The 25 Most Lucrative Careers in Psychology

By Jack Kelle

Intro Picture

Photo Extremist via Compfight cc

Psychology is one the most popular bachelor’s degrees in the nation. It ranks among the top 3 majors at the undergraduate level and offers students increasingly diverse career paths as various industries develop over time. As more students pursue their degree in psychology, there is a growing need to illuminate the best career paths in the field. So we’ve narrowed it down to the 25 most lucrative and viable options. The salary of each career is weighted by the stability of its industry, so an extremely lucrative career will be ranked lower if it operates in a shrinking or unstable market and vice versa. Similarly, we have ranked the salaries according to the amount of schooling or experience required to enter into the specific career.

1: Psychiatrist $177,520

Psychiatrist

Life Mental Health via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: $177,250
  • Years of education: 12
  • Focus: Medicine/Therapeutic Practice
  • Stability & Growth: Slightly Above Average/Industry Experiences Steady Yearly Growth

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who evaluate, diagnose, and help prevent disorders of the mind and either prescribe medicine or employ psychotherapy or a combination of the two as treatment. The mean annual salary for a psychiatrist is $177,250, which equates to about 85 dollars an hour. Psychiatrists who specialize are able to garner even higher salaries. For example, those employed at residential care centers earn a mean annual salary of $212,490. Psychiatry is an extremely demanding endeavor, however, as it requires about 12 years of schooling, which includes a bachelor’s degree, medical school, and a 4 year residency program, and in turn may generate a large amount of debt or student loans. Despite the immense time and effort required, psychiatry as an industry experiences steady growth from year to year, offers stable six-figure salaries, and has extremely high salary potential for those who are willing to specialize. For these reasons, psychiatry takes the number one spot on our list.

2: Private Practice Clinical Therapists ≈ $150,000

Private Practice Clinical Therapist

psy-com via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: ≈ $150,000
  • Years of education: 6-8+
  • Focus: Therapeutic Practice
  • Stability & Growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences Steady Yearly Growth

Private practice clinical therapists often run their businesses out of home offices, and independently practice therapeutic techniques to treat their clients. To enter into such private practice, one has to first has to earn a bachelor’s and then pursue a master’s degree (2 years) in clinical therapy. It is common for therapists to then pursue a doctorate in clinical therapy (2 years) because the success of private practice hinges on the accolades and rapport of the practitioner. This independence is both a weakness and strength of this career path. It allows the individual to self-market, establish self-made hours, and set the fee for services offered, which creates high-end salaries reported to range most commonly from 150,000 to 200,000 annually.

3: Industrial-Organizational Psychologist $98,800

Industrial Organizational Psychologist

Meet the Media Guru via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: $98,000
  • Years of education: 6-8
  • Focus: Consultation
  • Stability & Growth: Greatly Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists are human efficiency experts who specialize in working with companies and corporations to keep employees efficient, healthy, and working hard. The majority of industrial-organizational psychologists enter their careers with a master’s in I/O psychology, but salaries increase substantially with doctoral education. The industry for this career is one of the most stable and expanding on this list. Companies around the world are dedicating time and money to making their employees more efficient and happier, and are hiring I/O psychologists right out of school to make this happen. And, as the number of job opportunities in this field increases, so do the mean annual salaries. These trends justify this career’s spot in our top 3.

4: Neuropsychologist $86,645

Neuropsych

Ian Ruotsala via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: $86,645
  • Years of education: 8
  • Focus: Assessment/Consultation
  • Stability & Growth: Average/Industry Experiences Average Yearly Growth

Neuropsychologists study cognitive science and the brain. Neuropsychology is a much more lucrative career at the doctorate level (4 years post undergrad), where neuropsychologists perform cognitive tests, run brain scans, study how drugs impact the nervous system, and consult victims of brain injuries. Although there is no data presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for neuropsychologists, PayScale reports that the average annual salary is $86,645, and while the bottom ten percent in the field earns just $57,908, the top earning neuropsychologists bring home $143,476 annually.

5: Clinical Psychologist $72,220

clinical

drewleavy via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: $72,220
  • Years of education: 8+
  • Focus: Therapeutic Treatment
  • Stability & Growth: Average/Industry Experiences Average Yearly Growth

Clinical Psychology is the single largest employment area in Psychology, but there is still plenty of opportunity for prospective students and professionals. The high-paying jobs in this industry require doctorate study in clinical psychology, which are highly competitive, and most programs require a 1 year internship. Despite the rigorous schooling involved, the sheer size and opportunity associated with clinical psychology makes it a high-ranking career option.

