If you are curious how much money you could earn with a degree in psychology, there are a lot of factors to consider. While looking at the median annual wages for psychologists can give you a glimpse into some of the possible career paths and salaries available with this educational background, you also need to consider industry of employment, area of specialization and job function. Many undergraduate psychology majors go on to work in fields other than psychology. Whether you use the skills you acquire while pursuing a psychology degree in this field or in other occupations, you will have the potential for a lucrative salary – in some roles and regions, up to six figures.
IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain
Median Salaries in for Psychologists
Psychologists, the social scientists who study human thought processes and behavior and apply that knowledge to clinical, counseling, research and other areas, earn a median wage of $79,010, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10 percent of earners make above $129,250 per year, while the lowest paid 10 percent of psychologists earn less than $43,800.
Psychology is a broad field that includes many different specializations. Practitioners in the fields of clinical, counseling and school psychology, who make up 147,500 of the 166,600 psychologist jobs in the U.S., earn a median wage of $76,990. A small fraction of the occupation – just 1,700 workers – working in the industrial-organizational specialization of psychology make a median wage of $97,260. Collectively, psychologists who don’t fit into these categories earn the highest median wage, $100,770 per year.
Industry of employment is another important factor in how much you could earn as a psychologist. Among the top employing industries for the occupation, government psychologist jobs pay the best, with a median wage of $96,410. Government psychology jobs include roles in research, clinical healthcare and forensic psychology. Hospitals are also lucrative work settings, paying a median salary of $86,530, the BLS reported. Psychologists working in ambulatory healthcare services earn a median wage of $79,180.
Another popular field of study is school psychology, a field which involves working with children and teenagers who are struggling with learning disorders or mental health disorders. The median wage for psychologists in elementary and school settings is $75,890.
The Highest-Paying Psychology Careers
Certain psychology careers are more profitable than others. While salary potential should be only one of several factors that guides your decision of what specialization area of psychology to pursue, it is certainly worth considering your future income in your career decisions.
Industrial-organizational psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on workplace issues such as policy planning, productivity, management and employee morale, is one psychology field to consider when looking at earning potential. As the BLS notes, the median wage for this branch of psychology is approaching six figures. There are several different job roles within the field of industrial-organizational psychology, so there are compelling career options whether you prefer working in research, analysis or training and development.
Another lucrative field of psychology to consider is forensic psychology. Average starting salaries are reported at $53,500 per year, rising to $66,000 for workers with two years of experience and $74,988 for psychologists with 19 years of work experience.
The field of industrial-organizational psychology builds on psychological theories and principles, but it has more in common with business and management than with counseling and clinical mental health treatment.
High-Paying Non-Psychology Jobs With a Psych Degree
One of the great things about a degree in psychology, especially at the undergraduate level, is that it doesn’t just prepare you for a single career path. Instead, it equips students with valuable knowledge about human behavior and versatile skills in communication, observation, analysis and problem-solving, according to the BLS. Even if you don’t go on to become a psychologist, you can use these skills to work in a number of high-paying job roles in different fields.
What lucrative non-psychology career paths might a psychology major pursue? Because you understand human behavior and decision-making, you might make an excellent sales manager or marketing manager. The BLS reports median wages of $124,220 for sales managers and $134,290 for marketing managers. You can also use your knowledge of how the human brain works to go to law school and become a lawyer, an occupation with a median salary of $120,910. Your interpersonal skills, communication skills, patience and problem-solving skills would make you an excellent manager. The BLS reports an overall median wage of $104,240 for the management occupational group.
If you decide that you don’t want to pursue a doctoral degree but still want to work in the field of mental health, you could use your undergraduate psychology background as a stepping stone to a career as a mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor or marriage and family therapist. However, these community and social services roles tend to pay considerably less than a role as a psychologist would, with the BLS reporting median salaries in the range of $44,000 to $50,000.
There are also non-psychologists job roles in the field of psychology that require a lower level of education. However, these opportunities, like research assistant, also have lower salaries. The BLS reports an average wage of $50,420 per year.