What is Salary Outlook for PhD in Psychology?
In any field, the time and financial commitments involved in earning a doctorate are intense. But for people in most careers, earning a doctoral degree represents the educational pinnacle of achievement. In the field of psychology, there are two main degrees that serve this role — the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).
Let’s learn more about the Ph.D. in Psychology degree, including what prospective students should know about their options, as well as what types of salaries they can expect to earn with career avenues that will open up after they complete this challenging degree.
What’s On This Page
- Psychology Doctorate Options
- Psychology PhD Career Tracks
- Psychology PhD Salary Overview
Psychology Doctorate Options
The two main types of psychology doctorates, Ph.D. and Psy.D., are similar but have some notable differences, and those differences likely will guide the decision of which degree type is right for you.
Ph.D. degrees are the more common and traditional type of psychology doctorate, while the Psy.D. was developed in the early 1970s. The biggest difference is that most Psy.D. programs are built around ensuring that students gain hands-on clinical experience, such as by providing direct mental healthcare to actual patients and clients. This is less common in Ph.D. in Psychology programs, which tend to focus much more heavily on the academic and research side of the equation.
So generally, if your intended psychology career path will include a large dose, or consist entirely, of lab or academic research, or you hope to teach at the collegiate level, a Ph.D. in Psychology will probably be the best choice for you. That said, Ph.D. programs are often more rigorous and selective than Psy.D. programs, so your options may be limited by the institutions offering programs in your state and online.
It’s also important to note that Ph.D. programs will typically take at least five years and could take as long as eight years, while Psy.D. programs tend to be closer to five or six, with some being designed to take as little as three years. Most Ph.D. programs will require doctoral candidates to teach, which also usually helps offset the cost of their education, and graduate fellowships and assistantships are much less common in Psy.D. programs.
And given that the Ph.D. is the much more storied type of psychology doctorate, it still commands a certain cache in many circles that Psy.D. programs don’t yet inspire, so earning a Ph.D. often is a signal of higher stature within the field of psychology, which could allow professionals to boost their wage expectations.
Psychology PhD Career Tracks
There is no single career path for prospective Ph.D. in Psychology students to follow, and chances are good that whatever type of role or focus area you’re interested in, there are plenty of roles you could fill.
Ph.D. Career Options by Industry
|Counseling & Therapy||Medicine & Science||Business & Consulting||Education & Instruction|
|Clinical Psychologist||Health Psychologist||Human Resources Director||College Professor|
|Practice Director||Clinical Researcher||Political Strategist||University Administrator|
|Mental Health Counselor||Applied Researcher||Industrial-Organizational Psychologist||School Superintendent|
Career paths and educational choices will depend significantly on each person’s individual areas of interest. For example, those who want to focus on research into the biological impacts of the human mind on behavior may want to consider Ph.D. programs in neuropsychology or experimental psychology. But those who want to work in the corporate world would probably find more value in an industrial-organizational Ph.D. in Psychology degree.
Here’s a look at some of the most common focus areas within psychology Ph.D. educational programs:
- Attention & Perception
Psychology PhD Salary Overview
Statistically speaking, those with higher academic achievement tend to make more money. In fact, according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual income level for those with a graduate or professional degree, such as a Ph.D. in Psychology, make about double the median income level for high school graduates. Those with advanced degrees also make considerably more than those who have only a bachelor’s degree — $72,492 vs. $54,628.
Let’s look at what a possible Ph.D. doctorate-holder could earn depending on their state, according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To calculate a rate across a few jobs, we calculated an average annual salary for the following jobs in each state (rates for a few jobs were not available in some states, so those were not included):
- Clinical, School or Counseling Psychologists
- General Psychologists
- Human Resources Managers
- Mental Health Social Workers
- Postsecondary Psychology Professors
Psychology Ph.D. wages are highest in New Jersey and California, and Rhode Island, D.C. and New York also offer average wages in the six figures. Average wages are lowest in Montana and West Virginia, though psychology Ph.D.-holders in those states can still expect to make more than the average worker.
Average annual psychology Ph.D. salary by state
|District of Columbia||$110,010.00|
The overall national average annual wage for the selected jobs is about $84,000, with Human Resources Managers having the highest average wages and Mental Health Social Workers averaging the lowest.
Average annual U.S. salary, selected psychology Ph.D. jobs
|Human Resources Managers||$120,072|
|Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists||$81,417|
|Postsecondary Psychology Teachers||$79,369|
|Mental Health Social Workers||$49,151|
In every state, the selected psychology Ph.D. jobs are expected to see openings rise over the next several years. But in some states, growth will be much more rapid on average. Across the five jobs, the fastest average growth rate is expected in Utah, where the jobs will expand by an average of nearly 32%, while the slowest growth rate is projected to be in Mississippi.
Average projected growth in job openings by state, 2018-2028
|District of Columbia||11.6%|
The overall average growth rate of the five jobs is about 12% nationally, with job openings for Mental Health Social Workers growing by an average of nearly 17%, the highest of the five jobs.
Average U.S. projected growth in psychology Ph.D. job openings, 2018-2028
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||16.5|
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||15.5|
|Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary||11.5|
|Human Resources Managers||9.0|
For most people, a high wage is far from the most important reason to pick a career or even a particular job. But the time and financial investment involved in earning a Ph.D. can be daunting, and knowing there’s a strong potential to earn a comfortable living for years to come is a good motivator to stick with the doctoral process.