • He contributes his knowledge as an expert in leadership styles , interpersonal relationships, emotional control, negotiation techniques, decision making or correct planning.
  • Employs tools for the detection of talent and the improvement of organizational development , and carries out studies on consumer needs.
  • R ecommends, and if possible implements, actions to incentivise, compensate and remunerate staff, as well as ensure their well-being, safety and occupational health.
  • It is in charge of the training area, and designs training programs for the development of personnel, as well as career and promotion plans.
  • Directs and executes the recruitment processes . For this purpose, it can use different psychological tests and questionnaires to detect the competences of the candidates.
  • Analyses the staffing requirements , the workplace and the organisation.

Differences between the work psychologist and the human resources professional

The organizational psychologist is often referred to as the human resources professional, when they are different things. The organizational psychologist is a psychologist who has specialized in the field of organizations and work, while the human resources professional may not have training as a psychologist. In Spain, for example, there is a university degree called Degree in Labour Sciences and Human Resources (which replaces the former Degree in Labour Relations), and therefore the professional profile of the latter is different from that of the organisational psychologist . Among the subjects taught in this degree are subjects of work psychology, but, in addition, other subjects are taught, such as labour and trade union law or the taxation of individuals.

This is because in the human resources department of a company not only are recruitment or training functions carried out, but collective negotiations or tasks such as payroll management can be carried out . The profile of the organization’s psychologist fits some areas of this human resources department, but not all.

Training of the organizational psychologist

If you are a psychologist and want to dedicate yourself to organizational psychology, you should know that an organizational psychologist, unlike a human resources professional, has studied a degree in psychology. Some psychologists finish their degree and then start to work as recruiters or selection technicians and, after getting to know the world of human resources, are trained to cover other areas of HR, such as personnel administration or labour law.

Others, on the other hand, after finishing the Degree in Psychology, decide to do a Master’s degree. If that is your intention, you will have to choose between doing a Master’s in Human Resources Management or a Master’s in Organizational and Work Psychology. While the first one trains you in issues such as budget, staff payments and expenses, labour legislation, contracts, labour rights, workers’ safety systems (accident prevention), selection and training. The second allows you to study the behavior of the individual within an organization and everything related to motivation, leadership, stress (and other work-related illnesses), work climate and culture or the influence of psychological variables on performance.

  • If you want to know more about the Masters in Psychology, you can visit our post: “The 20 best Masters in Psychology”

Bibliographic references:

  • Vázquez Beléndez, M. (2002). Psychology of Work and Organizations – Historical Approach. University of Alicante.
  • Etkin, J. (2000). Política, Gobierno y gerencia de las organizaciones, Buenos Aires, Editorial Prentice Hall. (Chapter 3: The factors of complexity).
  • Schlemenson, A. (2002). La estrategia del talento, Bs. As., Editorial Paidós. (Chapter 4 The meaning of work).
  • Lévy-Levoyer, C. (2000). La motivación en la empresa – Modelos y estrategias Editorial Gestión 2000. (Part II From theory to practice – Chapter 4; Chapter 5 and Conclusions).

Leave a Reply