10 Highest Paying Psychology Careers and Degrees You Need

10 Highest Paying Psychology Careers and Degrees You Need

Key Takeaways

  • Psychology is the study human behavior and thoughts, using empirical evidence and data from experiments to help individuals with psychological issues.
  • Psychology degrees are vast and varied, leading to a wide range of employment opportunities.
  • Most high-paying careers in psychology require an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate.

Psychology, which aims to understand the intricacies of how humans behave, is a popular degree that occasionally receives criticism from society for being a “pseudoscience”. However, that is not the case - the field of psychology is filled with brilliant professionals making a difference in a variety of sectors. Millions of people worldwide have long found it intriguing that the mind is flexible and can be influenced or reprogrammed to change behavior in a way that benefits a person or society as a whole. People with a degree in psychology aim at taking this fact and using it to help people flourish.

Contrary to popular belief that you have to be extroverted to succeed in this field, psychology careers only require you to be passionate about understanding, connecting, and learning from others. This field requires the ability to relate to and be empathetic with people who have different experiences than oneself.

Considering the high cost of education, it’s only reasonable that you want to pursue a degree that will set you up for success. Although success is not only measured in monetary gains, knowing that your degree leads to some of the highest-paying psychology careers will most likely keep you motivated to continue your studies in the field.

Psychologist in high paying career
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Exploring the World of Psychology

A psychology degree gives you a deep understanding of human behavior and thought processes. Due to the scope of knowledge you’ll gain from this subject, you will not typically be constrained to a specific career path until you specialize.

Common Coursework

Specific coursework in psychology degrees depends on your chosen specialization. In general, psychology majors can expect to explore social psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, history of psychology, biopsychology/neuropsychology, cognitive and affective bases of behavior, and clinical psychology.

Educational Training

You can expect to spend four to eight years in college, depending on your career goal. If you’re unsure about this field, you can pursue psychology courses or an associate’s degree in psychology and assess whether you’re fit for the field.

The most basic requirement for entry-level psychology careers is a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology can last between three to six years. Students with transfer credits can accelerate their undergraduate degree and graduate in three years, while students who take the traditional route can graduate in four years. Most part-time students in psychology graduate in six years.

There are two types of bachelor’s degrees in psychology: Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS).

The BA in Psychology provides a liberal arts education, blending interdisciplinary perspectives, and is ideal for those interested in honing their communication and critical thinking skills. On the other hand, the BS degree focuses on scientific research, with mathematics, statistics, and natural sciences coursework. This degree is designed for students aiming for careers in research, neuroscience, experimental psychology, and quantitative methods.

A bachelor’s degree, however, may restrict you to entry-level jobs only. If you want to pursue higher-paying roles, you must obtain an advanced degree.

A master’s degree in psychology offers various career options, including clinical, counseling, and school psychology specializations, and can enhance expertise in complex psychological issues. This degree offers several specializations, including Child and Adolescent, Forensic Psychology, and IO Psychology. Students who want to be able to write prescriptions in the future are advised to pursue a Master’s in Psychopharmacology in an accredited medical school.

A doctoral degree in psychology, including PhD, PsyD, DO, or MD degree, offers extensive research, clinical and residency training, and specialized careers, leading to leadership roles and higher salaries. There are a variety of specializations for this degree level, and one specialization is for those who want to become psychiatrists, the highest-paid psychology professional.

During your graduate and post-graduate studies, you will have plenty of opportunities to participate in research and teaching. These opportunities will give you hands-on learning experiences and help you build a professional network, both essential for career advancement. You may also need to complete at least one year of supervised internship and another year of supervised practice to receive your license. In addition, all psychologists need to complete state-specific licensing exams and a national exam.

As a psychologist, your learning will never stop. In fact, psychology graduates are required to complete several credits of continuing education every year to renew their license.

Career Opportunities

Upon graduation, depending on the specialization and degree level attained, you’ll be able to work in various professional settings beyond the traditional clinical practice. You can pursue careers in human resources and management. Some bachelor’s degree in psychology graduates pursue law school and leverage their knowledge about human behaviors in court.

Psychologists study human cognitive, emotional, and social processes, assisting in treatment by recognizing trends, identifying diseases, providing recommendations, and developing suitable treatment programs. These professionals can work in mental health clinics, prisons, schools, rehab centers, or nursing homes.

While psychologists play a significant role in helping people overcome emotional and mental distress, they are not medical doctors. They’re not allowed to prescribe medication or perform medical procedures for patients. Instead, they help people suffering from mental and emotional problems is by providing a variety of therapies that deal with cognitive and emotional issues.

Some psychologists don’t want to work directly with patients. These types of psychologists pursue careers in research centers.

