Frequently Asked Questions

The Program

How long will it take me to finish the program? 

Two years. The program operates as a cohort model, meaning that we take a class every other year. Once a class starts the program, they go through it together. Students take two courses a semester for two years: Fall and Spring of Year 1, Summer of Year 1 (yes, there are courses in the summer), and Fall and Spring of Year 2.

What courses are offered in the program?

Over the course of the two-year program, you will take the following courses:
Fall Year 1: Introduction to I/O; Organizational Research Methods and Analytics (Part 1)
Spring Year 1: Organizational Research Methods and Analytics (Part 2); Job Attitudes
Summer Year 1: Organization Development and Change; Seminar in Organizational Psychology
Fall Year 2: Talent Acquisition; Measurement in Organizations
Spring Year 2: Talent Management; Seminar in Talent Management
Summer Year 2: Readings and Research in Psychology (to take the comprehensive exam) 

What is a comprehensive exam?

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to assess your knowledge of the key topics, issues, theories and practices within the field of I/O psychology, broadly defined.  The field of I/O psychology is quite broad, dealing with a large number of issues relevant to organizations. The knowledge base is so large that it would not be possible to acquire deep knowledge on all topics within the field during your training. As such, we have two choices for your training: provide you with (a) a lot of knowledge about a few of the topics (fidelity) or (b) a little knowledge about most of the topics (bandwidth). We believe that MA students are best served by developing bandwidth. As such, you are required to take classes dealing with many of the topics in the field rather than specializing in a certain area. We believe that the goal of the exam should match our training strategy. So, the exam has been designed to assess your knowledge across the entire field of I/O psychology. Your performance on the exam will allow the faculty to evaluate your development as a broadly trained I/O psychologist, and, just as importantly, will provide you with diagnostic information about your own development.

In what years will you be admitting students? 

We admit new cohorts in the fall of even years. New classes will be accepted for Fall 2020, Fall 2022, etc.

PLEASE NOTE: This program only accepts new students in even years, so please apply for a fall term with an even year (i.e. fall 2020). Only currently enrolled Ph.D. Organizational Science applicants may select an odd year to apply to the program. If you try to apply for admission for an odd year (e.g., fall 2019) your application will be denied, as that application term is only for currently enrolled Ph.D. Organizational Science students.

What if I have a conflict that prevents me from taking a course? 

Although we understand that situations do come up, given the cohort model that we have established for the program, missing a course (or a semester) would put you very far behind in the program. Since we will only be taking a class of students every other year, our courses will only be offered every other year. So, missing one would mean that you would have to wait two years for the course to be offered again. To make things easier for students, we are hoping to be able to offer courses at a consistent time for the entire length of the program (such as Mondays from 6-8:45PM every semester).

Can students begin the program in the Spring Semester? 

No. Our program is designed as a cohort program meaning that all students start together in the fall semester and progress through the program together as a group.

I have a number of hours in another master's program. Will they all be accepted towards the master's at UNC Charlotte? 

A maximum of six hours may be accepted from another institution. Whether or not any hours are transferred is entirely at the discretion of our department and will depend on the nature of classes you took.

What will I be able to do with a master's degree in I/O psychology? 

We expect our graduates to work in human resources management, management consulting, organizational development, and related areas.

How much does it cost?

The University sets tuition and fee rates each year. The numbers for the most recent school year can be found here, then scroll down and click on the link for the Master’s in I/O Psychology program. When looking at the chart, it is important to remember that you will be taking 6 credits per semester (Fall, Spring, Summer, Fall, Spring) and one credit in the final Summer term.

I/O Psychology

What is the difference between a MA in I/O Psychology and a MBA with an emphasis on HR?

There is a real difference in the skills and qualifications of someone with an advanced degree in I/O psychology and someone with an advanced degree from a business school (i.e., the MBA). The key differentiator, as we see it, is the application of science. I/O Psychology is an applied science. We teach students to solve organizational problems through the application of science, be that consulting the research literature or actually conducting the research. As such, our students are trained in the scientific method, are taught skills in measurement theory and data analysis, and are prepared to apply knowledge and skills to the work environment. In contrast, MBA programs usually teach using the case study methodology; they analyze problems faced by companies and discuss ways of addressing or approaching those problems. While this methodology is certainly valuable, especially when it comes to application of knowledge to organizational settings, it does not teach a scientific approach. MBA students are not typically given the skills to evaluate research, conduct research, or perform data analyses (i.e., analytics). Individuals with a degree in I/O psychology have unique sets of skills that are highly valued by organizations. This value is becoming stronger as organizations rely more and more on data to understand themselves and their employees.

Does the I/O Psychology program have any ties to the MBA program?

The faculty have good working relationship with several of the members of the Management Department, but the I/O program is not formally associated with the MBA program.

General Application Issues and Questions

How important are test scores in the admissions process?

