The University of Maryland will offer a new master’s program in industrial organizational psychology, which applies psychological theories to workplace behavior, beginning next semester.

The program aims to improve the well-being of the workforce by “focusing on preparing people to work in organizations to make [them] better for the employees that work there,” said Juliet Aiken, the program’s director.

This new master’s program will thoroughly equip people for an industrial organizational psychologist job, a task in which similar programs may fall short, Aiken said.

“A lot of programs in industrial organizational psychology tend to prepare people for more academic careers,” Aiken said. “However, a lot of jobs are applied helping organizations function better, so our program is highly applied.”

Industrial organizational psychologists can work for a variety of industries, including government, academia and consulting, according to the master’s program’s website. What makes the program unique, Aiken said, is how it enables students to read data on organizations and employees and use the findings to make informed decisions on training, recruiting and improving the function of resources to better the businesses they are working with.

“Increasingly, organizations are getting more and more interested in, excited about and, to be honest, a little obsessed with the idea of using data to drive policy,” Aiken said. “One of the things that has been built into our program is a very deep, data-centric core.”

Although there is a doctoral program already in place for industrial organizational psychology at this university, Aiken said this program will give those who are not pursuing a doctorate “an option to come in and just focus on getting really applied experience and really deep skills.”

Receiving input from graduates of the doctoral program in industrial organization was invaluable for getting the program started, said Paul Hanges, the program’s academic director and psychology department professor.

“[We] asked them: What [are] the skills that someone with a master’s in industrial organizational psychology should have, and what skills do you wish they would have?” Hanges said.

Marc Sokol, the sole proprietor of Sage Consulting Resources and a member of the program’s advisory board, said he considers it a “great opportunity for people who want to really advance their education and skill set going into the workplace.”

The skill sets offered by the program are what Sokol said organizations will be most interested in, such as the ability to not only “understand the range of individual team and organizational practices, but to recognize the difference between a good practice and a bad.”

These skill sets are not only taught to the students, Aiken said, but are used on them.

“We teach in our program how to train people, and we try to apply those same principles in our courses, so it’s a very practical degree,” Aiken said. “It’s one that is designed specifically with getting experience while you’re in the program.”

A goal of this master’s program is to “develop students with the skills that make them stand out from other schools offering a similar kind of program so that we will become one of the recognized deliverers of prepared students,” Hanges said.

For Sokol, the reason to consider the degree is a strategic one.

“You could go to any bookstore and look at the business shelf and you’ll see hundreds of books that all look wonderful, but how would you know which ones or which ideas will actually make a difference?” Sokol said. “The graduates of this program will have a leg up in being able to tell where to place your bets, and that’s pretty good if you want to get hired by a company.”