6: Engineering Psychologist $80,000

engineering

Michele Ficara Manganelli via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: $80,000
  • Years of education: 6-8
  • Focus: Consultation/Design
  • Stability & Growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences Average Yearly Growth

Engineering psychologists use their understanding of the human mind to improve and develop products and technology. This is a relatively new industry, and its growth exceeds the number of engineering psychologists, so it is a great option for those looking to meld psychology and technology. The typical requirement for this career is a master’s in engineering psychology, but doctoral level engineering psychologists report dramatically higher salaries. According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, starting salaries for engineering psychologists range between $48,000 and $75,367, while doctoral level professionals employed in the private sector earn $179,160.

7: Correctional Facility Psychologist $85,000

correctional

neilalderney123 via Compfight cc

  • Mean salary: $85,000
  • Years of education: 6-8
  • Focus: Assessment/Therapeutic Treatment
  • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences Average Yearly Growth
  • Correctional facility psychologists conduct assessments and therapeutic sessions with inmates in a correctional facility environment. This stressful and potentially dangerous setting of this work means employers offer higher salary in compensation, and competition is usually less of a factor than it is in other professions. Typically, correctional facility psychologists have a master’s level degree in clinical psychology, although doctoral education increases the salaries available. For those who thrive in a more stressful or uncomfortable environments, this is a great option.

    8: Military Psychologist $80,000

    The U.S. Army via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $80,000
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Assessment/Therapeutic Treatment
  • Stability & growth: Greatly Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth
  • Men and women who have served in the armed forces often experience trauma or other discomfort that requires therapeutic treatment. Military psychologists are government employed psychologists who specialize in dealing with soldiers and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As the research on the link between PTSD and armed forces increases, the demand for treatment and prevention methods increases significantly. This career opportunity is a great option for those looking to work with veterans, or to study PTSD.

    9: Corporate Manager 100,000+

    corporate

    vetusto via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $100,000+
    • Years of education: 4-8
    • Focus: Management/Consultation
    • Stability & growth: Average/Industry Experiences Yearly Growth

    When considering career options with a psychology degree, big business probably doesn’t come to mind. In actuality, however, a background in psychology is excellent preparation for corporate work. Corporate managers with psychology degrees are often able to direct their employees more accurately and more efficiently. While there is little data on the specifics of these salaries, corporate managers report six figure salaries and up. This is a great career path for those with a predisposition for business and managing.

    10: Administrative Hospital Psychologist $95,000

    admin-hospital

    pennstatenews via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $95,000
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Management
    • Stability & growth: Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    As integrated healthcare models become more accepted in the mainstream, psychologists are being brought into primary care facilities. Administrative hospital psychologists oversee and manage the psychologists stationed in a hospital. This position is relatively new, and thus the data on it is sparse; however, existing data suggests that middle-ground salaries sit around $95,000, while positions of greater responsibility offer much greater salaries.

    11: Forensic Psychologist $69,280

    Forensic Psychologist

    West Midlands Police via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $69,280
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Assessment/Consultation
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Forensic Psychology may currently be one of the hottest and fast growing careers in psychology due to its glamorous portrayal in modern novels, popular TV shows, and movies, however, the reality of the job may not be as appealing. While the high-stress and uncomfortable situations associated with this profession boosting available salaries, the subject matter of the job may be a turn-off for some. Forensic psychologists lend their skills to insurance claim cases, child custody disputes, child abuse accusations, and other legal disputes in need of a psychological perspective. While the mean average salary is nothing to gawk at, experience and education can lead forensic psychologists to six-figure salaries and specialization, which allows one to focus on his or her favored area of the profession.

    12: Teaching Psychologist $79,360

    Teaching Psychologist

    LauraGilchrist4 via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $79,360
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Teaching/Theory
    • Stability & growth: Average/Industry Experiences Average Yearly Growth

    A large number of psychologists use their skills and education to teach new generations of psychologists. The most lucrative option for teaching psychologists is to seek professorship at a university, where the mean salary is about $80,000. University teaching positions require extensive experience and at least a master’s degree although most universities will require doctoral degrees. To earn the highest salaries, teaching psychologists should seek tenure opportunities at upscale universities where salaries nearly double.

