What Psychology Degree Pays the Most?

What Psychology Degree Pays the Most?

Key Takeaways

  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology, with an average annual salary of $120,524, is the highest-paid and fastest-growing major in psychology.
  • High-paying roles are found in graduate-level degrees.
  • Psychology graduates should pursue specialized certifications and training to improve marketability.

Psychology is the study of how humans think and develop from infancy through geriatric stages. It’s among the best and most competitive fields, considering the increasing number of Americans dealing with mental health issues.

Interestingly, a job in the field of psychology can be one of the highest-paying positions or the lowest-paying position, depending on several factors. If you’re interested in a career in psychology and want a great return on your college investment, this article is for you. We’ll explore the five highest-paying psychology careers today.

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Career and Job Outlook in Psychology

Psychology careers are vast and varied. There are numerous job opportunities within the field, from conducting personality and cognitive tests to counseling, researching, and teaching in colleges and universities. However, your earning potential, demand, and job roles will depend on your education level, selected specialty, theoretical stance, and target demographics.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for psychology professionals is expected to grow 6% over the next decade. This growth is faster than the national average. However, the specific job growth will depend on which career path you choose to pursue.

Like most social science degrees, you must earn a doctoral degree, pass certifications and licensures, and pursue additional training to land the highest-paying careers. Here’s a quick overview of the career and job outlook by degree level in psychology.

Bachelor’s Degree

The BA and BS programs are the first level of psychology degrees. This degree level equips you with a strong foundation of psychological principles, preparing you for entry-level job opportunities. However, since this is the minimum degree requirement of employers, your options will be limited, and you won’t be able to pursue licensure in most cases.

But depending on your perseverance, you can land careers outside psychology that are known for their high-paying nature. For instance, you can work in marketing, sales, advertising, labor relations, and criminal justice. Nevertheless, you may still be required to undergo additional training and certifications for the specific field.

Take a look at the best online bachelor’s in psychology degree programs.

Master’s Degree

Securing a master’s degree in psychology paves the way for you to specialize, shaping your career prospects significantly. This advanced degree level equips you with the necessary qualifications for certifications and licensure, empowering you to contribute to mental health treatment. However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t qualify you to work in the clinical field of psychology.

While job opportunities with a master’s degree are broader than those with a bachelor’s degree, the competition here is fierce. For instance, employment opportunities for industrial-organizational and school psychologists with a master’s degree are anticipated to be abundant, but they are significantly more scarce than those for individuals with a Ph.D.

There are a number of top-ranked online master’s degree programs in psychology.

Doctorate Degree

A doctoral degree in psychology is a gemstone for employers. This is a terminal degree, which means you’ll be able to achieve a high level of expertise and knowledge in the field to open up diverse opportunities. This degree level enhances your earning potential as well.

You can pursue a doctor of psychology (PsyD) for clinical practice or a Ph.D. in psychology if you want to focus on doing scientific research and teaching. To further enhance your career prospects, you can use your PsyD to complete medical school, become a psychiatrist, and run mental health clinics.

Psychiatrists, which are medical doctors specializing in mental health disorders, earn $247,350 annually. The work environment for psychiatrists is wide-ranging. They can work in locations such as educational institutions, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and military settings. Psychiatrists can also run their own private practice.

There are a number of affordable online PhD degree programs in psychology.

psychologist sitting in an office talking with a client
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5 Psychology Degrees That Pay the Most

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Average Annual Salary: $120,524

IO psychology is a branch of science that examines psychology in the workplace. A master’s degree is typically all that is required for this position.

This degree aims to equip students with unique abilities for resolving problems that organizations, teams, and individuals face within a company. Industrial-organizational psychology is considered one of the highest-paid and fastest-growing careers in psychology, with the creation of new and more jobs.

As an industrial organizational psychologist, you must be proficient in using psychological analysis to identify the most suitable workers for the organization by observing their work environment and behavior. Moreover, industrial-organizational psychologists must implement strategies that enhance workplace productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall organizational effectiveness.

