Salary Outlook with PhD in Behavioral Psychology

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A doctoral degree represents the highest possible level of academic achievement in most fields of study, and that includes in the arena of behavioral psychology. For many scholars, earning a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology enables them to advance their knowledge and opens up career opportunities.

Students of behavioral psychology have a couple of different doctoral options — a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). How do the degrees differ, and what are some possible job titles and salary rates graduates could expect upon completing their doctorates?

Behavioral Psychology Doctorate Options

When it comes to psychology doctoral programs, students have a big choice to make between two possible degrees — a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. While both culminate in the completion of a doctoral program, they are usually quite different, even within the same field.

Every program is unique, but in general, Ph.D. programs are ideal for those who want to be able to focus on academic and scientific research, while Psy.D. programs are best for those who primarily want to study the clinical practice of psychology, including providing therapy and counseling services.

SEE ALSO: Top 4 Online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology Programs

While it’s entirely possible for graduates of either type of program to hold many of the same jobs, the differences in how the two programs are set up can make that a challenge. For example, if a behavioral psychology student is interested solely in providing hands-on therapeutic services but pursues a Ph.D. course that includes no clinical experience or internships, it’s unlikely they’ll be prepared enough for that career track.

Similarly, for those wishing to teach at higher levels and contribute to the scientific understanding of behavioral psychology, the advanced research training at the heart of most Ph.D. programs is critical.

Behavioral Psychology PhD Career Tracks

Behavioral psychology as a field is uniquely focused on the reasons why people do what they do and how problem behaviors could potentially be modified. Students in this field will study the connections between the brain and behavior to discern behavioral patterns that may be problematic.

Behavioral psychology students who intend to practice clinically will most often treat patients or serve clients who have diagnosable behavioral disorders, such as OCD or autism spectrum disorders.

Possible careers in the field, whether clinical or academic, include:

Depending on an individual’s previous experience, it may also be possible to pursue non-psychology careers after completing a behavioral psychology Ph.D. This could include serving in roles like marketing or advertising, where deep understanding of human behavior is helpful.

Behavioral Psychology PhD Salary Overview

There isn’t a single obvious job title that a person becomes qualified for after earning a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology. Simply having a Ph.D. can be greatly beneficial, not only to opening up a world of career possibilities but to providing for a comfortable living.

Those with Ph.D. degrees make about double the median annual income rate for high school graduates, and doctoral-holders earn salaries about one-third higher than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

So while these professionals can expect to earn far more than the average American, how do their salaries vary depending on the area of the country in question? To understand that, we calculated an average annual salary rate for four selected jobs in behavioral psychology, according to the most recent figures published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those jobs are:

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Psychology Professor
  • Behavioral Health Counselor
  • Rehabilitation Counselor

The most generous annual salary for the four jobs we analyzed was in the District of Columbia, where behavioral psychology Ph.D. graduates can expect to earn almost $82,000. Not far behind were California and New Jersey, each with an average of about $80,000. The average behavioral psychology salary was lowest in West Virginia at about $47,000.

Average annual behavioral psychology PhD salary by state

District of Columbia $81,717.50
California $79,995.00
New Jersey $79,430.00
Oregon $74,960.00
Rhode Island $72,792.50
New York $71,562.50
Connecticut $70,392.50
Utah $69,370.00
Massachusetts $69,057.50
Colorado $68,322.50
North Dakota $68,315.00
Iowa $66,592.50
Michigan $66,152.50
Minnesota $66,075.00
Pennsylvania $66,017.50
New Hampshire $64,820.00
Virginia $64,652.50
Maryland $64,287.50
Maine $64,000.00
Louisiana $63,727.50
Ohio $63,517.50
Nevada $63,227.50
Alaska $62,852.50
North Carolina $62,397.50
Indiana $62,320.00
Illinois $62,270.00
Washington $61,900.00
Missouri $61,577.50
Georgia $61,462.50
Idaho $60,667.50
Nebraska $60,650.00
Florida $60,607.50
South Dakota $60,027.50
Wisconsin $59,432.50
Texas $59,060.00
Wyoming $58,955.00
Alabama $58,820.00
Kansas $58,615.00
South Carolina $58,462.50
Vermont $58,307.50
New Mexico $57,090.00
Hawaii $56,913.33
Arkansas $56,887.50
Tennessee $56,007.50
Arizona $55,987.50
Mississippi $55,350.00
Delaware $54,220.00
Kentucky $53,412.50
Oklahoma $51,005.00
Montana $50,632.50
West Virginia $46,970.00

Overall, the average U.S. wage for the four jobs was just over $62,000, but salaries for Clinical Psychologists averaged out to the highest level — just over $81,000. Rehabilitation Counselors had the lowest average salary ($41,463), but it’s important to note that many people in this job do not have advanced degrees, so that holds the average down a bit.

Average annual U.S. salary, selected behavioral psychology Ph.D. jobs

Clinical Psychologists $81,131.80
Psychology Professors $79,395.51
All $62,358.22
Behavioral Health Counselors $49,237.25
Rehabilitation Counselors $41,463.33

In every state where data is available, the U.S. Department of Labor expects job openings for behavioral psychology professionals to expand through 2028. (Data for Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington was not available.)

The fastest average change across the four jobs should be in Utah, where openings are projected to grow by nearly 22%. New York is second at nearly 28%, followed by Georgia and Colorado, both of which have growth rate projections in excess of 25%. Alaska’s rate is the lowest at just over 5%, which is about average compared to all U.S. jobs over the next several years.

Average projected growth in behavioral psychology job openings by state, 2018-2028

Utah 31.9%
New York 27.9%
Georgia 27.3%
Colorado 26.7%
Nevada 23.9%
Maryland 22.2%
Tennessee 21.9%
Oregon 20.0%
Iowa 18.4%
Wyoming 18.0%
Indiana 17.7%
Florida 16.8%
New Hampshire 16.4%
Arkansas 16.3%
North Carolina 16.2%
Connecticut 15.9%
Virginia 15.7%
Montana 15.5%
Missouri 14.6%
South Dakota 14.6%
Delaware 14.5%
California 13.9%
District of Columbia 13.7%
South Carolina 13.4%
West Virginia 13.3%
New Jersey 13.2%
Oklahoma 13.0%
Pennsylvania 12.8%
Idaho 12.5%
Ohio 12.3%
Wisconsin 11.7%
Vermont 11.5%
Nebraska 11.3%
New Mexico 10.8%
Kansas 10.5%
Hawaii 10.5%
Louisiana 9.7%
Minnesota 9.7%
Puerto Rico 9.5%
North Dakota 8.8%
Illinois 8.6%
Michigan 7.9%
Rhode Island 6.7%
Maine 5.7%
Alaska 5.3%

Each of the behavioral psychology jobs we studied is expected to see positive job opening growth nationally, led by Behavioral Health Counselors, who should see an increase of nearly 23% in job openings through 2028. Even the slowest average rate, that for Rehabilitation Counselors, is nearly double the expected national growth rate for all jobs. That means the future looks very bright for behavioral psychology students.

Average U.S. projected growth in behavioral psychology Ph.D. job openings, 2018-2028

Behavioral Health Counselors 22.5%
Clinical Psychologists 14.7%
All 14.7%
Psychology Professors 11.7%
Rehabilitation Counselors 9.9%


Understanding the reasons why people do the things they do is at the very heart of the study of psychology. For many scholars of the field, going deeper and diagnosing behavioral disorders, and potentially helping people alleviate them, means completing a rigorous advanced academic course, such as a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology.