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45+ Highest Paying Careers & Salaries in Psychology

Psychology is one of the most popular fields of study in higher education, and it’s no wonder why. Different types of degrees in the field can lead to all sorts of jobs, including the obvious ones that involve providing counseling or therapy services and some of the less-obvious ones that involve improving business outcomes.

EXPERT VOICE: Psychologists help patients with emotional and behavioural issues. They may develop and carry out treatment plans, study human behaviour, and engage in research endeavours. If you have a passion for helping others and are fascinated by what makes people tick, psychology can be the right career for you. –Nick Johns, Sr. Career adviser (2015-present)

Depending on the level of education, jobs in psychology include ones focusing on research, engineering, therapy, medicine, criminal justice and more.

Here’s a look at 47 of the highest-paying jobs you can get in psychology, broken down by the industry or field in which you’re most likely to find job openings, as well as the type of degree (bachelors degree, masters degree, or doctorate degree) that you’ll need to achieve your highest earnings potential.

Careers by Field

Counseling & Therapy

Highest-paying job in the field:

Developmental Psychologist, $95,000

Developmental Psychologists study a range of topics related to human development and the process of change inherent in the human lifecycle. Depending on their employer or training, they could be generalists, or they could focus on a specific aspect of developmental psychology, such as researching and analyzing memory loss related to aging. They will usually need a Psy.D., Ph.D. or other psychology doctorates, and some may choose to obtain an M.D.

Other psychology jobs in the field include:

Geriatric Psychologist

Geriatric Psychologists work independently or within senior living facilities to provide assessment and counseling services to elderly populations.

  • Average Salary: $95,000
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Clinical Psychologist

Perhaps the most generalist role in all of psychology, Clinical Psychologists assess and treat emotional and behavioral disorders.

  • Average Salary: $79,914
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Community Psychologist

These psychologists study the way that individuals relate to their communities and places they live and how those places impact emotional and behavioral responses of the people who live in them.

  • Average Salary: $77,733
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Spiritual Psychologist

Spiritual Psychologists provide assessment and mental health treatment services that align with a faith tradition.

  • Average Salary: $77,000
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Sports Psychologist

These professionals provide diagnostic and treatment services to athletes, often being brought in as independent consultants for professional sports figures who are experiencing mental blocks regarding their athletic performance.

  • Average Salary: $73,730
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Child Psychologist

Child Psychologists assess, diagnose and treat behavioral and emotional disorders in children, adolescents and teens, and they sometimes will need to work with other mental health professionals to manage patient progress.

  • Average Salary: $68,661
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling Psychologists may conduct one-on-one or group counseling sessions, and they most often will specialize in one or more areas, such as couples or substance-dependent individuals.

  • Average Salary: $58,311
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Crisis Intervention Specialist

These professionals may work within healthcare, educational or even government settings, and they are responsible for providing emergency counseling services to prevent suicide and self-harm, as well as helping individuals deal with violence.

  • Average Salary: $56,315
  • Degree Requirements: BA/BSW

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and Family Therapists work with partnered or married couples, families and other closely bonded groups to ensure the group functions as well as it can. This could include addressing an acute mental health issue faced by one of the group members, but the group dynamic is the primary focus.

  • Average Salary: $55,575
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Recreational Therapist

These professionals help people cope with depression, anxiety or other emotional issues by developing hobbies or other recreational outlets.

  • Average Salary: $52,987
  • Degree Requirements: Bachelors

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse Counselors provide treatment strategies and therapy services for individuals who are dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction or other chemical dependency problems.

  • Average Salary: $51,145
  • Degree Requirements: Masters/PsyD/PhD

Behavioral Therapist

These individuals help others develop habits and thought patterns to overcome negative or unhealthy behaviors, and they may work in independent practice or within hospitals or clinics.

  • Average Salary: $49,835
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed Professional Counselors may be generalists who provide counseling services to a range of clients, or they may specialize in a specific group, such as teens or the elderly.

  • Average Salary: $48,144
  • Degree Requirements: Masters/PsyD/PhD

Art Therapist

Art Therapists use the creative process to help clients explore their emotional and behavioral problems and develop tools to reduce and eliminate the negative effects of these problems.

