Should I Go into Academia or Industry? 8 Factors To Consider for I/O Psychology Doctoral Students

Updated: Jul 15

As an Industrial/Organizational Psychology doctoral student, the question that is bound to come up is "Should I go into academia or industry?".

Although personally I have always leaned towards going into industry, I would be lying if I told you that pursuing the academic route has never crossed my mind.


So...here is a summary of my research on the differences of pursuing the two routes in terms of the following 8 factors that will hopefully help you make a decision:


💡 1. Income

💡 2. Location

💡 3. Job security

💡 4. Other perks

💡 5. Job Market

💡 6. Nature of the work

💡 7. Autonomy

💡 8. Work-life balance


This article by no means persuades you to go one way or the other. It merely lays out the facts accumulated from recent studies and my experiences talking to I/O PhD students over the years.


I hope to help you make a more informed decision as you continue to ponder this important question. Maybe you will have an answer after reading this article.

Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


💡 1. Income


One clear difference between going to industry versus academia is income.


According to the 2019 SIOP Income Survey, IOs working as practitioners (median income of $122,143 ) tend to have around 11% higher incomes than those working as academics ($109,915).


As can be seen below, overall IOs who go into practice earn more than those who go into academia at all stages of their careers.

Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


In general, faculty salaries in the U.S. have been relatively stagnant over the years. According to the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) 2019-20 Faculty Compensation Survey, faculty salaries have barely moved over the past four years.


In fact, average salaries for full-time faculty in U.S. college and university fell by almost 0.5% after adjusting for inflation in the 2020–21 academic year according to the 2020-21 AAUP survey.


In general, faculty's salaries are not expected to increase much from year to year, unless you "job hop".

Source: American Association of University Professors’ 2019-20 Faculty Compensation Survey


You can see the salary levels for different types of academic roles below:

Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


Within academia, salaries differ depending on the department (business/psychology/others) and type of institution (doctoral/master's/bachelor's).


Department


In particular, Business/management departments pay significantly more than Psychology and other departments. According to SIOP Income Survey, I-Os in Business/management departments tend to have median income of $160,000, compared to those working in psychology departments with median income of $95,000.


Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


Type of Academic Institution


Income is also higher for doctorate academic institutions compared with master's and bachelor's only institutions.

Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


Public vs. Private Institutions


Interestingly, unlike in some other fields, I/O doctoral-level academics' income do not seem to differ between public and private institutions.

Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


Bonuses

According to the 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report, it's more common among doctoral practitioners to earn bonuses (<15% who received bonuses reported working in academia), and they also reported earning more (median of $16,000) than doctoral academics ($4,000).


Supplemental income

Doctoral academics made a median salary of $125,000, while practitioners made a median salary of $140,000 when including supplemental income. You can see the practitioner vs. academic supplemental incomes in the tables below.

Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report


Source: 2019 SIOP Income & Employment Report

 

💡 2. Location


There are only so many universities offering I/O Psychology doctoral programs and organizational behavior programs in the business schools. Universities with I/O programs are mostly located in smaller towns, so if you like to live in larger cities, there are not as many options.


Regarding location of industry jobs, there are more and more hybrid and remote roles nowadays, so you may not be as bound by location if you choose to work as a practitioner.

 

💡 3. Job security


Academia


Tenured faculty get lifetime appointments and can only be fired for financial and ethical reasons. This means pursuing academia will provide the most job security and significantly reduce the risk of unemployment.


Industry


Going into industry does not guarantee lifetime employment and you can be fired at any time at the company's discretion.

 

💡 4. Other perks


Academia


There are various perks that tenured faculty get. For example, they can enroll in classes each semester for free, the university helps to provide employment for their spouse if needed, spouses and dependents of the faculty can be eligible for reductions of tuition.


Faculty get the winter and summer holidays off but most take on some other roles during these down times to earn extra money and/or just do more research, but again, you have the choice on what you want to do.


Industry


The perks you get as a practitioner will vary significantly depending on the company and industry you are in. For example, some tech companies offer free food, free gyms and other amenities at work. Public companies may offer stocks and options to employees that is rare in academia (see Figure 28 below). Some organizations even offer unlimited Paid Time Off!