Why I Chose Industrial-Organizational  Psychology: Leveraging my Military Experience

EKU Online > Why I Chose Industrial-Organizational  Psychology: Leveraging my Military Experience

Initially, I had no intentions of becoming a psychologist. While I have always been interested in psychology in a general way, I knew little of the various divisions in our field and thought that all psychologists were ‘clinical’.  I doubted my ability to provide clinical patients the attentiveness and time they might need, so, I never looked at the field more closely. 

The Importance of personal experience

One day, while discussing PTSD with a medical doctor, I mentioned that it was my belief that the therapist and psychologists the army employs to help soldiers with PTSD do not really understand what it is they are working with.  I stated that I did not believe it was a lack of education or empathy, but a lack personal experience with the situations surrounding military PTSD that impedes their understanding of it.  The doctor asked if I had ever thought of studying psychology and filling this need myself. 

Reconsidering my path

At the time that I had this conversation, I was working on a degree in civil engineering and had hit a brick wall.  I couldn’t take traditional classes because of my day job, and, understandably, the classes I needed were not offered in any other format.  This caused me to begin to reevaluate my education and future career options. With the doctor’s question fresh in my head, I decided to look at careers in psychology.  As soon as I did this, I learned that psychology was a far broader field than I had previously thought and that many, if not the majority of psychologists, do not work with patients. 

As I learned more about the field and its divisions, I understood that I had interest in many of them, particularly social, cognitive, and neuro psychologies.  I wanted to do something that would allow me to leverage the skills, knowledge, and experiences from my career in the military so they could benefit me in my second career. While Industrial-Organizational psychology is a division in its own right, it is sometimes referred to or described as ‘applied social psychology’ and utilizes research and theories from all the other divisions of psychology alongside of its own research as it uses psychology to improve organizations and our experiences in them.  This was important to me because I, personally, see little value in knowledge that is not applied.  I-O psychology doesn’t just conduct research and develop theories, it applies them by working very closely with businesses and government, sometimes embedded in them, sometimes consulting.

Finding the right fit with Industrial-Organizational Psychology

It is this combination of the applied practicality of I-O psychology and its willingness and need to utilize knowledge from all the other divisions of psychology that drew me towards it.  Also, while lacking formal training, I had performed some of the roles stereotypically performed by I-O psychologist during the course of my military career, such as job analysis, team structure and design, skills testing, and personnel selection and development, to name a few. 

These were some of the tasks that I enjoyed most and while ill equipped to do them to the standard I am coming to expect of myself, this experience reinforced my decision to pursue an education and career in IO Psychology.  Before I even began my studies here in EKU’s psychology department, first as an undergraduate, and now as a graduate student in EKU’s MS in I-O psychology program, I knew that I-O psychology was what I wanted to study. It met all my needs and included all my interests.

While there are definitely ‘career paths’ within IO Psychology, it appears to me to be the most flexible division.  In many ways, one’s career path can really be what one makes it with the ability to work in academia, government, as member of an organization or as a consultant for one.  I-O psychology can be leveraged into a career that is not technically psychology, but that benefits from the scientific understanding of people and organizations or many combinations of these and more.  As a final note, I-O psychology’s ranking as second only to psychiatry in terms of its earning potential kind of tops all the other great aspects of this division off with a rather attractive cherry.

By: Joshua Simkins, EKU io psychology student

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