  • Average Salary: $45,039
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Business & Organizations

Highest-paying job in the field:

Executive Coach, $112,167

Executive Coaches train, mentor and guide high-level employees within organizations, up to and including C-suite professionals, depending on the needs of the individual. This could mean helping executives and company leaders learn to be more decisive or leading them to adopt new methods for encouraging collaboration among lower-level workers. Executive Coaches are most often independent contractors who run their own business, and this allows them to set their own schedules and rates. Coaches with MBAs or high-level psychology degrees like Psy.D. or Ph.D. degrees will command the most extravagant rates.

Other psychology jobs in the field include:

Personnel Research Psychologist

Most often located within human resources departments at large corporations, Personnel Research Psychologists are responsible for staff recruitment, morale programs and retention/promotion efforts. This is a specialty area within industrial-organizational psychology.

  • Average Salary: $102,663
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Change Management Director

These professionals serve as a single point of contact within an organization undergoing change, whether that’s introducing a revolutionary product, changing a key business process or adapting to some other changes, and those with a background in psychology will focus on the impact to organization staff as a result of changes.

  • Average Salary: $96,896
  • Degree Requirements: Masters/MBA

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Broadly, this field of psychology covers the study of work and the people who do it, so Industrial-Organizational Psychologists could find jobs in many other areas and industries, or they could specialize in one aspect, such as personnel research or benefits.

  • Average Salary: $92,880
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Human Resources Director

Found in medium and large organizations, and even in some small ones, HR Directors manage all aspects of the staffing side of a business, nonprofit, school or government agency.

  • Average Salary: $88,506
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Human Factors Engineer

In some cases these jobs are highly technical, while in others they are more theoretical, but Human Factors Engineers are in charge of designing objects, programs and facilities taking into account the mental relationship between humans and machines.

  • Average Salary: $82,372
  • Degree Requirements: Bachelors

Business Process Consultant

A Business Process Consultant is usually an outside contractor who studies a specific process within an organization, such as how staff are trained and mentored, and makes recommendations to improve the process.

  • Average Salary: $81,920
  • Degree Requirements: Bachelors

Teaching & Education

Highest-paying job in the field:

Educational Psychologist, $72,882

As a psychologist, an Educational Psychologist will need a doctorate, such as a Psy.D., Ph.D. or Ed.D., but unlike many psychologists, they won’t usually work to help people cope with mental health issues. Rather, Educational Psychologists study and implement learning systems within schools, colleges and professional programs.

Other psychology jobs in the field include:

School Psychologist

School Psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools to identify behavioral and emotional issues within students and help treat them.

  • Average Salary: $61,743
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD/EdD

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

These professionals most often work with children and adults who have autism spectrum disorders, and their function is to help individuals and families change behavior patterns.

  • Average Salary: $60,104
  • Degree Requirements: Masters/MEd

School Guidance Counselor

Jobs for these professionals will usually be at the middle or high school level, and they work alongside teachers and parents to help students reach their social and academic goals.

  • Average Salary: $51,113
  • Degree Requirements: Bachelors

Special Education Teacher

Special Education Teachers work with young people who have physical, emotional, developmental or behavioral challenges that make it especially difficult for them to succeed in school. Special ed teachers may work in their own classrooms or may focus on helping one or two students within another classroom.

  • Average Salary: $50,909
  • Degree Requirements: MEd

Career Counselor

These individuals work with high school and college students as well as adults to identify career options and work to develop the skills and strategies necessary to get their desired job.

  • Average Salary: $44,606
  • Degree Requirements: Bachelors

Research & Academia

Highest-paying job in the field:

Experimental Psychologist, $102,861

Experimental Psychologists most often work in independent or university-connected lab settings, researching and exploring human and animal behavior. Their jobs involve formulating experiments, conducting research and analyzing results. These roles require doctoral education, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D., and some in the field choose to obtain their medical degrees.

Other psychology jobs in the field include:

Research Scientist

Closely akin to Experimental Psychologists, Research Scientists working in psychology may have a broader focus than experimental work, or they may choose a specific niche of research.

  • Average Salary: $102,000
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Neuropsychologist

These professionals sometimes work in medical settings, but they also will find jobs in academia, and their specialty is the study of how the structures of the brain affect emotions and behavior.

  • Average Salary: $92,381
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Professor

Professors of psychology will find the largest number of jobs at the college level, though many lower-level institutions, such as community or junior colleges, also are possibilities.

