A career in psychology can be incredibly rewarding for many reasons. It offers the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others, work with a variety of clientele, and often have a flexible work schedule. Depending on the avenue of psychology you pursue and the level of education you complete, many also enjoy a high annual salary. Here’s an overview of how much you can make with a degree in psychology.
Highest-Paying Degree Types
One of the most common goals associated with selecting a career is salary. As someone considering a degree in psychology, you’re probably wondering what level of education you’ll need to complete to ensure a return on your investment.
If you’re considering earning only a bachelor’s degree, a career in psychology might not be the best choice for you. Many psychology job titles require at least a master’s level education, if not a doctoral degree. Even positions that accept bachelor’s degree applicants may offer incentives like a higher salary to those with more qualifications.
Highest-Paying Psychology Degree Occupations
A psychology degree prepares graduates for various occupations, depending on the level of education completed. While some positions require a bachelor’s or master’s degree, many psychology positions require a doctoral (PhD), or even a medical degree (MD). The top occupations you can qualify for with a psychology degree are:
- Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
- Non-traditional Psychologists
- Postsecondary Teachers
- Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors
- Healthcare Social Workers
- Marriage and Family Therapists
Most psychologists work to promote mental health through behavioral intervention, talk therapy, or other therapeutic interventions. While psychiatrists also treat patients using therapeutic approaches, they’re medically trained as physicians and are often called on when a patient needs medication as part of their treatment.
While both work to improve the mental well-being of patients, most psychologists focus on the psychological and social underpinnings of mental health problems. Psychiatrists generally approach mental health from a biological perspective. In addition to prescribing medical treatment, they’re trained to diagnose medical conditions that impact mental health such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and dissociative identity disorder (DID).
Since psychiatrists are physicians, they must attend medical school and obtain their MD. Fortunately, the extensive educational requirements of this position are reflected in a high median salary of $100.59 hourly, or $209,227 per year.
2. Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
Industrial-organizational psychology is concerned with mental health issues that often arise in the workplace, such as burnout, lack of communication, employee dissatisfaction, poor performance, and more. They observe employees in the workplace and determine what challenges they’re facing and how to address them to promote company-wide well-being. They may also help employers conduct applicant screenings to ensure the right candidates are selected for a position.
Industrial-organizational psychologists might find work with only a bachelor’s degree, but those who want to earn a higher salary and a wide variety of job opportunities need at least an advanced degree—typically a doctoral degree. This additional education pays off with a high average salary of $53.15 hourly, or $110,552 per year.
3. Psychologists, All Other
This category of psychology represents psychologists who don’t fit into any of the categories traditionally associated with the field. Examples of job titles include:
- Research Psychologists
- Health Psychologists
The educational requirements for these occupations vary depending on job title and credentials; however, around 52 percent of psychologists in this category have a doctoral or professional degree, according to EMSI Burning Glass data. Furthermore, while this category encompasses a variety of job titles, the average salary across the board for non-traditional psychologists is $50.40 hourly or an average annual salary of $104,832.
4. Postsecondary Teachers
Many psychologists decide to transition into a career in academia following several years of practice. Psychology professors can teach a broad range of subjects depending on their specialization. They conduct lectures at the undergraduate or graduate level, facilitate discussions in the classroom, and grade assignments submitted by psychology students.
The educational requirements for postsecondary psychology teachers vary by institution, but they often require a master’s or doctoral degree and several years of experience in the field. The average salary for postsecondary teachers is $42.08 hourly or $87,526 annually.
5. Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists each have different job responsibilities and educational requirements but similar average salaries. If you’re considering a career in psychology, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the differences between each position, so you’re able to make the best decision for you.
- School psychologists support the academic and mental well-being of students in a school setting. They work in a preventative capacity, working with teachers and parents to support the mental health of the entire student body. They conduct assessments to determine children’s level of functioning academically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally. They support children through academic interventions, counseling therapeutic support, and behavioral support plans. School psychologists need to complete an NASP-accredited, three-year master’s plus program to obtain licensure in most states, including Massachusetts.
- Counseling psychologists primarily work in outpatient or community-based settings. They often run one-on-one or group counseling sessions to support the mental well-being of patients. Many counseling psychologists operate a private practice and choose to work with a specific demographic or age group. Counseling psychologists typically need a doctoral degree to obtain licensure in most states and, depending on their degree type, may work in research, academic, or clinical settings.
- Clinical psychologists can work in outpatient or inpatient settings. Similar to counseling psychologists, they conduct both individual and group therapy sessions and work with a wide range of clients. They can specialize in mental health issues—even those caused by the challenges of managing physical health concerns. Like counseling psychology, a doctoral degree is generally the minimum requirement for this position.
Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn an average hourly salary of $41.18, which translates to around $85,654 annually.
6. Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors/Advisors
Educational, guidance, and career counselors/advisors work in school settings to assist students in achieving academic success, deciding on a career path, or improving mental health. They may work in a K-12 school setting or even a college or university. Their degree requirements largely depend on their work setting and job title. For example, school counselors typically require at least a master’s degree, whereas academic advisors may only need a bachelor’s.
As educational requirements differ, so do average salaries. However, across the board, educational, guidance, and career counselors/advisors can expect to receive approximately $33.53 hourly or $69,742 annually.
7. Healthcare Social Workers
Healthcare social workers primarily work in a hospital setting and help patients and their families cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. Unlike the previous job titles, this position doesn’t focus on the impacts of human behavior; rather it helps individuals mentally and emotionally process difficult news or circumstances.
Many healthcare social workers pursue a master’s degree, with about 30 percent earning one. However, this isn’t a requirement of most positions, as approximately 67 percent earn a bachelor’s degree or less. Healthcare social workers earn approximately $28.50 hourly, with an annual salary of $59,280.
8. Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists work with married couples, families, or individuals to address issues such as depression, child-parent relationship problems, marital struggles, and more. Their treatment is often brief, as it’s focused on solving a specific problem rather than taking a holistic approach to furthering an individual’s overall mental well-being. In this regard, a marriage and family therapist approaches these therapy sessions with the end in mind.
As is the case with most positions in psychology, licensure requirements vary by state. However, the majority of marriage and family therapists earn a master’s degree, while some advance their careers by earning a doctorate degree. They earn an average hourly salary of $24.54, which amounts to an annual salary of about $51,043.
Determining a Career Path
If you’re evaluating various psychology degrees, it’s important to begin by determining your career goals. What population would you like to work with? How much education are you willing to pursue? What kind of work setting do you want to work in?
For example, those looking for a career that offers swift entry into the field post-graduation as well as a reasonable salary should consider a career in school psychology. Due to the high demand, graduates of an accredited school psychology master’s program are often able to move into the field immediately following graduation.
If school psychology interests you, consider Northeastern University’s Master’s/CAGS in School Psychology, which equips you with the skills and qualifications you need to move into a full-time position post-graduation.