If you’ve ever had a session with a psychologist, you know how expensive therapy can be. A session can cost $60 to $250 per hour, so when considering a career in psychology students may wonder how much a psychologist actually makes.
The median income for psychologists was $82,180 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a psychologist’s income can vary based on their specialty, years of experience and location. When considering a psychologist’s earnings, keep in mind that the career path requires a substantial amount of education and training.
How Much Does a Psychologist Make?
While a salary over $80,000 can sound appealing, recognize what it takes to earn that income.
To become a psychologist, you need to have at least a master’s degree; however, the majority of psychologists go on to earn doctoral degrees. They also may be licensed and certified, which requires additional training and ongoing education.
Earning a graduate degree in psychology can be expensive. The Education Data Initiative reports that the average debt for students who hold a Ph.D. is over $158,000. With such a high debt amount, that median salary may be less attractive.
Psychologists may experience variation in earnings. The highest 10% of psychologists earned more than $137,950, so it could be a lucrative career. Exactly how much you earn is largely dependent on your specialty. Below are the average salaries for multiple specialties.
Average salary: Over $62,000
For those who enjoy working with children, a career in school psychology may be a good fit. A school psychologist works in primary, secondary or post-secondary institutions assessing students. They may consult with parents, make recommendations for children with learning disabilities and address behavioral problems.
Average salary: Over $64,000
Psychologists can opt for teaching careers, either full-time or as an adjunct position. Professors teach the fundamentals of psychology to college students — both those majoring in psychology and those majoring in other subjects.
Average salary: Over $71,000
Forensic psychologists work within the legal system to evaluate individuals for mental competency, make recommendations to the court about sentencing, serve as expert witnesses and consult with law enforcement.
Average salary: Over $80,000
A clinical psychologist works directly with patients dealing with mental health conditions. They will evaluate and diagnose patients and design treatment plans to help individuals manage their diseases. These psychologists may work in their own private practice or be employed by a larger practice or hospital.
Average salary: Over $84,000
An industrial-organizational psychologist works with companies to improve workplaces. They analyze human behavior and use psychological principles to address workplace problems like productivity, employee morale, performance evaluations, and employee burnout.
Average salary: Over $94,000
A neuropsychologist focuses on the physical structure of the brain. They work with patients that may have suffered brain damage due to injuries or illnesses to evaluate brain function. These psychologists help design a treatment plan with a patient’s care team.
What Affects Your Potential Earnings?
Your earnings as a psychologist can be dependent on the factors listed below.
As demonstrated above, specialty impacts income. For example, a school psychologist will likely be on the lower end with an average salary of $63,347. By contrast, a neuropsychologist can earn significantly more, with an average salary of $94,747.
When considering a specialty, keep in mind that the higher earnings are often the result of additional education and training, which can mean a larger amount of student loan debt and more time spent in school.
While it is possible to practice psychology with only a master’s degree, earnings will likely be lower for a master’s graduate than a doctoral graduate. In general, psychologists with doctorates and certifications command higher salaries. To maximize earning potential as a psychologist, consider how much education and training you need to reach your goals.
In addition to specialty, the sector you work in affects your income. Whether you decide to work independently and open your own practice or work in a hospital, your place of employment can impact your earnings. Below are the median salaries for psychologists in different sectors in 2017:
- Business and Industry: $100,000
- Government: $92,000
- Self-Employed: $85,000
- Public Educational Institutions: $73,000
- Private Educational Institutions: $71,000
The highest-paid psychologists typically work in business, consulting with employers and manufacturers. On the other end, the lowest-paid tend to work in private educational institutions.
Where you live also affects your income. Areas with a high-cost of living, such as California, will often result in a much higher salary than if you lived in the Midwest.
The top-paying states for psychologists are:
- California: Average salary of $124,910
- Alaska: Average salary of $118,270
- Illinois: Average salary of $115,340
- Virginia: Average salary of $109,060
- Colorado: Average salary of $103,560
For a better idea of how location impacts earnings, check out this map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows average salaries for psychologists by state.
Is a Career in Psychology Right for You?
There are a number of factors that affect how much psychologists can make. It’s a fascinating field with many opportunities for helping others. The average salary for psychologists is higher than the national average for all occupations, but it also requires more education and training. When considering a career in psychology, carefully weigh the pros and cons to make the best decision for you.
Compare Student Loan Rates In Minutes
Compare rates from participating lenders via Credible.com