Bottom Line: The field of psychology aims at understanding human behavior and thought processes. Your coursework and educational training will determine which specializations and career you choose to pursue within this vast field.

patient with psychologist
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Demand for Psychology Professionals

According to Mental Health America, 50 million people are suffering from mental illnesses. Furthermore, data from Statista shows a significant increase in US adults seeking mental health treatment and counseling services from 2002 to 2021.

Even as more American adults seek professional help to address their mental health issues, there seems to be no decline in the number of people suffering from mental disorders. The US News and World Report concluded that suicide rates in the United States are still on the rise. Just 31% of American adults regarded their mental health as “excellent” as of 2022, compared to 43% two decades earlier.

These statistics mean that psychologists are a needed and vital part of today’s workforce. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates a 6 percent job growth for psychologists until 2032.

Bottom Line: People will expertise in psychology are in high demand as mental health continues to be an issue that affects Americans.

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10 Highest Paying Psychology Careers and Degrees You Need

  1. 1


    Annual Average Salary: $259,497

    Psychiatrists are the highest-paid professionals addressing mental health disorders. Unlike psychologists, these professionals are medical doctors. Psychiatrists are trained to perform treatments affecting an individual’s mental and physical health. They’re also allowed to write prescriptions after they perform cognitive tests.

    The path of becoming a psychiatrist is demanding yet fulfilling. You need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling. After your undergraduate studies, you must complete medical school and earn a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) or Medical Doctor (MD) degree.

    During medical school, students often choose a specialization and complete a residency training program to pursue licensure.

    Best Degree Path for Psychiatrists

    • Bachelor’s degree in health sciences, biology, or physical science
    • Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  2. 2

    Geriatric Psychologist

    Annual Average Salary: $154,056

    Geriatric psychology focuses on the mental health and well-being of older adults, addressing symptoms like depression, anxiety, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. To become a geriatric psychologist, candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, participate in clinical training through internships or post-doctoral fellowships, and obtain licensure by passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

    Best Degree Path for Geriatric Psychologists

    • Bachelor’s degree in psychology, education, or social science
    • Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree
  3. Geriatric Psychologist with patient
  4. 3

    Clinical Neuropsychologist

    Annual Average Salary: $125,290

    This psychology career focuses on the relationship between an individual’s brain and behaviors, using cognitive tests and tailoring treatment plans to improve a patient’s quality of life. Clinical neuropsychologists provide consultations to patients and their families. Some of these professionals are found in schools and other healthcare settings.

    Neuropsychologists receive 10-13 years of postsecondary education and supervised experience, typically requiring a doctoral degree in psychology with a neuropsychology concentration. They also need to obtain a state license, pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), and complete a post-doctoral fellowship.

    Best Degree Path for Clinical Neuropsychologists

    • Bachelor’s degree in psychology, neuropsychology, or biological sciences
    • Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree
  5. 4

    Industrial Organizational Psychologist

    Annual Average Salary: $120,524

    Industrial-organizational psychologists formulate theories of individual, group, and organizational behavior and use these theories to solve issues in the workplace. IO psychologists start with a bachelor’s in psychology, often working in entry-level positions before pursuing a master’s degree.

    To become a psychology professor or conduct research for field advancement, you should pursue a PhD. On the other hand, if you want to enter the IO workforce, you will need to pursue your master’s or doctorate. Many IO psychologists work for firms or act as consultants to the companies they help.

    Best Degree Path for Industrial Organizational Psychologists

    • Bachelor’s degree in industrial organizational psychology or human resources management
    • Master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology
    • Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology
  6. industrial organizational psychologists at work
  7. 5

    Director Human Resources

    Annual Average Salary: $116,601

    Though not technically a psychology career, their role often intersects with psychological aspects in the workplace. Like industrial-organizational psychologists, a human resources director plays an crucial role in ensuring people feel safe and supported in their workplace. HR directors with a deep understanding of psychological principles can effectively navigate the complex human dynamics present in the workplace. This understanding allows them to address challenges related to employee motivation, team collaboration, and organizational culture.

    HR directors typically need a bachelor’s degree in relevant fields, with employers preferring those with a master’s degree in business administration or human resources.

    Best Degree Path for Human Resources Directors

    • Bachelor’s degree in business, communications, human resources, or psychology
    • Master’s degree in human resources, labor relations, or business administration
  8. 6

    Psychiatric Nurse

    Annual Average Salary: $111,406

    Psychiatric nursing is growing in popularity as it offers a range of mental health services to the general public and individuals. Psychiatric nurses are trained professionals in mental health assessment, crisis intervention, patient assistance, medication, and therapy. They work in various settings, including hospitals, home healthcare, prisons, and outpatient mental health organizations. They are trained to help patients manage mental health conditions like substance abuse, mood and behavioral disorders, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

    To become a psychiatric nurse, one must obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, become a licensed RN, gain additional experience through psychological therapies, continuing education, or clinical work, and obtain a psychiatric-mental health certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

    Best Degree Path for Psychiatric Nurses

    • Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree
  9. psychiatric nurse in high paying career
  10. 7

    Clinical Psychologist

    Annual Average Salary: $109,894

    Clinical psychologists diagnose, treat, and manage mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders using various therapeutic approaches. They identify issues, develop treatment plans, help clients define goals, monitor progress, teach, conduct research, and publish findings.

