Skip to main content

Industrial & Organizational Psychology (M.S.) at Northern Kentucky University

Question:         Where can I find information about the IO program?

Response:         Program information is available through several sources.

Email:                Contact IO program director, Dr. Philip Moberg, at


Question:         How many students do you accept each year?

Response:         Typically, 15-18. We have found that this range creates optimal class sizes that promote and enrich discussion in graduate seminars, allows students to interact with IO faculty, and provides a low student-to-faculty ratio for independent study and thesis research purposes.

Question:         But, if you admit 15-18 students each year, won’t this limit access to faculty?

Response:         No, because not all graduate students choose to conduct thesis or independent study research. Typically, faculty work closely with two to four graduate students each year on individual research and thesis projects. With three full-time faculty, this provides any student interested in learning how to conduct research with ample access to faculty mentoring.

Question:         What percent of total applicants are admitted?

Response:         This depends on the number of students who apply in any one year, which can vary widely and reflect multiple factors. For example, in a healthy economy, the total number of applicants tends to drop, while in a struggling economy, this total tends to rise. It is difficult to characterize and can mislead if interpreted as an indicator of selectivity.  

Question:         When can students be admitted to and begin the graduate program?

Response:         Although most students begin their graduate program sequence in the fall semester, students also are admitted for the spring and summer semesters. Spring students can enroll in required and elective classes, while summer students can enroll in elective courses.

Question:         Why does NKU not require a thesis? Other IO programs do.

Response:         We designed our program to provide graduate students the flexibility to tailor the academic experience to their individual needs and intended career paths. For example, IO graduate students planning applied career paths may view conducting research as peripheral to their career objectives. For these students, completing elective courses in leadership, work motivation, occupational health, compensation and benefits, and consumer psychology may broaden their expertise for a specific career objective and strengthen their competitive position in the job market. Students are encouraged to conduct master’s thesis research if desired.

Question:         If I don’t complete a thesis, how will I develop my writing skills?

Response:         Although developing proficiency in writing is essential for all IO psychology graduate students, completing a master’s thesis is only one path to this goal. At NKU we incorporate a major writing component into each graduate seminar for this express purpose. By composing literature reviews, research proposals, essay examinations, and project summaries in multiple courses across two years of coursework, you will learn different styles (e.g., APA format) of written communication while progressively developing your writing proficiency.  

Question:         If I do complete a thesis, isn’t it likely to lengthen my graduate program?

Response:         Not necessarily. Often, students who intend to conduct a thesis project develop an idea with their thesis advisor during the summer between the first and second years. These students will design, propose, conduct, and present their project over the course of the fall and spring semesters of the second year. Because the thesis counts as the equivalent of two elective courses, sufficient time is provided to complete the thesis and IO program in two years.

But thesis ideas may not emerge on a predictable schedule. You may not develop your thesis idea until you take a particular class, and thus start your project a bit later. In general, thesis projects take about a year to conduct. So, when you decide to conduct thesis research, meet with your advisor and start planning together to use your time most efficiently. 

Question:         Some IO programs count internships toward graduate hours. Does NKU?

Response:         Because the IO program at NKU is designed to maximize the amount of formal academic training that you receive as a graduate student (i.e., 15 classes, 45 hours), we do not count applied internship hours toward this goal. We do recognize that internships provide valuable practical experience that may lead to potential job opportunities, and do encourage students to pursue internships when they arise, but prefer to maximize your formal training. 

Question:       I have applied to several IO psychology graduate programs, but don’t know how to compare them. How can I do this to reach a sound decision?

Response:         This is a complex question. Although IO psychology programs share a common focus, program characteristics, content, and costs may differ. For example, comparing program cost can mislead because program content may differ. How many credit hours are needed to complete each program? A longer, more rigorous program in terms of credit hours may cost more initially, but represent an investment that will broaden your preparation, deepen your understanding of content, and increase your competitive advantage entering the job market.   

 But raw credit hours alone can mislead as well, because program content and what counts toward program requirements may vary. The attached table at the end of the FAQs lists required core courses and elective options that comprise the IO program at NKU, and provides a practical framework for comparing IO programs by course content.

To do this, you may need to visit a program’s website and course catalog to find IO courses, but the comparison is worthwhile. For example, you might start by looking for statistics courses, their content, and how many credit hours are assigned to each. Programs may subdivide quantitative courses into two courses comprised of labs or sessions for specific software, but cover the same content as other programs that offer a single, more comprehensive course. Perhaps your faculty can help you make this comparison.  

