Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Psychology

Master's Concentration in
Industrial/Organizational Psychology

I/O Coursework

Students enrolled in the I/O concentration at ECU complete a total of 45 semester hours of coursework. You may choose to complete either an internship or a thesis; however, we encourage you to consider doing both. Click here for the official ECU Graduate Catalog.

Internship Experience

You can complete an internship that provides practical experience in an organizational setting. An internship is an opportunity to do professional work under the supervision of another professional, and may entail either personnel research or applied activities, such as training, selection and appraisal, job analysis, or other similar functions.

Internship Criteria

An internship must meet the following minimal criteria:

  • Prior to beginning the internship, a contract must be completed and signed by all relevant parties.
  • One semester of full-time employment in an organizational setting. Internships generally occur during the summer (May through August) following the first year of coursework. A full summer's assignment (no less than 10 weeks) will be considered equivalent to one semester.
  • Students are usually placed on the company's payroll, and the assignment may require you to relocate for the semester.
  • An on-the-job supervisor who is familiar with the requirements of the internship program must supervise the internship. A psychologist (or other human resource professional) employed by the organization will supervise you, or he or she will work under the supervision of an ECU I/O faculty member. The provision of supervision must be approved by the I/O Program Director prior to the beginning of the assignment. Each supervisor will be asked to summarize your performance in a feedback report provided to the Program Director and you. You will be evaluated on job performance, attitude, and professional growth.

Internship Placement Procedures

Although the program can facilitate the internship assignment, self-placements, arranged by you, are encouraged with prior approval from the Program Director. Written evidence that the placement will meet the minimal requirements for an internship assignment is required prior to you accepting the position. This statement should include:

  • Description of the organizational setting, and outline of the work assignment.
  • Description of expected work output (e.g., project report, technical manual, training material, etc.).
  • Qualifications of supervisor.
  • Supervisor's written endorsement of the project and agreement to provide feedback to both you and the Program Director.

Course Credit

To receive course credit for the internship opportunity, you must enroll in PSYC 6970 and complete any course-related work (e.g., Job Analysis).  Specifically, to get credit for PSYC 6970 (I/O Internship), you must conduct a job analysis and electronically submit the final report (signed off by your supervisor) to the I/O program faculty. Additionally, you must give a presentation on the job analysis. Thus, the job analysis report and presentation are required for everyone who does an internship.  PSYC 6970 is the course that internship students are registered in for the fall of their second year, and the job analysis report and presentation are required in order to get course credit.

Internship and Thesis 

Our program provides you with many opportunities. That is, you complete either an internship or a thesis... or you can take advantage of both opportunities by completing both an internship and a thesis. The summer internship provides you with the opportunity to take the KSAs that they have learned in their coursework and apply them to the actual workplace. The thesis provides you with the opportunity to hone their research skills. Of course, doing both provides you with even richer opportunities! If you choose to complete both a thesis and an internship (instead of one of the other), then please have our graduate administrative assistant update your DegreeWorks entry.

Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive exam is administered during the spring semester (April) following the second year of coursework.


You will have three hours to complete the exam. The primary purpose of this exam is for you to provide the most correct and succinct answer to the provided questions; thus, all questions must be answered in 15 pages or less. The format of the exam requires you to answer three out of five questions.


The comprehensive exam consists of essay questions related to the following topical domains:

  • Organizational Behavior (PSYC 6343)
  • Special Topics in I/O Psychology (PSYC 6521)
  • Ethics and Professional Practice (PSYC 6465)
  • Issues in Personnel Selection (PSYC 6420)
  • Methods in Human Measurement (PSYC 6327).

The exam items are written by faculty who teach the graduate classes listed above. You may approach any of the professors involved to seek study guides/reading lists.


If you receive either an A or a B from the first reader (grader) on each of the three questions, this constitutes your final grade on the examination. If you receive either a C or an F from the first reader, the examination automatically progresses to a second reader. If the second reader returns the same letter grade (any pluses or minuses will be ignored), this constitutes your final grade. If the first and second readers' evaluations differ, then the examination goes to a third reader, in which case the final grade is simply the median of the three grades given.

