I/O Program Requirements and Expectations

I/O Program Requirements and Expectations

The Penn State I/O graduate program is continuously rated as one of the top five I/O psychology doctoral programs in the nation. To obtain this level of success, there are several key characteristics of the program that distinguish the student experience from other programs:

  • Flexibility/Self-structured
    • You have choices in the courses you take, the projects you do, and who you work with. You do not ‘belong’ to any one faculty member
  • Size/breadth of faculty interests
    • With a large number of I/O faculty, plus other high-quality departments at Penn State, we can meet a wide range of interests in both “I” and “O” topic areas.
  • Opportunities for Teaching, Research and Practice
    • Available instructor positions, research groups, and the practicum course mean such that our students can make an informed choice about career options

Thus, the successful graduate student is self-motivated to discuss interests, career goals, and program performance with faculty, seeks out multiple research opportunities, and makes him/herself available for the many opportunities (intra- and extra-departmental) afforded to our students.

A fundamental goal of the I/O Psychology program at Penn State has been to develop scientist-practitioners. We do this by creating opportunities for faculty and student interactions with state and local organizations. Practicum experience is a requirement for all graduate I/O students in their first through third years in the program for three years (6 semesters).

Practicum’s goals

  1. Providing graduate students with experience in both the science and practice of I/O psychology
  2. SIOP Training Guidelines (1999):
  • Direct exposure to and participation in applied problems
  • Allows students to gain insight into such issues as building client relationships and learning client management skills, and
  • Enables students to learn how to balance theory, research, and practice in ongoing organizational projects with resource/time constraints and continually changing demands.

Example projects

  • Oakley: Creating an assessment of person-organization fit to be used in selection.  Tasks include developing the assessment tool, conducting concurrent and predictive validation studies, generating technical reports, and working closely with Oakley to facilitate implementation.
  • Development Dimensions International: Creating and testing items for a non-verbal cognitive ability test.  Task include developing items and using item response theory (IRT) to evaluate them.
  • Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA): Conducting longitudinal dataset analysis to address issues pertaining to member commitment and participation, member priorities, and member views regarding the compensation system. Tasks include data analysis, technical report writing, and presenting findings to PSEA management.
  • Pennsylvania State University Development Office: Creating a more streamlined and efficient selection system for Development Officers. Tasks include conducting interviews and focus groups to determine core job competencies, creating appropriate assessment tools, and generating guides for the interpretation of results.
  • PNC Bank: Creating and implementing Developmental Assessment Center for Junior Managers and Interns. Tasks include conducting focus groups to determine core job competencies, developing assessment center exercises and feedback reports, and generating technical reports and guides for future implementation.

Here is a recent comment regarding our work with the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (CCWRC):

This experience was, without a doubt, the best experience I've had with student consulting (or faculty consulting for that matter) in the 18 years I've been at the CCWRC! The students were unfailingly professional, incredibly thorough, and most importantly they listened to us. We've often worked with consultants who were more interested in pushing their own agenda or ideas about what should work than they were in listening and hearing us talk about our needs. Your students spent the time talking with multiple staff people so that everyone had the opportunity to be included and heard. It was time-consuming and challenging, but well worth the effort...We are using the tool they designed and people seem quite pleased with it -- and it will likely be something we'll use well and consistently which was our goal.
Anne K. Ard, M. Div., Ph.D.
Executive Director CCWRC

Research Opportunities

Benefits of engaging in research

  • Developing experience with project leadership and teamwork
  • Gaining networking connections that can lead to further employment and data
  • Gaining a greater understanding of how science and practice can/should be integrated


Our program is unique in that we do not have a one-on-one mentoring model, where you are brought in to work with a single faculty member. Instead, you are expected to work with at least two faculty members at Penn State in some capacity, and it is completely acceptable to switch from one adviser to another in order to broaden your training and exposure to I/O topics.

Research Projects

You are required to conduct at least two independent research projects, the master’s thesis (ideally defended prior to your third year) and the doctoral dissertation (ideally defended between your fourth and fifth year).

Other research opportunities

Most students do not stop with two, and obtain additional research experience by working with multiple faculty and/or by doing the minor.  For example, students often are working on their thesis with one faculty member while writing a book chapter with another faculty member.  Several faculty members have regular research-based lab meetings that students can attend to learn more about research opportunities.  The minor project, if one chooses the minor, is an additional research opportunity with a non-I/O professor.  Finally, students also have self-generated research projects based on practicum data or by working with each other.