Human Resources vs Organisational Psychology

If you just want to know which role suits you better, skip to the end for a quick personality quiz!

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What is Human Resources?

Human Resources professionals typically work in business settings. As the name suggests, they are responsible for managing all things ‘human’ within an organisation. Consequently, their specific job responsibilities may vary drastically from recruitment and on-boarding, to employee relations, payroll or training.


Human Resource professionals are responsible for managing all things ‘human’ within an organisation

The role of an HR professional varies between small businesses and large corporations. In a large company, HR professionals’ roles are generally restricted to their area of expertise. These are called HR specialists.

However, in a small business, the HR team may consist of only one or two employees. Consequently, their role covers the entire HR function. These professionals are called HR generalists.

Many HR professionals climb the ladder to become HR managers, a role which oversees a particular area of HR within the organisation. The highest role in an HR pathway is the Human Resources Director or VP of Human Resources. Individuals in this role are, above all, responsible for the entire human resources function of an organisation.

Learn more about what HR Professionals do

What Is Organisational Psychology?

Similar to Human Resources professionals, Organisational Psychologists typically work in business environments and workplaces. Hence the word ‘organisation’ in the title of Organisational Psychologist.

Org Psychs work with employees and making sure the people who make up an organisation have a high quality of life. They use psychological principles and evidence-based research methods to solve any problems in the workplace. Furthermore, they aim to increase the efficiency of productivity, management and employee working style.


Become an Organisational Psychologist


Their specific roles vary dramatically. As a result, an Org Psych’s speciality may range from recruitment to employee and career development, leadership management, psychometric testing, workplace research, performance management, and stress and work-life balance analysis, amongst many other options.


Organisational Psychologists use psychological principles and evidence-based research methods to solve any problems in a workplace

Organisational Psychologists work in a range of business environments. These include non-profit organisations, government agencies, small businesses and large corporations. As a result of the flexibility of their role, Org Psychs may work directly for a company, or as consultants, helping to develop solutions for their clients.

Learn more about what Organisational Psychologists do

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So what’s the difference between HR and Organisational Psychology?

Do you know the difference between Human Resources and Organisational Psychology?


There are many similarities between HR and Org Psych. Perhaps the most defining one is that they both aim to improve the efficiency and quality of life of people in the workplace.

The difference is in how they achieve these goals.

This difference varies from company to company and may be extremely nuanced. For example, in one business setting, Organisational Psychologists may act as consultants and primarily conduct research and develop tests and programs. They might aim to use scientific principles to increase the happiness and efficiency of a workforce. In contrast, HR professionals in the same company may rarely perform research to create programs. Instead, they might implement and run already-developed programs, and make sure they fit in with the company’s culture.

In another company, an Org Psych might work internally to the company, focusing primarily on recruitment or career development. Contrastingly, an HR professional may focus on onboarding and training. Other organisations may require different roles or responsibilities.

Another key difference between the two is that Org Psychs may work either as external consultants or internally in a company. Contrastingly, HR professionals typically work only internally to the company, although HR consultancy is a growing field.

How they work together: Example Scenario

A CEO wants her employees to be more motivated in their work. 

The CEO would initially approach someone like the Director of Human Resources and request that they come up with a way to increase the motivation of their workers. First of all, the director would likely delegate the task to an HR manager responsible for employee well-being or work motivation.

Next, the HR manager would work with their team to speak with employees and ask them about their motivation. Alternatively, the manager might liaise with a consulting Organisational Psychologist and ask them to develop tests to measure the current motivation levels of employees. The psychologist then analyses the results and reports back to the HR manager.

Finally, the HR team and the Org Psych may continue working together to create a program aimed at increasing employee motivation. The Org Psych might develop the program, and the HR manager and their team may implement it. However, depending on the company, the Org Psych might be asked to run the program and collect the data as well.

Personality Quiz

Disclaimer: This quiz is not designed to tell you whether you would succeed as an Organisational Psychologist or Human Resources Professional. It is also not designed to describe all the qualities and roles that these two fields require. For more information, read the relevant sections above.

Should I be an HR professional or an Organisational Psychologist?

Both of these careers will give you the opportunity to help people and make an impact on how organisations are run.

But it can be hard to choose between them.

Take this short quiz to learn which one is right for you

Should I be an HR professional or an Organisational Psychologist?

Question 1 of 5.

Which of the following work style do you prefer?

1. Structure and Set Goals
2. Freedom and Flexibility
Question 2 of 5.

Which of the following do you prefer to do in your spare time?

1. Research and Learn new things
2. Organise your desk/Clean your room
3. Hang out with friends and share stories
4. Work on a personal project
Question 3 of 5.

Which of the following best describes your work ethic?

1. I come up with my own ideas all the time
2. I do what my boss tells me to do, the best I can
3. I work best when I can collaborate with others
4. I prefer to tell others what to do
Question 4 of 5.

Which of the following is most interesting to you?

1. Understanding the way people behave and think
2. Hearing people's problems and stories
Question 5 of 5.

You catch an employee or coworker doing something wrong - which of the following would you do?

1. You have a hard time telling people they cannot do something, so you would do nothing
2. Take it upon yourself to tell them off or report them if you believe it would help prevent their behaviour from happening again
3. You would research and read the appropriate guidelines in how to handle the situation, and follow those
4. You would likely be the employee being told off for behaving wrongly

Next question 1 of 5

All 5 questions completed!

Share results:

Should I be an HR professional or an Organisational Psychologist?

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  • Louisa says:

    This is super helpful! I’ve never had the distinction between the two laid out so clearly before. Thank you!!

  • Jacob says:

    This is amazingly helpful. Came here from a reddit link and it’s probably the most interesting thing I’ve come across today. Thank you for this.

  • Mickie says:

    Very good post! We will be linking to this great post on our
    site. Keep up the great writing.

  • Abul Azad says:

    i want to complete two masters program. one in HRM and another in Organizational Psychology. will it be beneficial for me for my PhD. degree?

    • Alon from Find My Pathway says:

      Hi Abul,
      Thank you for your question!
      I would not recommend you complete two masters to figure out which area you want to work in.
      Instead, I would suggest that you think about which field you are more interested in.

      Ask yourself the following questions:
      – What PhD degree would you like to do?
      – Is there one specific field from HRM or Org Psych that interests you more?
      – Why would you choose HRM? Why would you choose Org Psych?
      – What are the benefits and negatives of HRM or Org Psych?

      Then you can start making decisions and pursue that field. Our website can help you with these questions!

      For example, if you really like HRM, you could start a masters in HRM, and see how you feel about it. Even if you don’t end up working in HRM, you will learn a lot about yourself and your interests during this program.

      OR, you could start learning Org Psych, and then if you change your mind, move more towards a Human Resources role.

      I hope this helped! Good luck!

  • Anonymous says:

    Very well structured

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