Programs that adopt the SIOP competency model to design their graduate education in IO psychology are likely to cover similar topics, but also to combine topics in different ways, which can make comparison more challenging. Read the course descriptions for insights.

 Another difference involves elective hours. How many elective hours are counted toward program requirements? Are electives only academic courses or do independent study, practicum, and thesis research count toward elective hours, as they do at NKU? How often are electives offered, annually, semiannually, when demand arises, or when faculty are available?

At NKU the IO program offers online electives in occupational health psychology and public health annually, and on-campus electives in leadership theory, work motivation, consumer psychology, and compensation and benefits semiannually.

Question:         NKU’s IO program was more recently established than other IO programs. Doesn’t this mean that it is less experienced in training graduate students?

Response:         Not at all. NKU’s graduate program, established in 2004, is a nationally-ranked (#3), on-campus master’s program constructed following the SIOP competency model of graduate training. We are a quantitatively-oriented, content-rigorous degree program, requiring 45 credit hours of coursework to complete, that has produced nearly 200 graduates to date, 95% of whom work in professional career paths directly related to IO psychology, have applied their training to advance current careers, or pursued doctoral and professional degrees.  

Question:         NKU’s IO graduate program meets in the evening. Is it a part-time program?

Response:         Absolutely not. NKU’s graduate program was designed to be a full-time program that offers classes meeting one evening per week to accommodate both recent graduates and professional incumbents working in the Cincinnati region. By meeting during weekday evenings, recent graduates have found that they are able to locate part-time jobs, internships, or even full-time jobs during daytime hours without interfering with classes. Students who do locate jobs that exceed 30 hours per week have the flexibility to adjust their schedules to switch from full-time to part-time status and back as needed. But the IO program at NKU is full-time.   

Question:         Some IO programs project expected salary levels for their graduates but NKU does not. Why?

Response:         Statistics reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations often combine graduates who hold master’s and doctoral degrees into one category to estimate mean or median salaries. This is misleading. Salaries for graduates holding a master’s degree in IO psychology are likely to vary considerably depending on multiple factors that are beyond the control of any IO graduate program. These include (a) type and level of position; (b) job responsibilities; (c) critical nature of position; (d) tasks to be performed; (e) competencies required; (f) industry sector; (g) organizational size; (h) local, regional, and national economic conditions; and (i) base rate availability of qualified applicants. In combination, these will determine salary level and potential offers.

But no IO graduate program can influence these factors or guarantee salary level. Graduate programs do control one thing, the quality of education, instruction, training, and preparation that you receive. As a graduate student, you control the remaining critical element that determines how competitive you will be on the job market: the competencies that you develop and depth and breadth of your understanding in IO psychology. 

Having said this, based on the experiences of prior program graduates and our best judgment, a reasonable range of plausible starting salaries for recent IO graduates holding a master’s degree in IO psychology with minimal prior work experience might vary from $45,000 to $75,000.  

Question:         Do graduate students take all of their classes together?

Response:         In many cases, yes, but life and work can require schedule adjustments. IO graduate students enroll in three classes in each fall and spring semester of their first and second years. These 12 classes (36 hours) represent the core requirements of the program. Students then satisfy their nine remaining elective hours by choosing to enroll in (a) three additional classes, (b) two classes and a practicum project, or (c) one class and a master’s thesis. Elective classes are offered during fall, spring, and summer semesters by the IO program, and are offered by other graduate programs at NKU.     

Students who begin in the spring semester may enroll in required first-year core or elective courses, choose to complete summer electives, and then begin the full program sequence in the following fall semester. Students who begin in the summer semester may take elective courses, then begin the program sequence in the following fall.

The IO program at NKU is designed to offer flexibility to students who may begin classes together, but then locate internships, part-time jobs, or even full-time jobs while enrolled in the program. Graduate students may shift from full- to part-time status as needed, and take one or two classes each semester as their schedule allows. All required courses are offered once each year and may be completed as available, except for the quantitative sequence which begins in the fall semester.     

Question:         I am concerned about student loan debt and the cost of attending a graduate program, especially if I need to relocate. How expensive is it?

Response:         As a state-funded institution, Northern Kentucky University offers three graduate tuition tiers that reflect state of residence: Kentucky resident - $550 per credit hour, Indiana and Ohio resident- $670 per credit hour, other nonresident - $845 per credit hour. These translate into career investments of $24,750, $30,150, and $38,025 respectively for the 45-credit-hour M.S. degree in IO psychology at NKU. For graduate tuition information, see for current rate schedules.  

