The ability to better understand what influences how people think and what motivates the way they behave is invaluable in nearly any profession, especially those that require some level of interpersonal communication. That means that a degree in the field can open doors to careers that don’t always fall strictly within the realm of clinical psychology or counseling.
You’ll need a doctorate degree in psychology and post-doctoral supervised practice hours to earn a state license to practice as a clinical, counseling, or school psychologist in the U.S., while a master’s frequently serves as a precursor to a terminal doctorate or as a path to meeting associate-level licensure in the states that grant intermediate licenses of that sort. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Workforce Studies, reports that although the number of master’s and doctorate degrees awarded each year between 2005 and 2019 has remained fairly stable, the number of bachelor’s degrees has gone up considerably year over year.
While master’s degrees and doctorates provide a clear path to licensure, a lot of those bachelor’s degrees are going to professionals who will build on those skills in other fields. You might be surprised at how many people with degrees in psychology end up working in some area of public service, or in fields like communications, public relations, marketing, business, criminal justice, human resources, health services and a lot more.
Whether you use it as a foundation on which to build your career in some other field or as a route straight into psychological practice, a degree in psychology provides the kind of education that always pays off—both professionally and financially.
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist Salaries by Industry and Location
According to May 2019 BLS stats, the median, annual salary for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists was $78,200. The top earners in the field – likely those with extensive experience – earned $132,670 or more during this time.
The top-earning clinical and counseling psychologists worked in home healthcare services, followed closely by those in private practice and specialty healthcare practices:
- Home healthcare services: $105,440
- Offices of other healthcare practitioners: $100,300
- Outpatient care centers: $99,870
- Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals: $86,350
The top-paying workplace settings for school psychologists included child daycare centers, followed by elementary and secondary schools:
- Child daycare centers: $120,130
- Elementary and secondary schools: $80,180
- Educational support services: $78,610
The top-paying states for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists include:
- Oregon: $112,010
- California: $111,750
- Washington D.C.: $106,900
- New York: $96,170
- Louisiana: $96,040
The top-paying metro areas include:
- Santa Rosa, CA: $136,390
- Jefferson City, MO: $118,920
- Oxnard (includes Thousand Oaks, Ventura), CA: $117,960
- San Diego (includes Carlsbad), CA: $117,280
- Los Angeles (includes Long Beach, Anaheim), CA: $117,140
- Madera, CA: $116,190
Salaries for Forensic Psychologists, Developmental Psychologists, Neuropsychologists and More According to Industry and Location
The BLS has a separate category (Psychologists, All Other) to cover other doctoral-level practitioners in the sub-disciplines less traveled, including forensic psychology, developmental psychology, neuropsychology, social psychology, experimental psychology and many others.
As of May 2019, the median for psychologists in this category was $101,790. The top earners in the field – those with extensive experience in the field – earned $129,530 or more during this time.
Reflecting the fact that psychologists in this category often work for government agencies, research institutes, and academia, the BLS highlighted salaries for these professionals according to industry and practice setting:
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $115,360
- State government: $104,280
- Federal government: $94,670
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $85,000
- Offices of other healthcare professionals: $133,710
- General medical and surgical hospitals: $92,560
The five top-paying states for these psychology professionals are:
- California: $117,610
- Maryland: $112,260
- Alaska: $112,260
- Kansas: $104,980
- Washington: $103,440
The top-paying metro areas are:
- Los Angeles (includes Long Beach, Anaheim), CA: $127,960
- Sacramento (includes Roseville, Arden, Arcade), CA: $123,270
- Baltimore (includes Columbia, Towson), MD: $122,520
- Fresno, CA: $114,500
- Anchorage, AK: $112,950
- Dayton, OH: $110,600
Salaries for Psychologists in University Faculty Positions
Doctoral-level psychologists who take their knowledge into the post-secondary classroom often earn salaries that rival or even exceed their colleagues in practice outside the walls of academia, particularly if they teach at the doctoral level and lock-in tenured positions.
According to the BLS, psychology instructors at colleges and universities earned an average salary of $87,530 as of May 2019. The top earners in this profession – likely tenured professors with significant teaching experience – earned at least $151,030 during this time.
The BLS reports that psychology instructors working in professional schools and junior colleges earned very similar average salaries: $87,550 and $87,790, respectively, while those teaching in technical and trade schools earned significantly less, at about $55,100.
The APA’s Center for Workforce Studies also broke down salaries for psychology teachers, according to rank and program level.