    Aspiring clinical psychologists must earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field and prepare for graduate school through a series of internships. While a master’s degree is often enough to apply for clinical psychology jobs, competitive applicants need to earn a doctoral degree.

    Best Degree Path for Clinical Psychologists

    • Bachelor’s degree in psychology or social science
    • Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree
  11. 8

    School Psychologist

    Annual Average Salary: $92,813

    School psychologists, trained in psychology and education, collaborate with parents, educators, and other professionals to create safe, healthy learning environments for children’s academic, social, and emotional success.

    School psychologists typically have around six years of formal education, with requirements varying by state. They usually hold an EdS, an advanced specialist post-master’s degree, and often complete a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in school psychology. School psychologists need a state license or Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) certification.

    Best Degree Path for School Psychologists

    • Bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology or education
    • Master’s in educational psychology
    • Ph.D. in School Psychology
  12. school psychologist with child at school

  13. 9

    Clinical Director

    Annual Average Salary: $100,124

    Unlike clinical psychologists, clinical directors don’t usually have a psychology major, but might come from HR or business backgrounds. They typically have lower pay compared to clinical psychologists.

    Clinical directors are detail-oriented health professionals responsible for patient treatment, scheduling, and supervision. They combine human resources and administrative management, often working with a management team and other health practitioners. This is one of the most commonly pursued paths by undergraduate psychology students and those with master’s degrees in applied behavior analysis.

    Best Degree Path for Clinical Directors

    • Bachelor’s degree in health administration, psychology, or business
    • Master’s degree in health information management or health administration
  14. 10

    Counseling Psychologist

    Annual Average Salary: $83,804

    Similar to clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists offer therapeutic services to individuals, couples, families, and groups using psychological theories and techniques. These professionals aim to help clients overcome challenges, enhance well-being, and develop coping strategies.

    To gain entry into this field, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field, gain relevant experience through internships, pursue a master’s degree in counseling, and choose a specialization. You must also complete supervised clinical experience, meet licensing requirements, pass a national or state-specific exam, obtain state licensure, and consider professional certifications.

    Best Degree Path for Counseling Psychologists

    • Bachelor’s degree in psychology or social science
    • Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree

Other psychology careers with similar average salaries include:

psychologist helping a patient
Psychology isn’t the only field with high paying careers. There are high paying MBA concentrations and technical trades with high salaries. If you are interested in earning a doctorate, check out our ranking of the highest paying doctorate degrees.
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Students’ Submitted Questions on the Highest Paying Psychology Careers and Degrees You Need

Tom asks, “What exactly do psychologists do?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: Psychologists are experts in the scientific study of human emotion, behavior, and response. They offer support for mental health issues like stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and eating disorders. They assess people’s mental health and wellness using a variety of scientifically validated exams rather than prescribing drugs.

Joseph asks, “What are the most popular fields of psychology?”

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: Two of the top popular fields of psychology are industrial organizational psychology and clinical psychology.

Kayla asks,
“What kind of people study psychology? How do prospective students know if they’re good at psychology?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: Though they have a wide range of interests and experiences, people who choose to study psychology frequently have certain traits and goals in common. They possess curiosity about human behavior and empathy. They are interested in supporting individuals facing mental health challenges, improving well-being, and contributing to society. Prospective psychology students can assess their interest and aptitude by enrolling in introductory courses, volunteer opportunities or internships, reading psychology literature, reflecting on their strengths and interests, and seeking professional guidance.

Pete asks, “What factors affect the career advancement and income of psychology professionals?

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: Several key factors are involved in determining a professionals’ career advancement and income, including the degree level attained, specialization, location, and demand. For instance, those with an advanced education are likely to have higher pay than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, students who major in IO psychology will be in higher demand than those who pursue other specializations, such as sports psychology and counseling psychology. Choose your field carefully and look into average salaries.

Kayla asks,
“Do I have to get my undergrad in psychology to be able to pursue an advanced degree?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: Not necessarily. While an undergraduate degree in the area you are wanting to pursue advanced degrees will undoubtedly give you a leg up, it is not always necessary for admission. However, most schools will require you to take prerequisites for their advanced degree programs. You should be able to locate these requirements under the program description.

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