Here is a quick overview of what an IO psychology career entails:

  • Develop and implement methods to select the right candidates for job positions.
  • Design training programs aimed at improving employee skills and performance.
  • Develop and implement performance appraisal systems
  • Be involved in leadership development programs
  • Develop strategies to promote diversity in hiring, training, and organizational culture.
  • Design interventions to improve work-life balance, reduce stress, and enhance overall employee satisfaction.
  • Gather and analyze data for identifying trends, patterns, and correlations.

The minimum requirement for an industrial organizational psychologist is a masters in IO. To pursue a master’s degree, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and research experience.

While a doctorate is required to become board-certified, some IO psychologists opt for state licensure. State-specific licensing criteria are enumerated by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Clinical Psychology

Annual Average Salary: $109,894

The study of clinical psychology focuses on the long-term treatment of mental disorders. Clinical psychology degrees, typically found at the graduate degree level, offer a curriculum that delves into applying psychological principles, research, and techniques to clinical settings.

As a licensed clinical psychologist, you help to promote mental health and well-being by assessing, diagnosing, and treating various emotional, behavioral, and psychological issues. Most clinical psychologists work in private practice. However, they can also work at counseling centers, schools and hospitals, and communities where they collaborate with social health workers.

The main responsibilities of clinical psychologists include:

  • Administer and interpret psychological assessments and diagnose mental health conditions.
  • Provide one-on-one or group therapy sessions.
  • Respond to and manage crises and provide immediate support.
  • Advocate for the rights and well-being of clients.
  • Engage in field research activities to contribute to the advancement of knowledge.

Clinical psychologists require an undergraduate degree, master’s, or doctorate, and often complete a post-doctoral fellowship for licensure, typically lasting 1-2 years.

child psychologist working with a young client

Engineering Psychology

Annual Average Salary: $92,813

Engineering psychology is a relatively new psychology major but among the most in-demand fields today. This major trains students in how human behavior and capabilities are applied in developing new products and using technology. The engineering psychology curriculum, often found at the graduate level as a sub-specialty, includes a multidisciplinary topic of ergonomics and psychological engineering.

Engineering psychologists aim to help other professionals create more user-friendly products or technology. Engineering psychologists are employed in various settings, such as government organizations, commercial enterprises, and academic institutions.

To help increase safety, engineering psychologists can work as consultants for businesses or governmental organizations, including NASA, the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and automakers.

The main responsibilities of engineering psychologists include:

  • Working with other professionals to integrate psychological principles into the development of products and systems.
  • Assessing and optimizing the interaction between humans and technological systems.

Because it’s a relatively new field, only a few colleges and universities in the United States have this degree. Most engineering psychologists pursue doctorates because they may use them to qualify for a wide range of high-paying positions across many industries, including government and academic positions.

Forensic Psychology

Annual Average Salary: $87,877

Forensic psychology degrees are flexible and allow you to work in various settings, including public policy and the criminal justice system. This psychology major is focused on equipping students with knowledge of criminal conduct, victim psychology, and the law.

As a forensic psychologist, you should have excellent teamwork skills since your job entails a lot of collaboration with other legal professionals. Forensic psychologists also provide psychological insights and expert testimony in court, conduct psychological assessments, and research to evaluate mental competence, re-offending risk, and trauma impact. Forensic psychologists are often involved in developing intervention programs like rehabilitation and therapy programs for criminals.

Getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a closely related discipline is the first step to becoming a forensic psychologist. A master’s degree in forensic psychology and, usually, a doctorate come next. To receive specialized training, certain practitioners might also finish a post-doctoral fellowship.

Counseling Psychology

Annual Average Salary: $83,804

Counseling psychology is different from clinical psychology. Although both fields train students to become psychological professionals who help people cope with mental and emotional challenges, counseling psychology does not focus more on pathology and severe mental health conditions.

