Program Information & Courses

Our Core Values

Life of the Mind. Based on the scientist/practitioner model, the SF State I/O Psychology Program excels in development and discovery. We believe in the lifelong pursuit of knowledge through approaches beyond the traditional classroom. Our students learn from small seminar courses in I/O psychology (8 to 14 students), an applied internship during their 2nd year, and have the option between either a research thesis or comprehensive exam for their culminating experience. In addition, our students have opportunities to work on applied consulting projects led by I/O faculty, work in faculty research labs, and take elective courses from the College of Business. 

Equity. SF State is a world leader in fostering campus diversity, respect, and dignity. Our students are not only demographically diverse, but they vary in work and research experience. We encourage applicants who are beginning their career journey, current full-time workers who are interested in developing their management and human resource skills, and those with goals of applying to doctoral degree programs. In addition, our faculty actively research equity issues in organizations, such as developing fair and valid selection strategies and policy development to protect workers based on sexual orientation. Our program is also recognized as STEM by the Department of Homeland Security, which provides additional options for a work visa for international students after graduation.

Courage. Our faculty and students are encouraged to take risks, express their self in tasks, and stand up for beliefs. The I/O Psychology Program provides many outlets for students to safely express themselves and present their ideas. As part of the College of Science & Engineering, our graduate students participate in university research showcases, national conferences, and openly explore their beliefs in small seminar courses. In addition, our faculty research labs focus on tackling challenging business and social issues, which have resulted in publications in top-tier academic journals and government funded research grants. 

Community. Success is dependent upon supportive relationships within the university and the surrounding community. Being part of an applied science is special because of the ample opportunities to give back to the community that we are part of. We encourage faculty and students to identify ways in which psychological theory can be used to improve San Francisco organizations and the global community. Our faculty provide talks about how local organizations can improve effectiveness and worker well-being. Our internship opportunity also provides an outlet to students to get involved in organizations based in San Francisco. We are also proud that many of our alumni choose to work in local organizations and regularly return to SF State to provide guest lectures on the current state of I/O psychology.

Resilience. Adapting to challenges and transforming adversity into opportunity is not only a value of our faculty and students, but important for the success of organizations and workers. Our faculty research labs are thought leaders in how teams communicate during demanding tasks, organizational factors that promote growth and development, and best practices for selecting workers that will thrive in demanding occupations. 


International Students & STEM

The SF State Industrial/Organizational Psychology Master of Science program is recognized as a STEM field by the Department of Homeland Security. This STEM recognition enables F-1 international students an opportunity to apply to work in the U.S. for upwards of 36 months after graduation.  


Program History and Requirements

The SF State Industrial/Organizational Psychology Master of Science program has been in existence since the early 1960s. The program is a two-year course of study requiring 37 graduate level semester units of coursework, 300 hours in an applied internship, and culminating experience. The program is firmly grounded in the scientist/practitioner model and provides an educational foundation for students who plan to do professional work in the field or continue their education in I/O. Primary emphasis in the I/O Graduate Program has been placed on the theoretical and empirical foundations of Psychology. Although I/O Psychology is clearly an applied discipline, our faculty believe that the most valuable educational experience is one in which skills and knowledge are developed through an understanding of basic concepts, methods, and research in the field of I/O Psychology. The Program attracts applicants from throughout the country and abroad. Currently 80% of our students admitted to the program majored in Psychology as an undergraduate. Applicants often have experience with psychology research, working in human resources, and/or organizational consulting. Typically, 9-12 new students enroll each academic year. Because it is a two-year program, this means that there are usually 18-24 active I/O graduate students at any given time.



Prerequisite  Coursework

  • Five undergraduate courses of psychology (total of 15 units). 
  • A course in intermediate statistics. If you have not already completed the intermediate statistics course, you may complete it during your first semester as a graduate student. You must earn a grade of “B” or better. Because many incoming students have not taken intermediate statistics, we have planned for the course to be included in the program and you will see it in the following example.


Students complete a minimum of 37 graduate level semester units across the two years. In year one, the workload primarily involves coursework within seminar courses. In year two, the workload primarily involves supervised work within an internship, independent study, and research. Coursework takes the form of weekly seminars. In these seminars, a small group of students meet with a professor for a 3-hour session of discussion on technical and theoretical material. Students must take at least two electives to complete the necessary units for the program. The electives can be taken during the first year or second year of the program. A wide variety of elective courses are available, subject to approval by the I/O faculty. Particular student interests and career goals are considered in selecting the elective courses. Electives most commonly taken include courses in other areas of psychology (e.g., social, developmental, statistics), the College of Business, and Supervised Research within a faculty research lab (PSY 799 or PSY 899).


Typical First Year Coursework

  • Fall Semester 

    • PSY 761 Industrial/Organizational Psychology (3 units)
    • PSY 765 Industrial Training Program Development (3 units)
    • PSY 760 Seminar in Organizational Psychology (3 units)
    • PSY 571 Statistical Analysis of Psychological Research (Prerequisite Course)
  • Spring Semester

    • PSY 762 Seminar in Industrial Psychology (3 units)
    • PSY 770 Research Methods and Techniques (3 units)
    • PSY 772 Applications of Multiple Regression (4 units)

Typical Second Year Coursework

  • Fall Semester

    • PSY 769 Field Experience in I/O Psychology (3 units)
    • PSY 768 Seminar to Accompany Internship (3 units)
    • Elective Course (3 units)
  • Spring Semester

    • PSY 766 Psychological Foundations of Organizational Change (3 units)
    • PSY 896 Directed Reading for Comprehensive Examination or PSY 898 Master Thesis (3 units)
    • Elective Course (3 units)


See the University Course Catalog for course descriptions.



Students are required to complete 300 hours in an applied internship, which generally begins in the 2nd year. See our Internship Information page to learn more.


Culminating Experience 

For the culminating experience, a student can choose to conduct a Thesis or to take a Comprehensive Examination based on a discussion with advisors about his or her specific needs and interests. Thesis research focuses on a narrowly defined interest within the Industrial-Organizational Psychology field. The Thesis is a more creative activity compared to the Comprehensive Exam. Theses will often be recommended to students who are interested in pursuing a Doctoral Degree after graduation. In contrast, the Comprehensive Exam provides the opportunity to review, synthesize, and demonstrate a student’s knowledge in broad areas of I/O Psychology. For the Comprehensive Exam, a reading list of current literature is developed by the I/O faculty based on five topics that committee members have chosen (approximately 15-20 books, chapters and/or articles per topic). At the date of the examination (usually in early May), the committee will prepare one essay question for each topic and the student will be allowed approximately 8 hours to complete the exam, over two days. Please refer to the I/O Handbook for more details.