Students who receive on three exams:

  • All A's, pass with honors.
  • No final grade lower than a B, pass unconditionally.
  • One C and no F's must retake the examination on which the C was received.
  • Two final grades lower than a B must retake all three examinations.
  • One final grade of F must retake the entire examination.

You are allowed to retake the exam one additional time, no sooner than the subsequent semester (excluding summer semesters). If the second attempt is unsuccessful, you will be terminated from the program.


The Master's thesis is an optional component of the educational experience for the Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology graduate student. The thesis requires you to work closely with a faculty member on a research project that will be evaluated by a committee of faculty members. The objectives of the thesis project include:

  • Application of research skills acquired in the classroom;
  • Demonstration of effective oral and written communication skills;
  • Completion of a research project from inception to a final report;
  • Submission of a thesis that has the potential to be published in a refereed journal. 

Committee Chair and Members

It is critically important for you to identify an area of interest and conduct additional readings in that area as early as possible. Although not a requirement, you will usually find it advantageous to select a topical area in which a faculty member in the program has substantial research expertise. Once you have chosen a suitable area for thesis research and a faculty member who is able and willing to provide direction, you should formally ask that professor to serve as the chair of his/her thesis committee. In consultation with the thesis chair, you will then select at least two additional faculty members from the Department of Psychology and formally ask them to serve on the committee.

All committee members must meet the requirements for and currently hold ECU Graduate Faculty status. Although the thesis chair is responsible for directing your project, all committee members are expected to provide resource and evaluative functions during the thesis project. Furthermore, all committee members will attend the proposal meeting, discuss your performance, attend the oral thesis defense, and vote regarding the acceptability of the thesis. 

Proposal Preparation

Once a thesis topic has been identified and a committee established, you will work with the chair and committee members, as necessary, to prepare a proposal. The proposal should include the following sections: (1) Introduction, (2) Literature Review (including specific research hypotheses), (3) Proposed Method (including proposed data analysis plan), and (4) References. The proposal should be formatted based upon the most current APA Publication Manual and the Graduate School Manual of Basic Formatting Requirements for Theses and Dissertations (located on their

Proposal Meeting

As soon as the proposal has been prepared to the extent that you and chair feel confident about presenting it for review, a committee meeting should be scheduled. Each committee member will receive a copy of the proposal at least one week prior to the proposal meeting. During this meeting you will present the thesis proposal and respond to questions from the committee members. The format of the meeting is to be decided by the thesis chair – ranging from a formal presentation to a working meeting.

The committee will recommend changes, if any, that need to be made to the proposal (e.g., depth of the literature review, design of the study, nature of the hypotheses). Once all of the committee members have approved the proposal, you are responsible for completing and submitting the ECU Pre-Thesis Research Approval Form. Furthermore, it is your responsibility to ensure that all research has been approved by the University and Medical Center Institutional Review Board (UMCIRB; or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), as applicable, prior to the start of data collection. The proposal meeting should be conducted prior to data collection.

Completing the Thesis

Following the proposal meeting, you are responsible for keeping the committee chair informed of his/her progress with data collection and analysis, and, if necessary, should discuss the project with any of the other committee members. Once the study has been completed, you will begin preparing the final manuscript. Early drafts should be developed by you in close consultation with the committee chair and should include (1) Results, (2) Discussion, and (3) Conclusions, as well as (4) an updated Method section. These early drafts are not typically shared with other committee members unless so requested by the thesis chair. Refer to the most current APA Publication Manual and the Graduate School Manual of Basic Formatting Requirements for Theses and Dissertations for specific guidance on manuscript formatting requirements.