As of 2018-19, professors teaching within doctoral programs earned the following salaries:
- Professor: $113,820
- Associate professor: $83,346
- Assistant professor: $72,786
- New assistant professor: $71,025
Professors teaching within master’s programs earned the following:
- Professor: $86,272
- Associate professor: $69,265
- Assistant professor: $60,000
- New assistant professor: $59,975
Professors teaching within bachelor’s programs earned the following:
- Professor: $82,029
- Associate professor: $66,514
- Assistant professor: $57,861
- New assistant professor: $58,995
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Salaries by Industry and Location
Industrial-organizational psychology – the study of psychology and human behavior as it relates to the workplace, from offices to retail to industrial production facilities, is a unique niche of psychology that looks at everything from training and employee development to client satisfaction and how customers interact with displays, retail spaces of sales floors. I-O psychologists enjoy excellent professional opportunities in a wide variety of settings, including private business and industry, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community organizations. In all these settings they also enjoy outstanding earning potential.
According to the BLS, industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists earned an average annual salary of $111,150 as of May 2019, while the top earners in the field earned more than $197,700.
I-O psychologists working for scientific research and development companies earned an average salary that far exceeded their colleagues in other industries, at $162,590. Average salaries for I-O psychologists in other industries included:
- Local governmental agencies: $110,700
- Companies/enterprises: $101,600
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $96,000
- State governmental agencies: $72,100
Unlike the majority of psychology professions that require a doctoral degree, both master’s and doctorate-prepared I-O psychologists enjoy professional opportunities in a variety of industries and settings. According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s Income and Employment Report 2020, I-O psychologists at both the doctorate and master’s levels earned about 5.2% more in 2018 than they did in 2015.
Doctorate I-O Psychologists
According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology report, the highest earners were doctoral-prepared I-O psychologist consultants who earned an average of $167,000. The two largest employment sectors for doctorate-prepared I-O psychologists were consulting organizations (18%) and universities (31%).
Within academia, I-O psychologists teaching in business management departments earned more than their colleagues teaching in psychology departments: $160,000 vs. $95,000.
Master’s-Prepared I-O Psychologists
According to the report, the majority (90%) of I-O psychologists with a master’s degree as their highest degree work as practitioners, and 80% work in the private sector.
Master’s-prepared I-O psychologists working for the federal government earned an average salary of $107,000, while those working in private industry earned less, at $100,000.
Salaries for Bachelor’s Degree Holders in Psychology
There’s a reason why psychology remains one of the most popular undergraduate degrees in the nation: it provides an excellent foundation on which to build a career in a variety of fields, from human resources to criminal justice to sales.
A psychology undergraduate degree provides a solid understanding of how people think and why they behave the way they do—a valuable skillset for any profession that involves interacting with people. A psychology bachelor’s degree helps you develop problem solving skills, along with courses in data analysis, verbal and written communications, and research. Simply put, if you’re looking to build a solid educational foundation for virtually any profession, you can’t go wrong with psychology.
While most of the following professions require additional education or training, the following salary ranges (50th– 90th percentile) from the BLS will give you an idea of where a bachelor’s degree in psychology can take you:
- Marketing manager: $136,850 – <$208,000
- Sales manager: $126,640 – <$208,000
- Public relations and fundraising manager: $116,180 – <$208,000
- Administrative services and facility manager: $96,940 – $166,330
- Purchasing manager: $121,110 – $193,400
- Compensation and benefits manager: $122,270 – <$208,000
- Human resources manager: $116,720 – $205,720
- Training and development manager: $113,350 – $196,070
- Social and community services manager: $67,150 – $112,480
- Human resources specialist: $61,920 – $105,930
- Labor relations specialist: $69,020 – $124,380
- Market research analyst: $63,790 – $122,630
- Urban and regional planner: $74,350 – $116,280
- Educational, guidance, and career counselor/advisor: $57,040 – $96,090
- Social worker: $50,470 – $82,540
- Probation officer/correctional treatment specialist: $54,290 – $94,860
- Arbitrator, mediator, conciliator: $63,930 – $123,730
- Public relations specialist: $61,150 – $115,430
- Correctional officer: $45,180 – $78,090
- Detective/criminal investigator: $83,170 – $139,180
- Advertising sales agent: $50,940 – $125,500
- Office administrative supervisor: $56,620 – $91,570
Salary and employment data compiled by ZipRecruiter in October 2020. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which master’s level psychologists work. ZipRecruiter salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which psychologists, all others work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019 for Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists; I/O Psychologists; and Post-Secondary Psychology Teachers. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which clinical, counseling and school psychologists work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
All salary and employment data accessed October 2020.