Question:         Where do most students attending the IO program at NKU come from?

Response:         In addition to IN, OH, and KY, graduate students have come to NKU from 82 colleges and universities in 24 states and territories, and from international institutions in 8 countries (i.e., Colombia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, and Ukraine). 

Question:         How important are GRE scores to the admission decision? How are GRE scores used? Should I repeat the GRE if my scores fall short of the admission criteria?

Response:         Three components contribute to your admission decision, your undergraduate academic performance, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Taken together, these provide a multidimensional indication of your readiness for graduate study. We have waived the requirement to complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for spring, summer, and fall 2021 and 2022 admissions.

Our reasoning is that GRE scores provide only a momentary estimate of your quantitative, verbal, and analytic writing abilities on the day that you took the exam. In contrast, your undergraduate academic transcript, particularly for the last two years of courses completed, provides a richer, multidimensional indicator of your performance across multiple exams, quizzes, papers, projects, and exercises in wide-ranging courses completed over several years.

Your personal statement is intended to provide an opportunity to explain how you became interested in IO psychology, your familiarity with the field, areas that interest you at this point, and how you intend to apply the degree to your career path. We do recognize that (a) not all universities offer an undergraduate IO psychology course, (b) your present interests may evolve as you learn more about IO psychology, and (c) your career directions may change as well. 

Question:         What types of internships do students obtain while completing the IO program?

Response:         IO graduate students have competed successfully for internships in wide-ranging organizations across the greater Cincinnati metropolitan region. Most are announced publicly through sponsoring organizations’ websites, which necessarily attracts graduate students from multiple graduate programs in the region. But NKU IO students regularly obtain internships, which typically lead to worthwhile professional experiences, second internships with other organizations, and even job opportunities. Because some graduate students are incumbent professionals, internships are not required for program completion. But the IO program encourages and supports students who are interested in obtaining internship experience. 

Question:         How do students decide which faculty to work with?

Response:         For academic and administrative purposes, the IO program director serves as the initial primary advisor. But for independent study, practicum, and thesis projects or grant-funded research, you are free to work with any of the graduate faculty. You will have multiple opportunities to interact with faculty in classes and on projects to learn more about common interests and mentoring styles.

Question:         Is statistics used as a “cut” course to weed out weaker students?

Response:         No. When you are admitted to the IO program at NKU, it is our statement that we believe you have the needed abilities and are capable of succeeding. This is the reason that we ask all applicants to have earned a grade of ‘B’ or better in an undergraduate statistics course. As we advise all incoming students, you do not need to be a genius at statistics to succeed. But you do need to recognize that statistics lies at the center of much that we do and be willing to allocate the effort needed to become comfortable and competent with various quantitative methods and tools.

As an IO graduate student, you will complete three quantitative courses, univariate statistics, multivariate statistics, and psychometrics and scientific survey research. Don’t let the names intimidate you; they build upon each other and your undergraduate statistics training. Your sense of comfort with statistics will grow progressively in steps, but it will occur. Evidence of this growth is best exemplified by a graduate student, who, after the first year said, “Wait a minute, I just read a complex journal article and understood it. When did that happen”?    

Question:         The IO program at NKU does not require comprehensive oral exams. Doesn’t that mean that it is less rigorous and challenging?

Response:         No.  All of the graduate faculty have experience with written comprehensive exams in doctoral programs and oral comprehensive exams that sometimes accompany them. We do not believe that these exercises strengthen the practical competencies of IO graduates. 

We would prefer that students use the time invested in preparing for these exercises by conducting research and completing electives to strengthen their professional competencies.  

Question:         Can I enroll in the IO graduate program on a part-time basis?

Response:         Yes. Although we designed the IO graduate program at NKU for students who can attend on a full-time basis, we offer the flexibility to accommodate working professionals, often in HR and related fields, whose job responsibilities may restrict the time available for academic classes. Our experience has been that incumbent HR professionals bring valuable perspectives to classes that inform discussion, place theory into practical contexts, and greatly enrich the experience of all. They represent a direct network of professionals who can provide informative insights based on personal experience, and share opportunities for internships and employment at their respective organizations. Incumbents who enroll on a part-time basis typically are highly motivated to complete their degree programs, because they must allocate their efforts among work, academics, and personal lives. Part-time students are welcome at NKU and encouraged to apply for admission.

Question:         How long does it take students to complete the graduate program?