They are pretty important because we get a lot of applicants each year. Typically, we make our first cut of the applicant pool based on the numerical information we get from your application, i.e., test scores and GPAs. For example, if we get 100 applications, we might cut the group down to 30 based on the numerical information. For the 30 applicants that make this initial cut, we look at everything that you have sent it. At this point, test scores will still be included in our decision, but the other things that you have sent us (i.e., personal statement, letters of recommendation) will count more strongly. 

Do I need to take the GRE?

We will accept scores on the GRE, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), OR the Miller Analogies Test. Test scores must be less than five years old.

Do I need to take the Advanced Psychology GRE Test? 

We do not require students to report this score.

How important is the personal statement that is part of the application form?  What should I include in it? 

This is a very important part of your application as it is your opportunity to talk directly to the admissions committee. Here are the things that we would like to see you address in your personal statement:
(a) your motivation for seeking a degree in I/O psychology,
(b) your preparation for graduate studies in I/O Psychology, and
(c) how you expect the degree will positively impact your career.

In addition to the content, the quality of the writing and formatting also matter. The committee will look at writing quality as part of their evaluation. Now, you have to remember you are writing to an audience of scientists and practitioners of I/O psychology – you are not applying to an English Literature program. So, writing quality is not about how many big words you use, the length and complexity of your sentences, or the number of adjectives you can squeeze in. It is about simple, clear, and logical writing.

Please keep your statement to approximately two pages.

What’s the most important element of the application?

It’s really hard to say. We generally receive a lot of applications. As much as we would like to, we just can’t pour over every detail pf every application that we get. So, in our initial evaluations, things like test scores and GPAs, that we can compare people on quickly, are the most important. We typically try to identify the top 30 or so applicants based on some combination of these numerical indicators.

For each of the people that pass this initial screening, then things like the personal statement and the letters of recommendation become more important. These are usually the things that, at this point, determine who it is that is placed on our short list. 

If I meet all minimum standards will I be accepted? 

Admission to the program is competitive. We consider all of the student's admission information in making our decisions, including test scores, letters of reference, the personal statement, interests, and experience.

I am planning to apply to the graduate program. Will taking either undergraduate or graduate classes at UNC Charlotte improve my chances of being admitted to the program? 

No, taking classes at UNC Charlotte will not enhance your chances of being admitted to the program. Your application will be viewed along with all other applicants and judged on its merit.

Do early applications receive priority?

Anyone who applies before the stated application deadline (February 15th) will be given full consideration. Anyone who applies after that deadline will be given consideration to the extent that the cohort is not yet full, but our cohort generally fills up by 5/1 with applicants who applied by the 2/15 deadline. After 5/1 you can email the Program Director, Dr. Linda Shanock ( to inquire about whether or not the cohort has been filled.

When will I know if I have been accepted?

We will let you know as soon as we can. You should expect decisions by about early April, although sometimes it takes until May 1st or so to finalize the cohort.

Applicants who are Working Professionals

Is the program right for me?

Our program is designed to be accessible for working professionals. Courses will be offered in the evenings and on weekends so that individuals who work full-time can complete the program. The program is ideal for people working in an I/O-related field, such as in a Human Resources function within an organization, who are looking for a degree that will allow them to expand their career options.

The program would also be appropriate for working individuals looking to change careers and for individuals who have just completed an undergraduate degree. Work in an I/O-related career is not required for admittance into the program.

Who should I have write my letters of recommendation?

If you received a bachelor’s degree five or more years ago, we suggest that you seek out recommenders who can speak to your capabilities and potential as an I/O or HR professional (e.g., supervisors, coworkers, individuals with an advanced I/O degree). If you have recently graduated from a bachelors program, we suggest that you seek out academic recommenders who can speak to your potential for graduate studies.

What if my undergraduate degree was not in psychology?

While a degree in psychology or business is not required, applicants with backgrounds in these disciplines may be given preferential treatment.

I have been out of school a long time. Will I be the only older student in my classes? 

No, we have a variety of students in the program that vary with respect to age and experience.

Applicants who are NOT Working Professionals

Who should I have write my letters of recommendation?

We suggest that you seek out academic recommenders who can speak to your potential for graduate studies.

What if my undergraduate degree was not in psychology?

While a degree in psychology or business is not required, applicants with backgrounds in these disciplines may be given preferential treatment.

Is there financial assistance available?

Not at this time.

Practical and Research Experiences

Are students able to assist in faculty research?  If so, do students need prior research experience? 

Yes, students may get involved in research with faculty. Most faculty are actively engaged in multiple projects and welcome the opportunity to involve students. Although prior experience is helpful, it isn’t necessary. Once you begin the program, the program director can help you find a faculty member doing research in an area of interest to you.

Is an internship required? Can I do an internship?

As many of our students are already working in I/O-related jobs, an internship is not a required component of the program.  However, there are also students in our program that are not working professionals and need relevant experience. We have good working relationships with people in many of the organizations within in the Charlotte business community (just take a look at the organizations represented on our Advisory Panel!), so we can certainly help students interested in doing an internship find opportunities to do so.