Educating Industrial–Organizational Psychologists: Perspectives From SIOP's Education and Training Committee


We commend Byrne et al. (2014) for initiating this important conversation regarding the current and future state of industrial–organizational (I–O) education. As the leaders of SIOP's education and training committee (i.e., chair, portfolio officer, and chair-in-training), we believe it is important to share additional information from the committee's perspective, as both the guidelines and certification have been reoccurring topics of discussions, as well as pose questions not fully addressed in the focal article that might facilitate such conversations. Our intent is not to represent or reflect the views of SIOP's leadership as a whole but rather share factual information that we have uncovered through our involvement with the education and training committee as well as highlight avenues to further engage interested parties in constructive dialog that may propel the I–O profession into the future.

The Guidelines

The current guidelines for education and training at the master's level and at the doctoral level were put into place in 1994 and 1999, respectively. Given the number of years that have passed, there is clearly a need to revisit and revise these guidelines. The education and training committee have actually already undertaken such an effort. A subcommittee was formed and the process of reviewing and revising these guidelines is currently underway. Thus, we encourage individuals with ideas, thoughts, and opinions regarding the future of the guidelines to share them with the education and training committee.

As we consider how best to revise the guidelines, there are some important issues related to the guidelines that are not fully addressed in the Byrne et al. article. First, it is not entirely clear whether the discussion and recommendations contained in the focal article pertain to education and training at only the doctoral level or also at the master's level. The focus of the article seems to be at the doctoral level, but given the large number of master's programs and master's students as well as graduates that comprise SIOP, training guidelines for master's level programs should also be part of this conversation. Unsurprisingly, the competencies in the two sets of current guidelines overlap considerably as both master's and doctoral level I–O psychologists likely need to possess similar sets of competencies, though perhaps to different degrees. If this belief continues to hold, this would lead to a number of related questions. Would the new competencies proposed by Byrne et al. also be expected for master's level students? If yes, to what extent and how then should master's students attain these competencies? Byrne et al. suggest that the best way to accomplish this is through a certified internship. One might then wonder if a similar internship be required of master's level students, as these individuals are arguably more likely to pursue applied careers where interpersonal and marketing skills are critical for success.

Another critical question worth considering concerns the central focus of the guidelines. The original guidelines focus primarily on I–O discipline-specific knowledge and skills. Several of the competencies offered by Byrne et al., however, address skills and behaviors of being a professional in I–O psychology. The 1999 guidelines included a limited definition of professional skills under the umbrella of consulting and business skills because the authors believed that these skills should be included in graduate training. Byrne et al. suggested expanding this competency to include avoidance of counterproductive behaviors, networking, interpersonal and communication skills, and/or self-management. Doing so begs the question of the overarching intent or purpose of these guidelines. Although we agree that these professional skills are important, is it reasonable to expect that graduate programs should provide the appropriate preparation for being a professional?

Finally, we appreciate the various new competencies suggested by Byrne et al. for inclusion in the revised guidelines. There are perhaps numerous other competencies that should be considered. For example, a competency related to technology and I–O is warranted. This competency might involve applying technology to solve organizational problems, collaborating with technical experts, and so on. There are likely other useful competencies to consider for inclusion, and the education and training committee welcomes such suggestions. However, in addition to incorporating new competencies appropriate for today's landscape, we also encourage educators to think about how the teaching of traditional competencies needs to evolve. For example, while we likely agree that statistical training is a backbone of the I–O profession, the training offered to many of our students has been slow to embrace modern statistical methods and techniques. For example, as a field we have been slow to adopt modern data science approaches or to educate our students in alternatives to our traditional methods (e.g., Bayesian analyses), both of which are facilitated by modern computing and have been embraced by other fields. Although some might disagree about the need to include either of these as points of emphasis in our statistical training, we feel as though they highlight the need to think about all of the competencies from a more modern future-oriented perspective. In addition, Tett, Walser, Brown, Simonet, and Tonidandel (2013) note that only a limited set of competencies are consistently covered in the graduate school curriculum. Thus, a discussion about the competencies covered in graduate training in general seems needed.


One of Byrne et al.'s main recommendations is the creation of a required certified internship program. Although the idea of a certified internship is certainly interesting to consider, issues of certification and accreditation more broadly appear to be of central interest to many students and educators within SIOP. For multiple years at the annual I–O program director's meeting held at SIOP, there has been an ongoing conversation regarding the desire by some to certify or accredit I–O programs. We believe that there is sufficient interest on the part of some program directors and substantial overlap of issues to include the possibility of program certification in this discussion. Moreover, students are equally interested in this issue. Perhaps the most frequent request of education and training comes from prospective students wishing guidance regarding choosing specific graduate programs. Currently, no mechanism exists for endorsing particular programs, but certification could potentially be a catalyst for change.

Many of the reasons presented for certifying internships are equally applicable to graduate programs: ensuring quality supervisions and contact, adequate payment and benefits, appropriate developmental experiences, protection of the student by setting clear expectations and avoiding inappropriate claims by the program, improving the credibility of programs regardless of name reputation, and so forth. Just as Byrne et al. argue that certified internships/postdocs would help challenge graduate programs to improve training, innovate, and meet the needs of future labor markets, certification at the program level may also help. After all, the goal “to create a ‘stamp of approval’ from SIOP that communicates a rigorous standard to the internship/postdoc that ensures the student of a developmental experience and the organization of a high quality outcome” (Byrne et al., p. 13) rings just a true if one were to replace the words “internship/postdoc” with “graduate program.” Historically, academic I–O psychologists have resisted any type of endorsement because of concerns regarding impingement upon academic freedom in curriculum design, student learning outcomes, and experiences.

Focusing more specifically on the issue of certifying internships, there are a number of practical yet critical questions that would need to be explored. For example, who does the certification? How does one require that someone completes a certified internship? Are there alternatives to internships and postdocs that should be considered? How would internships be identified and developed? Would organizations want their internships to be certified? Why would they? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of certification to the faculty, students, and employer? What are the long-term implications of requiring a certified internship? A look at other psychological disciplines that have required certified/accredited internships may be useful in this regard. Both clinical and consulting psychology programs suffer from what has been termed the “supply–demand internship crisis.” The requirement of an accredited internship for their doctoral students has created a demand that far outstrips the available supply. We should be wary of a similar outcome resulting from requiring a certified internship of our students. Although there is certainly considerable merit to the idea of a certified internship requirement, there are numerous implementation issues that would need to be addressed.

In conclusion, we are grateful for Byrne et al. for initiating this discussion. We would like to see a broader discussion of certification and accreditation as a whole and encourage interested parties to work with the education and training committee to help review and revise the existing guidelines. We invite you to join the program directors meeting at the SIOP conference to further explore these questions and issues.