Resources for Potential Applicants to Purdue I-O Psych Doctoral Program

These resources are provided to prospective applicants interested in a PhD in I-O psychology at Purdue University, or in I-O psychology in general. Before reading this document, be sure to check out this document we have put together earlier in October 2020.

What does the Purdue I-O program look for in a graduate student?

That is a great question! We’re so glad you asked.

And who better to ask than I-O psychologists - as this is what we do (smiles). So we conducted an internal job analysis of the key competencies that lead to success in graduate school here at Purdue. Here is a compilation of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) important for success in graduate school based on our analysis:

  • Knowledge in I-O psychology literature and science efficacy
  • Motivation & interest in scientific research and I-O psychology
  • Conscientiousness
  • Resilience and emotional stability
  • Self-direction, self-regulation, independence
  • Advanced quantitative skills & abilities
  • Reading and writing skills & abilities
  • Interpersonal communication & emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking ability & logical and systematic thinking
  • Intellectual and scientific creativity
  • Openness and humility (both intellectually & relationally)
  • Prosociality, kindness, collaboration & other-orientation
  • Learning/mastery orientation & growth mindset
  • Problem-solving (information seeking/problem definition) & proactivity
  • Project/time management/organizational skills & abilities

That’s a long list!

Don’t fret though - as much as we value and look for every single competency in each graduate student entering our program, we know that this is unrealistic. In fact, all the Purdue I-O faculty agree that we are still growing in many of these areas ourselves. We also recognize that each student is unique and will have strengths in different areas.

So, as much as this is a list of core competencies, it is also a list of aspirational attributes--meaning that we expect to see you grow and develop these KSAOs over time. The Purdue I-O program is committed to helping each and every Purdue I-O graduate student grow through mentorship, classes, collaboration, and research opportunities. We desire to help each student achieve their very best. 

Looking back, many graduate students are surprised at how much they have grown since they first entered the program. And we are also amazed at all the successes of our graduate students.

So - back to the question. What do we look for? While we look for the very best in all these competencies, we know that each applicant is uniquely gifted; and each graduate student will find new ways to grow in our program.

How can I prepare for graduate school in I-O psychology?

We thought it would be fun to ask a number of our faculty members for their own personal tips.

Franki Kung

My course on the intro to I-O psych uses Paul Levy's text: "Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Understanding the Workplace." If you haven't taken any I-O psych class, I'd recommend you give it a look.

In terms of books on graduate school, this may be controversial, but I have enjoyed Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School, 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School: Perverse Professional Lessons for Graduate Students, The Professor Is In, and especially in my early grad school days... PHD comics.

SIOP has great educational videos. The one on "Everything You Want to Know About Graduate School in I-O Psychology but Are Too Afraid to Ask!" from 2016 may be useful to you!

Melissa Robertson

To get a broad overview of various topics in the field, the Journal of Applied Psychology  Centennial Special Issue, Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, and major handbooks (examples: 1, 2, 3) are some great starting places.

If you are interested in working with a particular faculty member, I would recommend looking up some recent work they have published in Google Scholar. Keep in mind that faculty webpages are notoriously outdated and that research takes a long time to publish, so they may be working on things that you aren’t aware of.

Finally, I recommend the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity for resources on productivity and time management in academia (you do not have to be faculty to participate).

Louis Tay

I wrote a short article on LinkedIn on “How to select a great PhD program”

Hopeful this is helpful!

Sang Woo

  • Decide on what general research topic(s) you’re interested in and start reading up on the recent publications on those topics. Some of the major I-O journals you may want to start with are: Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Journal of Management, Journal of Business and Psychology, and Journal of Organizational Behavior (also I second Melissa’s recommendation on how to get a broad overview of various topics).
  • Once you identify key authors whose work you appreciate in particular, get in touch with them via email to see if they are admitting new students and/or open to research volunteers in their lab.
  • Once you identify a handful of doctoral programs to consider closely, pay closer attention to the programs where students are thriving (both in terms of research productivity and professional engagement AND psychological well-being), not the ones where you see super-star faculty but little evidence of supportive mentoring. Prepare a list of questions that are targeted toward specific observable behaviors (e.g., ‘how long does it take for you to hear from your advisor on the paper you’re working on’; ‘ how often do you meet with your advisor, and are you happy with the frequency and depth of your interactions with them’), in addition to broad open-ended ones (e.g., ‘are you happy here’; ‘are they a good advisor to you’; ‘what do you like about your program’).

Chelsea Song

First, determine whether I-O psychology is the field you want to devote to by:

  • Taking introduction to I-O psychology courses and/or reading I-O psychology textbooks (e.g., Paul Levy’s textbook recommended by Franki and Frank Landy and Jeffrey Conte’s “Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology”)
  • Exploring the recent developments in the field and career options through the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (

Remember, graduate school is an important step in your career, and you want to be sure of your choice before moving forward.

Second, once you are certain that a graduate program in I-O psychology is what you want to pursue, the next step is to get a broad overview of the topics in the field and identify the topics that you are interested in (echoing Melissa and Sang’s suggestions). These include various review papers, book chapters, and journal articles. It is usually recommended to:

  • Start off with broader review papers (see the resources listed by Melissa for a broad overview) and
  • Then move on to research articles (see the main journals listed by Sang). SIOP Frontiers Series also provide topic-specific summaries of the leading topics in the field.

Note that, in this stage, you do not want to narrow down your interests too much – you will be learning much more about I-O psychology in graduate school, but it is helpful to know what kinds of topics you are interested in and build up a good background on the topics.

Third, identify some key labs in the field and learn more about them. Both Louis and Sang provided great advice and I highly recommend considering them. The fit between you and the advisor and the program is very important – you want to make sure that you choose a program that is supportive and can help you achieve your potential.

Good luck with your applications!



Psychological Sciences, 703 Third Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-6061 FAX: (765) 496-1264

2020 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Psychological Sciences

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact Purdue Marketing and Media at