Once a final draft has been approved by the thesis chair, you will provide each committee member with a copy of the final manuscript at least one week prior to the scheduled thesis defense. A copy will also be placed in the Department of Psychology (e.g., Rawl 303) for public review. The thesis defense may not be scheduled until this final copy has been distributed. You are responsible for e-mailing an official notice identifying the time and location for the defense. This notice should be sent at least one week prior to the defense and should include (1) the title of the thesis, (2) the name of the student, (3) the name of the thesis chair, and (4) the names of all other committee members. This notice is usually sent via email notification to all faculty and graduate students via the ECUPSY-L listserv (address your email to Below is an example of the typical notice that is sent:

Re: Thesis Defense: Evoked Potentials, Expressed Anger, and Circulating Androgens

Faculty and graduate students are cordially invited to attend the defense of Ima Student's Master's thesis, "Evoked Potentials in the Nucleus Spurious: Relationship with Expressed Anger is Moderated by Level of Circulating Androgens." The defense will take place in Rawl 303 from 2:00 PM until 3:00 PM on Tuesday the 30th of February, 2007. Dr. Martha McClintock is chairing the thesis committee, and Drs. Gustav Fechner and Pierre Flourens are serving as thesis committee members. A copy of the thesis is available for public review in the graduate seminar room (Rawl 303).

Thesis Defense

If you choose the thesis option, then a final oral examination (referred to as a thesis defense) administered by the Thesis Committee must be completed. The thesis defense is open to all students and faculty who wish to attend. You are expected to make a formal presentation of approximately 30 minutes. The presentation should focus on (1) the research problem, (2) hypotheses, (3) methodology, (4) analyses, (5) interpretation of the data, and (6) implications of the findings. Following the presentation, you will address questions from the students first, then from the committee members, and then from other faculty members in attendance. The committee will then deliberate in private regarding the acceptability of yours thesis. If approved, you will make all requested changes and submit the final thesis for appropriate signatures. Additionally, committee members will complete the ECU Thesis Scoring Rubric. If the thesis is not approved, you will need to make the requested changes and schedule a second thesis defense.

Depositing the Thesis

Following the defense, you must complete any corrections or additions that are indicated by the committee. Once the final draft of the thesis is completed, you should obtain the appropriate signatures from the committee and submit the manuscript to the Department Chair for review and signature. You should allow at least one week for the Department Chair to read and return the thesis. You then follows the Graduate School's procedures for electronic submission of the thesis. The Graduate School will check to ensure that all of the required sections of the thesis/dissertation are included and will provide you with a receipt certifying completion of the thesis/dissertation.

Thesis Hours

Students choosing this option will register for PSYC 7000 for thesis course credits during the fall and spring semesters of their second year. The grade of S will denote satisfactory progress in research, and credit hours will be included in overall attempted and earned hours. This will ensure that graduate students making satisfactory progress will remain eligible for federal financial aid for the longest period of time allowable. The grade of U will denote unsatisfactory progress in research; credits will not be earned but credit hours will be included in attempted hours. Upon successful defense of the thesis and approval by the Graduate Dean, the grade of R will be assigned by the Registrar's Office upon receipt of the Thesis/Dissertation Acknowledgement Form from the Graduate School. Grades of S, U, and R will carry no quality points and will not be included in the calculation of grade point averages. (Any grade of Q in PSYC 7000, assigned under the former grading system prior to spring 2011, will be replaced with a grade of R at the time of completion and approval of the thesis.)

Throughout this process, you should meet department and university deadlines and follow the format requirements of the department and the university. You should check the Academic Calendar and note the deadline for submitting theses to the Graduate School for the semester you wish to graduate, and allow time to make corrections requested by their Committee prior to submitting to the Department Chair.

The Graduate School states the following regarding continuous enrollment (or registration): Graduate students who have previously registered for all credits in a graduate degree program but who have not completed all requirements (e.g., thesis, professional paper, internship, etc.) must continue to register each semester (except summer terms) until all degree requirements are completed and filed with the registrar. Students must be enrolled for at least one credit hour during the semester of graduation except summer, if registered for the prior spring semester. Students who do not complete all degree requirements prior to the published commencement date of the intended term of graduation but complete all degree requirements prior to the first day of class of the subsequent term may petition the Graduate School for a waiver of the registration requirement for that term. 

Industrial/Organizational Psychology