Response:         Two years and two summers for a student attending on a full-time basis. In the fall and spring semesters of the first and second years, full-time students will complete 12 required courses, 3 per semester. The remaining 9 hours needed may be satisfied by electives completed during summers preceding the first year, between the first and second years, or following the second year. Some students will add an elective as a fourth course in the fall or spring semester of the second year, but this varies with individual responsibilities.

Students attending on a part-time basis have six years to complete all program requirements. One graduate student, an HR vice-president with demanding responsibilities, completed the program at one course per semester for five years. This vice-president’s perspectives enriched each class in which s/he was enrolled. Often, students employed on a full-time basis want to retain their professional positions while pursuing an advanced degree, and will enroll in one or two courses per semester. Our program is designed to accommodate this schedule. So, while the majority of graduate students complete their programs on a full-time basis in two years and two summers, others progress at different rates as their personal and professional lives allow.

Question:         What kinds of financial support are available?

Response:         Each graduate program at NKU is allocated one graduate assistantship. In the IO psychology program, this graduate assistant supports faculty who teach research methods courses by mentoring undergraduate students, grading assignments, and working with IO faculty on research and program projects. 

Other academic, administrative, business, housing, and operational units at NKU allocate funds to support graduate assistantship positions for which IO psychology graduate students are eligible to apply. Our experience has been that because the IO program is selective in our admissions process, the reputation of IO graduate students has grown to such an extent that they often are sought for GA positions that become available. We encourage all graduate students to apply for GA opportunities by posting their resume to NKU’s Human Resources website for student jobs.

Question:         You’ve described fall, spring, and summer classes. Are graduate students required to take classes during the summer?

Response:         No, all required program courses are offered only during the fall and spring semesters, typically three classes per semester. Electives are offered in the summer, fall, and spring semesters. Summer attendance is not needed to complete the IO program.

Question:         What opportunities are offered during the summer?

Response:         Summers are opportunities to engage in multiple program-related activities. You may enroll in elective courses, complete internships, plan thesis research projects with faculty, pursue a co-op opportunity, locate a summer job, or even take a break from academics.

 Summer elective classes meet for seven weeks during the first or second summer session and alternate from year to year. For example, Leadership Theory and Work Motivation are offered in alternate summers, while Public Health, part of the Total Work Health Certificate (more about that later), is offered online in the second summer session each year. Other electives may be offered during summers depending on student interest and faculty availability, while other graduate programs at NKU will offer graduate courses that are suitable for IO elective credit.     

Question:         Are any classes taught by adjunct faculty?

Response:         Yes, when an advanced degree, specialized expertise, and/or extensive professional experience are required to offer a rigorous graduate seminar, we invite qualified adjunct faculty to contribute to the IO program.

For example, the elective in consumer psychology is presented by a marketing vice-president who holds a doctoral degree in social psychology and 20 years of relevant marketing research experience. The elective in compensation and benefits is offered by a 30-year professional with experience managing benefits programs who presents certification training for the national compensation and benefits association. The electives in occupational health psychology and public health are offered by an instructor who holds a doctoral degree in community health, master’s degree in IO psychology, and 15 years of research experience in occupational health.

Of the 12 required graduate seminars, 9 are presented by full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty, with the remaining 3 presented by adjunct faculty. For example, the required seminar in training and development is presented by an instructor who holds a master’s degree in IO psychology and has 19 years of accumulated experience in managing training and development programs in public and private section organizations, most recently for the headquarters of a Fortune-500 corporation based in Cincinnati.

Two required seminars, job analysis and staffing and selection and performance appraisal are presented by an adjunct faculty member who holds master’s degrees in IO psychology and Human Resources Management, and 15 years of applied practical experience in these domains in private sector organizations.    

Question:         How active are faculty in presenting research at professional conferences?

Response:         Dr. Bryant-Lees is a member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and has presented research at meetings of the APS Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), Aerospace Medical Association Conference (AMA), and Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

Dr. Moberg is a member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association for Psychological Science (APS), and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). He has presented research with graduate and undergraduate honors students at annual meetings and conferences of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP); Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM); Northeast Decision Sciences Institute (NEDSI); Association for Psychological Science (APS); APA/NIOSH meeting on Work, Stress, and Health (WSH); American Education Research Association (AERA); and has chaired a symposium on workplace abuse for the Academy of Management (AoM). 

 Dr. Smith is a member of the the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA), and the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society (HFES). He has presented research at the meetings and conferences of the American Psychological Association (APA), Association for Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Association for Psychological Science (APS), Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), Human Factors Society (HFS), International Conference on Social Dilemmas, (ICSD), International Ergonomic Association (IEA), International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM), Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA), Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (RMPA), Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), and Western Psychological Association (WPA).

