Psychology Major as Preparation for a Human Resources Career

Psychology graduates are often hired in human resource positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes human resources management as primarily a bachelor’s level occupation and notes there are multiple paths. One is to pursue a degree in human resources or business administration. Another is to take coursework in subjects related to human resources; subjects may include industrial psychology and organizational development. Both industrial psychology and organizational development can come under the banner of industrial-organizational (i/o) psychology.

Featured Programs:

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers an online Bachelor’s in Psychology modeled after the standards and recommendations set by the American Psychological Association with emphases in: Forensic Psychology and Performance and Sports Psychology. Several Master’s in Psychology programs are also offered. Click here to learn about GCU and their programs.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology programs with several emphases to select from as well as a CACREP accredited online Master’s in Counseling. Click here to learn about SNHU and their programs.

Some nationally advertised human resource positions list psychology among the preferred fields of study.

Some nationally advertised human resource positions list psychology among the preferred fields of study. What’s more, some actually give graduates a chance to put their psychology knowledge to work! Deloitte, for example, posted a position for ‘human capital analyst”: someone who had demonstrated interest in human capital subjects. Psychology and organizational behavior were among the subjects listed. Academic study alone wouldn’t necessarily get the attention of the hiring committee. The desired candidate would also demonstrate a variety of skills.

What Psychology Education Has to Offer

How can psychology coursework benefit those in human resources? Psychology students delve into personality theory and concepts like reward and motivation. They learn about the uses and misuses of assessments. They learn about the social bases of human behavior. Sometimes the course of study includes multicultural psychology; this may develop an understanding how cultural issues can lead to miscommunication.

Psychology students also develop communication skills and become consumers of research. They often have the opportunity to apply their human behavior concepts in laboratory settings and internship placements.

Industrial/ Organizational Psychology

There is some overlap between bachelor’s level human resources and graduate level industrial/ organizational psychology. Hiring and promotion can be components of i/o psychology practice. Students with graduate degrees in i/o psychology apply psychological principles to human resources decisions as well as to other issues of organizational development. Their work can include administering assessments.

There are a few schools that offer B.S. students the option of specializing in industrial/ organizational psychology. Students should recognize that i/o is much broader than human resources and that some courses may not relate to their career goals. Some coursework in an industrial/ organizational BS program may be designed to prepare students for future graduate study.

Students who do not complete an i/o track may still want to select courses that are similar to those offered as requirements or electives within i/o programs. They may, for example, opt for coursework in diversity, decision making processes, and group dynamics.

Internships and Capstone Projects

Internships can be a bridge between university study and post-university employment. Psychology departments offer varying support in arranging internships. One’s academic study can be a selling point even if the school doesn’t directly arrange the experience. A vacation ownership company noted in a posting for human relations intern that the following majors were preferred: human resources, psychology, communications, or marketing. An auto dealership,meanwhile, listed psychology, sociology, and human resources.

While research experience is not a requirement for human resources, students can distinguish themselves by exploring human capital subjects through independent study and thesis. One can get a sense of the range of possibility by browsing graduate thesis topics in i/o psychology. California State University – Long Beach boasts student theses on topics as varied as “The Effects of Physical Attractiveness and Interview Structure on Hiring Decisions” and “Applicant Reactions to Biodata Item Types (

Supporting Coursework

Future human resources specialists may also benefit from some courses outside the psychology department. They may, for example, take economics, business, and communication coursework. Students may want to meet with an advisor to select a supporting minor.