    13: Genetics Counselor $63,700

    Genetics Counselor

    IRRI Images via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $63,700
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Genetics/Counseling
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Often referred to as a “job of the future,” genetics counseling is a newly emerging, and potential lucrative career path. Genetics counselors offer support, guidance, and assistance to individuals with a genetic disorder, or to families who are at risk of passing on a genetic disorder. Genetics counselors usually have backgrounds in both genetics and counseling, with a at least one master’s degree. Genetics Counselors with PhDs can attain salaries around $150,000.

    14: Market Research Analyst $60,570

    Market Research Analyst

    University of Salford via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $60,570
    • Years of education: 4-8
    • Focus: Market Analysis/Consultation
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Psychologists are taught to recognize the underlying trends and motivations in human behavior which are crucial components to the sales and marketing industries. Market research analysts study market conditions and analyze consumer trends to help determine what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price. The median salary for market research analysts is about $60,000, with huge variation according to experience and education. Huge growth is expected in this field with 32% growth projected by 2022.

    15: Experimental Psychologist $69,280

    Experimental Psychologist

    Novartis AG via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $69,280
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Experimentation/Theory
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Experimental psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and human behavior. Experimental psychologists work independently or as part of a team of researchers to reach their goals. The mean annual salary of experimental psychologists is about $69,000, however, those with doctoral degrees can earn salaries of $116,343 or more. This industry is highly stable and growing, as psychological research becomes more important to various other industries.

    16: Special Education Teacher $53,220

    Special Education Teacher

    nnebeel via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $53,220
    • Years of education: 4-8
    • Focus: Teaching
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Special education teachers work with individuals who have learning disabilities or mental handicaps. Special education teachers are required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree and attend special teacher training. Compared to the schooling and experience required by other psychology professions, special education requires the least and offers the most. As special education enrollment increases substantially year by year, job growth is expected to be substantial.

    17: School Psychologist $59,440

    my dog ate my homework - aa039632

    William Berry 916 via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $59,440
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Therapeutic Practice
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    School psychologists work in schools to help students of all ages deal with life stressors and any relevant mental conditions. School Psychology is a rapidly growing field due to federal education legislation. While the mean average salary of school psychologists is decent, much higher salaries can be earned after experience and higher education. Typically, the quality and rapport of the school in which the psychologist is stationed determines the salary.

    18: Social and Community Service Manager $57,950

    Social and Community Service Manager

    cliff1066™ via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $57,950
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Management/Budgeting
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Social and Community Service Managers work with members of the community to identify and address public needs. These professionals usually oversee community projects and manage budgets and fundraising. The typical requirement for such work is at least a bachelor’s degree in social work, however, psychologists are also highly sought after for such positions. Experience and education determine the types of projects a social and community service manager will oversee, which also determines the salary earned.

    19: Sports Psychologist ≈$50,000

    Sports Psychologist

    Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: ≈$50,000
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Consultation/Therapeutic Practice
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Sports psychologists specialize in the psychological components of sports and athletics such as motivation, performance, and injury management. Sports psychologists work in a wide range of environments, from schools to hospitals to professional sports teams, and their salaries reflect this diversity. Although the data is currently sparse, the salary range most commonly reported is from about $45,000 to $85,000, with experience and education level being the determining factor.

    20: Geropsychologist ≈$50,000

    Geropsychologist

    calafellvalo via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: ≈$50,000
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Assessment/Consultation/Therapeutic Practice
    • Stability & growth: Above Average/Industry Experiences High Yearly Growth

    Geropsychologists specialize in working with geriatric populations which is a rapidly growing group in the United States. In 2004, Americans 65 and older made up 12 percent of the population and by 2050 they’re expected to make up 21 percent. Although there is little data to establish the average salaries of this profession, we do see a decent range of reported earnings. Geropsychologists working in a government research organization bring in $56,714 while those working in a veterans affairs hospital earn around $70,000.

    21: Marriage and Family Therapist $45,720

    Marriage and Family Therapist

    SalFalko via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $45,720
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Therapeutic Practice
    • Stability & growth: Average/ Industry experiences extremely high yearly growth

    Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families to help build better relationships and address underlying issues. Stigmas that previously surrounded this kind of therapy are dissipating, and the industry shows remarkable growth projected at 41% through 2020. At a minimum, a master’s degree in counseling or a related field is required to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. Despite outliers with six-figure salaries, this is one field where experience and education do not explicitly yield greater returns.