Counseling psychology has a broader focus on the overall well-being of individuals. They’re tasked to address personal growth, relationship issues, and life transitions.

Clinical psychologists can find employment in private practices, schools, and healthcare facilities and centers. However, these professionals are commonly employed in a college counseling center. A counseling psychologist usually works with more healthy populations and uses only client-centered, humanistic, and multicultural approaches to treatment.

To become one, you need to earn a master’s degree in counseling. Most states require counseling psychologists to have a doctorate, either a Ph.D. or a doctor in psychology PsyD.

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Specialized Certifications and Training in Psychology

There are several specialized certifications recognized by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Around 17 ABPP-approved certifications will complement your licensure, helping you increase your chances of landing industry-specific psychology jobs.

Certifications will demonstrate your concentrated knowledge of a specific psychology field, increasing your marketability and earning potential. In addition to its primary benefits, obtaining additional certifications will boost your client’s trust in your mental health services.

Here are the ABPP-approved certifications:

  • Addiction Psychology focuses on understanding and treating substance use disorders.
  • Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology emphasizes studying and applying behavioral and cognitive therapies.
  • Clinical Child & Adolescent focuses on understanding the unique developmental challenges faced by young people.
  • Clinical Health addresses the intersection of physical and mental health, covering chronic illnesses, managing health-related stressors, and promoting overall well-being.
  • Clinical Neuropsychology focuses on the relationship between brain function and behavior, training professionals in assessing and treating individuals with neurological disorders, brain injuries, and other conditions affecting cognitive functioning.
  • Clinical Psychology is concerned with assessing, diagnosing, and treating various psychological disorders.
  • Counseling provides training to successfully guide and support individuals dealing with life challenges, stress, and emotional difficulties.
  • Couple & Family focuses on relational dynamics and family systems.
  • Forensic Psychology focuses on training professionals for criminal investigations, expert testimony in court, and assessing those involved in legal proceedings.
  • Geropsychology addresses issues such as cognitive decline, caregiving, and the emotional well-being of the elderly.
  • Group Psychology prepares applicants to lead therapy groups, support groups, or organizational teams to enhance interpersonal relationships and group functioning.
  • Organizational and Business equips candidates with abilities on how to apply psychological principles to workplace settings.
  • Police and Public Safety uniquely train psychology professionals in counseling, assessment, and intervention services for police officers and other first responders.
  • Psychoanalytic And Psychodynamic comprehensively dives into the theories of Freud and other psychoanalytic thinkers.
  • Rehabilitation trains students to help individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses achieve optimal functioning and improve their quality of life through various therapeutic interventions.
  • School Psychology is geared toward professionals who want to support students’ mental health, address learning difficulties, and collaborate with teachers and parents in educational settings.
  • Serious Mental Illness certification is for those specializing in severe and persistent mental illness treatment.

Most of these certifications require candidates to hold a master’s or doctorate from an institution accredited by the APA (American Psychological Association). Additional requirements include a current license, documented coursework, and completion of supervised training.

There are also certificates and training programs you can pursue with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

Bottom Line: Additional certification or training can give a career boost to professionals who only have a bachelor’s degree.

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Student Submitted Questions on the Psychology Degree That Pays the Most

Jeremy asks, “How does a Ph.D. in Psychology compare to a Psy.D. in terms of earnings?”

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: PsyD grads earn an average of $74 per hour, while PhDs earn an average rate of $29 per hour. But keep in mind that the specific salary rate depends on several factors, including location, length of experience, and employer.

Carrie asks, “What is the most useful psychology degree?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: Psychiatry is the most useful degree and among the highest-paying psychology jobs. However, this degree equates to completing medical school on top of your doctorate, residency training, and obtaining board certification. As a psychiatrist, you’re more inclined to treat mental health disorders with the use of medicines.

Camille asks, “Which branch of psychology is most in demand?”

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: Industrial and organizational psychology is the most in-demand psychology branch.

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