Although psychologists help groups, couples and individuals make behavioral changes, the specific psychologist salary depends on a number of factors, including the area in which they work, their employers and the specialized study of psychology they are practicing. Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, psychologists and psychiatrists are two different careers, and the latter can prescribe medication for mental health treatment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists held 173,900 jobs in 2014, the most recent data available. Although nearly one in three psychologists reported self-employment, the biggest employers of psychologists from largest to smallest include elementary and secondary schools (25 percent), the government (10 percent), offices of mental health practitioners except physicians (9 percent), hospitals (6 percent) and both individual and family services (5 percent). Psychologists may also work on a contractual or self-employed basis as independent contractors. These professionals often set their own hours, and they may work weekends or evenings in order to accommodate their clients. Others may work independently, conducting research and private studies to achieve a specific goal.
In May 2016, the average annual wage of all psychologists was $75,230, or $36.17 per hour, according to the BLS. Across all specializations within the field of psychology, the highest-paid psychologists earned more than $121,610, while the lowest-paid earned less than $41,890. School, counseling and clinical psychologists in the U.S. earned an average of $73,270 in May 2016. These professionals are trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders using group, family, child and individual therapies. Industrial-organizational psychologists earned an average of $82,760 in May 2016. These professionals help businesses solve problems in marketing, sales, administration, personnel and management. The average annual wages for all other psychologists as of May 2016 was $95,710.
The BLS indicates that overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow 19 percent through 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, job prospects and employment outlook will depend on each psychologist’s specialization. For instance, employment of school, clinical and counseling psychologists is slated to increase 20 percent through 2024, and industrial-organizational psychologists can anticipate a job growth rate of 19 percent through 2024. The BLS expects that an additional 32,500 jobs will open up through 2014. In addition, competition for psychology jobs will vary by level of education obtained and specialty. For instance, industrial-organizational psychologists can expect to face significant competition because of more applicants tend to apply for these jobs. However, industrial-organizational psychologists with training and experience in quantitative research may stand apart from other candidates.
Further reading: Top 30 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Psychology Programs
Psychologists who have earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology may seek careers in education, sales or business administration. If they wish to work in the psychology field, they may do so as psychologists’ assistants. In general, however, candidates with graduate education such as a master’s degree, a doctoral degree, an education specialist degree and/or post-doctoral work experience will benefit from the best job opportunities. A license to practice in psychology is usually required for psychologists in independent practice. Not only do graduates from an advanced psychology degree program have more experience and education, but they may also be able to command a higher psychologist salary based on their degree, work experience, skills and qualifications.