  • Average Salary: $88,883
  • Degree Requirements: PhD

Clinical Research Coordinator

Clinical Research Coordinators work alongside scientists and researchers in labs, but their focus is the effective administration of research projects, clinical trials and other lab work.

  • Average Salary: $63,000
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Psychometrist

These professionals develop, administer, score and analyze psychological and personality tests, and they could work in research settings or education.

  • Average Salary: $59,505
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Legal & Military

Highest-paying job in the field:

Correctional Psychologist, $96,870

Working in local jails or within state or federal prisons, Correctional Psychologists are responsible for delivering mental healthcare to incarcerated individuals. That means conducting assessments, recommending treatments and conducting therapy sessions. Many employers require professionals to be licensed by the state where they work, which means getting a doctorate, most often a Psy.D. or Ph.D.

Other psychology jobs in the field include:

Military Psychologist

Military Psychologists provide therapy and counseling services to individuals on active-duty or reserve service in the U.S. military, and jobs can usually be found in any branch of service.

  • Average Salary: $92,670
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Veteran Counselor

A close cousin to Military Psychologists, Veteran Counselors provide a similar type of service but to individuals who have left active or reserve service.

  • Average Salary: $83,000
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Trauma Psychologist

These professionals will most often work within the court system, helping victims of violent crime, both in being able to recount their trauma for court proceedings as well as coping with what they’ve been through.

  • Average Salary: $75,000
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic Psychologists evaluate the mental state of individuals accused of crimes to determine whether they are competent to stand trial or face sentencing.

  • Average Salary: $69,514
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Investigator

Whether a police detective, private eye or even federal agent, Investigators use their understanding of human nature to solve crimes and other incidents.

  • Average Salary: $61,676
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

LCSWs most often work for state governments, and they can provide or connect individuals with a range of services, including counseling, housing, medical care and job training.

  • Average Salary: $57,753
  • Degree Requirements: MSW

Healthcare & Nursing

Highest-paying job in the field:

Child Psychiatrist, $216,086

Child Psychiatrists are medical doctors whose residencies, internships and other training allowed them to focus on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioral disturbances in children. They may conduct one-on-one therapy sessions with young people, and they may engage in family therapy or counseling sessions, in addition to prescribing medication to treat chemical imbalances and other disorders.

Other psychology jobs in the field include:

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors trained to diagnose and treat mental health and behavioral disorders. Whether they specialize in a population, like their Child Psychiatrist counterparts, or provide general services, these professionals may provide talk therapy as well as prescribing medication.

  • Average Salary: $206,479
  • Degree Requirements: MD

Clinical Director

Clinical Directors in psychology are usually senior-level psychologists who provide executive-style leadership in mental health or psychology research clinics.

  • Average Salary: $124,000
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric NPs assess, diagnose and treat mental health and behavioral disorders, and in some cases, they may prescribe medications under the supervision of a physician.

  • Average Salary: $107,309
  • Degree Requirements: DNP

Genetics Counselor

These professionals may work in hospitals or fertility clinics, and they help individuals understand what medical conditions they may have inherited so they can manage their risk for future illness, or the chances of passing a condition to the next generation.

  • Average Salary: $96,000
  • Degree Requirements: Masters

Psychiatric Registered Nurse

RNs working in psychiatric facilities, senior care or general hospital settings provide nursing care to patients dealing with mental, behavioral or emotional disorders, trauma or illness.

  • Average Salary: $89,790
  • Degree Requirements: BachelorsN/MSN

Health Psychologist

Health Psychologists study how various states of physical health, from wellness to chronic disease, impact individuals’ emotional states, and they may recommend methods of coping with the mental strain of illness.

  • Average Salary: $88,480
  • Degree Requirements: PsyD/PhD

Social Services Director

These professionals will be most likely to find jobs within hospitals and long-term care facilities, and they are responsible for ensuring all functions relating to admissions, transfers and discharges are run well.

  • Average Salary: $54,933
  • Degree Requirements: Bachelors

Conclusion

The only true requirement to getting a job in psychology is having an interest in human emotions and behavior, and the enormous diversity of job roles, industries and education required mean that anybody with a passion for understanding their fellow humans should be able to find a job that lets them express that passion.

References

PSYD, PHD, MASTERS PROGRAMS