Salary Outlook Ph.D in Counseling Psychology

In most areas of study, a doctoral degree is the highest possible level of achievement in academics. For those studying counseling psychology, this could mean getting a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree, or it could mean earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

While the degrees generally have different basic philosophies, very often, the end result is the same, and this generally is true for those pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. In comparison to other types of psychology degrees, counseling psychology is heavily focused on the practice of counseling others to help them cope with day-to-day struggles.

What are the degree options for counseling psychology students and what types of salaries can they expect to earn at the professional level?

Counseling Psychology Doctorate Options

The right degree option can make all the difference. That’s because, while doctoral programs in psychology can be quite similar between Ph.D. and Psy.D. tracks, the basic design of the coursework and academic focus are usually different in a few key ways.

Generally, people who pursue a Ph.D. in a field of psychology, including counseling psychology, do so because they want to engage in detailed study and academic research into the field. On the other hand, those who are considering a Psy.D. degree may be more inclined to careers in psychology where they practice counseling psychology one-on-one with patients or clients. Of course, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and it’s definitely true that qualified people with either type of degree can cross over and have successful careers with a variety of daily tasks.

SEE ALSO: 5+ Online PhD in Counseling Psychology Programs

Often, the choice comes down to which programs are available where the student lives, and Ph.D. programs, in general, are slightly more common than Psy.D. degree tracks, though this is changing as the Psy.D. gains credibility in the industry.

Still, for students who want to have the broadest possible career options, a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology may help provide that.

Counseling Psychology PhD Career Tracks

With a Ph.D., a wide range of possible career paths become available, and for those studying counseling psychology, that’s definitely the case. While a career as a counseling psychologist, perhaps the most obvious related job title, is certainly possible, it’s far from the only possible occupation an individual could pursue after earning their Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology.

SEE ALSO: How to Become a Counseling Psychologist

Let’s take a look at just a few of the possibilities:

  • Psychology Professor
  • School Counselor
  • Career Counselor
  • Research Director
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Substance Abuse Counselor

Counseling psychology programs tend to focus more heavily on helping individuals who don’t have major psychiatric or behavioral health disorders, and so career tracks will lean more heavily in that direction when it comes to jobs with a clinical component.

Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology Salary Overview

Statistically speaking, the mere presence of a Ph.D. greatly boosts a person’s potential earnings. In fact, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the average Ph.D. graduate makes about double their high school graduate counterparts.

SEE ALSO: Clinical vs. Counseling Psychology Degree Differences

To understand the income potential for Ph.D. graduates in the counseling psychology field, we calculated an average annual income rate for a total of five jobs for which national data is available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s a look at the counseling psychology jobs we studied:

California has the highest average annual salary across the five counseling psychology Ph.D. jobs we examined, followed closely by New Jersey. D.C., New York and Oregon round out the top five. The average annual income rate in West Virginia was by far the lowest.

Average annual counseling psychology Ph.D. salary by state

California $82,686.00
New Jersey $81,848.00
District of Columbia $77,650.00
New York $74,938.00
Oregon $74,536.00
Delaware $73,425.00
Massachusetts $72,558.00
Virginia $72,370.00
Connecticut $71,924.00
Pennsylvania $71,784.00
Colorado $70,030.00
South Carolina $69,880.00
Rhode Island $69,235.00
Utah $67,962.00
Minnesota $67,458.00
Alaska $67,018.00
New Hampshire $66,912.50
North Dakota $66,606.00
Illinois $65,522.00
Maryland $65,342.00
Hawaii $65,135.00
Maine $64,936.00
Wyoming $64,847.50
Georgia $64,538.00
Iowa $64,466.00
Wisconsin $63,890.00
Washington $63,834.00
Ohio $63,664.00
Indiana $63,330.00
Michigan $63,280.00
Idaho $63,150.00
Nevada $63,068.00
Missouri $62,338.00
Texas $61,762.00
Louisiana $61,020.00
North Carolina $60,174.00
South Dakota $59,757.50
Mississippi $59,237.50
Kansas $59,162.00
Arkansas $58,902.50
Florida $58,776.00
Alabama $58,626.00
New Mexico $58,266.00
Vermont $58,132.50
Kentucky $57,508.00
Tennessee $57,360.00
Arizona $57,358.00
Nebraska $56,266.00
Oklahoma $55,270.00
Montana $54,225.00
West Virginia $47,902.00

Counseling psychologists have the highest annual average salary rate across the five jobs, with an average amount of about $81,000. Considering all five jobs, the overall average is just under $80,000, while salary rates for Counselors, which includes any counselors not classified elsewhere, are the lowest at just over $48,000.

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

Counseling Psychologists $81,417.20
Psychology Professors $79,369.00
All $72,883.90
Career and School Counselors $57,865.49
Marriage and Family Therapists $52,926.60
Counselors $48,033.90

The next several years are expected to bring a veritable boom in counseling psychology employment. According to U.S. Department of Labor data, the five counseling jobs we studied will see their ranks expand by about 33% in Utah, the highest rate in the country. Four other states are expected to see counseling psychology jobs grow by more than one-quarter — New York, Georgia, Nevada and Colorado. Alaska’s 3.8% growth rate projection is the lowest.

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

Utah 33.0%
New York 26.6%
Georgia 26.3%
Nevada 26.3%
Colorado 25.3%
Maryland 20.0%
Iowa 18.0%
New Hampshire 17.6%
Florida 17.3%
South Carolina 16.9%
Wyoming 16.8%
Oregon 16.5%
Tennessee 16.2%
California 16.0%
Idaho 15.9%
Missouri 14.9%
District of Columbia 14.7%
Connecticut 14.4%
Arkansas 14.2%
Indiana 13.6%
Louisiana 12.8%
West Virginia 12.6%
Oklahoma 12.5%
Virginia 12.4%
North Carolina 12.4%
New Mexico 12.1%
South Dakota 11.8%
Minnesota 11.5%
Montana 11.5%
Maine 11.1%
Pennsylvania 10.8%
Kansas 10.6%
Nebraska 9.9%
New Jersey 9.9%
Delaware 9.6%
Hawaii 9.3%
North Dakota 9.2%
Michigan 8.6%
Rhode Island 8.6%
Wisconsin 8.6%
Ohio 8.3%
Mississippi 7.3%
Illinois 4.5%
Vermont 4.0%
Alaska 3.8%

The five selected jobs should see average growth of just under 14% through 2028, with openings for Marriage and Family Therapists rising at the quickest rate (22.4%) and jobs for School and Career Counselors climbing at the slowest rate (8.4%).

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

Marriage and Family Therapists 22.4%
Counseling Psychologists 14.7%
All 13.5%
Psychology Professors 11.7%
Counselors 10.4%
School and Career Counselors 8.4%


As Americans increasingly accept the need to seek help coping with the stresses of their lives and relationships, it’s more and more likely that they’ll turn to professional counselors for help. For psychology students weighing their doctoral options, earning a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology can open doors, both professionally and personally.