    22: Career/Vocational Counselor $46,000

    career

    Peter Samis via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $46,000
    • Years of education: 4-8
    • Focus: Consultation
    • Stability & growth: Average/ Industry experiences high yearly growth

    Due to rapidly changing and evolving job markets, students and professionals often seek the aid of career and vocational counselors to help them establish career paths best suited to individual strengths and weaknesses. Career and vocational counselors employ personality tests and other assessments to determine the type of careers in which an individual is most likely to excel. While the mean average salary is not extremely impressive, this career path requires less schooling than other paths, requiring at minimum a bachelor’s degree with additional training, and offers a steadily growing job opportunities.

    23: Recreational Therapist $45,520

    Recreational Therapist

    daystar297 via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $45,520
    • Years of education: 4-8
    • Focus: Therapeutic Practice/Project Managing
    • Stability & growth: Average/ Industry experiences high yearly growth

    Recreational Therapists plan, direct, and/or coordinate medically-approved recreational activities for individuals in hospitals, schools, or other institutions. Typically these programs are directed at helping individuals with mental or physical illnesses or disabilities. Experience and higher education earns greater salaries, with the top 10% of these therapists making about $70,000. Since this is a relatively new field it offers growing opportunity and flexible salaries.

    24: Mental Health Counselor: $39,710

    Mental Health Counselor

    Photo Credit: deltaMike via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $39,710
    • Years of education: 6-8
    • Focus: Assessment/Therapy
    • Stability & growth: Average/ Industry experiences extremely high yearly growth

    Mental health counselors help people with problems concerning their personal lives and their emotional and mental well-being such as marital, family, and education problems, and substance abuse issues. Most states require at least a master’s degree in counseling in order to become a licensed counselor. While the industry is growing, with expected 37% growth through 2020, the average mean salaries remain fairly low. In order to garner high salaries, mental health counselors must be experienced and educated, and as such lucrative paths within this career are highly competitive.

    25: Substance Abuse Counselor $38,520

    Substance Abuse Counselor

    KJGarbutt via Compfight cc

    • Mean salary: $38,520
    • Years of education: 4-8
    • Focus: Therapeutic Practice
    • Stability & growth: Average/ Industry experiences high yearly growth

    Substance abuse counselors help individuals overcome physical, mental, and emotional reliance on drugs. They work extensively with addicted individuals to help them overcome their vices. As addiction and substance abuse becomes more covered by insurance companies, the industry and earnings grow, with growth projected at 31 percent through 2022. Typically, most employers require at least a master’s degree to work as a substance abuse counselor, but often extensive experience trumps this requirement. Professionals on this career path seeking higher salaries should seek doctoral education and apply for positions at high-end treatment centers, where salaries can jump into the six digits.

    Overall Trends in High Salaries

    Overview Picture

    Cayusa via Compfight cc

    If you’re looking to bring in sky high salaries, then there are some basic principles you can apply to your career choices. Listed below is a breakdown of the most important underlying trends and factors at play in the most lucrative and viable career paths. Although these points are drawn from this analysis of the best careers in psychology, they certainly apply to career choices in general and outside of this focus.

    1. The most obvious and most determinant factor in achieving sky high salaries is education.
    2. While it may be possible to earn an amazing salary without a master’s or doctoral degree, having such degrees only raises your chances of obtaining it, and opens the door to many opportunities and specializations that would otherwise be unreachable. Also, education may make up for a lack of experience. If you’re attempting to enter into a new career, having an impressive academic background might outweigh inexperience.

    3. Salaries not determined by education are probably determined by experience.
    4. Experience is a golden ticket on any career path. If you’ve got your eyes set on the highest salaries in your profession, then get as much experience as possible. Developing a formidable background in your specific field of work will set you apart from the pack, and make you a prime candidate for those more competitive and high-paying positions. And, conversely to the first point, if you’re lacking higher education, then having a large amount of experience might be your saving grace.

    5. Enter into a growing industry.
    6. Do your homework. Make sure that the career that you’re pursuing will still be around in 10 years. It doesn’t make sense to be a typewriter salesman when computers are now the mainstream. And, if you’re pursuing those gargantuan salaries, then make sure that your industry will also be thriving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Website (Homepage) offers great information concerning the estimated growth of industries for years to come.

    7. Become specialized.
    8. Most industries and careers contain small niches of specialization. Few make the time and effort to become experts in such specialties, but those who do are rewarded significantly. And, it usually shrinks the number of competitors you’ll be up against.

    9. Be dynamic.

    So many of the obstacles blocking the way to higher salaries and other opportunities are arbitrary. Stay in the habit of improving your skillsets and making yourself more competitive in your field to earn the job you want and the salary you deserve.

    Citations