Question:         Do graduate students attend or present research at conferences?

Response:         Yes. IO graduate students regularly present research at national meetings of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP); Association for Psychological Science (APS); and APA/NIOSH conference on Work, Stress, and Health (WS&H). Additionally, graduate students have presented research at regional conferences such as the Midwest Psychological Association (MPA), South East Psychological Association (SEPA), and the Industrial / Organizational – Organizational Behavior (IOOB) graduate student conference.

Question:         Is funding available to support student conference attendance?

Response:         Yes. The Department of Psychological Science partly funds travel, housing, and registration costs for graduate students who present research at regional or national conferences (SIOP, APS, WS&H, MPA, SEPA, IOOB, etc.). Additional travel funding is available from the College of Arts and Sciences to support research projects presented at conferences.  

Question:         What opportunities are there for gaining research experience in the program?

Response:         Graduate students have multiple opportunities to gain research experience. Three opportunities occur as elective program completion options, (1) an applied practicum project conducted in an organizational field setting, (2) an independent study project on a topic of student interest, or (3) a formal master’s thesis project conducted in a laboratory, digital, or field setting, Graduate students pursuing each of these opportunities work closely with and are mentored individually by IO faculty.

Additional research opportunities emerge, internally via IO program seminars and externally through graduate assistantship activities. Seminar projects provide opportunities to conduct research in scale development, survey design, or community engagement consulting projects. Across seminars in the IO program, graduate students conduct literature reviews, develop formal research proposals, design research studies, develop analytic strategies, and then may convert these elements into independent study, practicum, or thesis research projects. 

External to the Department of Psychological Science, graduate assistants work on research with individual faculty on grant-funded projects, academic administrators on internal research projects, or business unit managers on applied research projects. Although the IO program does not control these external graduate assistantships, IO students at NKU have established a recognized reputation as graduate assistants who are actively sought when positions become available.      

Question:         I may be interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in IO psychology in the future. Will the IO program at NKU prepare me for doctoral study?

Response:         Yes. Because the focus of most doctoral programs is conducting research, we advise IO graduate students who are considering doctoral paths to conduct a formal master’s thesis research project. Completing a thesis project provides multiple advantages.

The first is learning about the multiple steps involved in conducting rigorous scientific research. At NKU, the thesis process involves identifying a faculty mentor to guide you in developing a thesis research idea, testable hypotheses, study design, methodology, analytic approach, and proposal. You will present your research proposal to a committee of faculty for comment and advice, then conduct your study, summarize in a formal thesis document, and finally present to your committee for approval.  

The second advantage is that engaging in the thesis process provides you with an opportunity to “test the waters,” that is, to experience the process firsthand to assess the extent of your interest in conducting research before committing to a doctoral program.

The third advantage is that the outcome of this project, a formal master’s thesis,provides tangible evidence to a doctoral program of your interest in conducting research, competence in scientific writing, and proficiency in quantitative analysis that collectively serve as persuasive indicators of an applicant’s readiness for and likely success in doctoral study.

Multiple graduates of NKU’s IO program who completed a master’s thesis subsequently have been admitted to doctoral programs in IO psychology, human factors psychology, assessment in educational psychology, educational policy study, educational leadership, public health, law, and workplace psychology.

Question:         Can I contact a current student or graduate about the IO program?

Response:         Yes, absolutely. Program graduates who are established professionals or recent graduates beginning their careers, and current graduate students are available and gladly will share their perspectives on the IO program, experiences as a graduate student, and thoughts about how the program has impacted their personal and professional lives. Contact the program director at to arrange these conversations.











Total Credit Hours






Required Credit Hours






Elective Credit Hours













IO Overview & Research Methods (3)






Organizational Psychology(3) *






Organizational Change & Development (3)






Job Analysis & Staffing (3) *






Training & Development (3)






Selection & Performance Appraisal (3)






Workplace Attitudes & Cognition (3) *






Human Factors in Work Settings (3) *






Univariate Statistics (3)






Multivariate Statistics & SPSS/AMOS/CFA (3)






Psychometrics/EFA & Sci Survey Research (3)






Applied Team Consulting Project (3)












Consumer Psychology (3)






Compensation & Benefits (3)






Work Motivation (3)






Leadership Theory (3)






Occupational Health Psychology (3) *






Public Health (3) *






Independent Study in IO Psychology (3)






Applied Practicum Project (3)






Master’s Thesis (6)






* Counts toward Total Worker Health Certificate (18 hours)