10 of the Highest-Paying Jobs in Psychology
Psychology is a field offering a range of career paths and the potential to earn a high salary. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage of psychologists is $81,040 a year, which is 77% higher than the median wage for all occupations ($45,760).
Further, not every job in psychology will require a doctorate, either—a mental health technician, for example, needs just an associate degree to practice in their field. Meanwhile, while pursuing a role as a psychiatrist, psychologist or a psychiatric nurse will require a bachelor’s at least but typically require an advanced degree, these roles will likely net you a six-figure salary.
In this article, we explain why you might want to work in the psychology profession and list 10 of the highest-paying jobs in the field.
Highest-paying jobs in psychology
Here is a list of 11 high-paying jobs working in mental health. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, click on the salary link for each job title below:
While you can find positions in psychology that don’t require a doctoral degree, many roles, like a psychologist, do. To start your career in psychology, it’ll begin with a psych major.
Per the National Center for Education Statistics, psychology majors are among the most popular of undergraduate majors and have remained steady over the 10 years between 2009-2010 and 2019-2020. Around 6% of the 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2019-2020 were to psychology majors.
Here’s a list of 10 of the highest-paying jobs working in mental health:
Mental health case managers counsel patients and assess the social services they’ll need to function healthily in society. These professionals coordinate community care services, such as housing, transportation and employment besides mental health treatment. As their clients continue treatment and work toward their goals, case managers monitor their progress.
Case managers typically work in offices with other case managers and administrative staff.
National average salary: $46,968 per year
Education requirements: Most professionals in this role have a bachelor’s degree, but some pursue graduate degrees in social work or another branch of psychology.
Read more: What Is a Mental Health Case Manager?
These professionals work in elementary, middle and secondary schools, along with postsecondary schools, to help students navigate their academic lives. For all grade levels, guidance counselors help students persevere through challenges at home and in their social lives.
They may have individual counseling sessions with students or carry out sessions together with their families. A guidance counselor in high school may help students choose the most appropriate classes for their interests and academic goals, select colleges or plan a career.
National average salary: $53,278 per year
Education requirements: Depending on the state, a guidance counselor usually needs a master’s degree for employment.
Read more: 7 Pros and Cons of Being a School Counselor
Mental health technicians assist in most aspects of a patient’s therapeutic journey. Technicians take part in intake to clinics or other facilities, assessing clients’ social and psychological challenges, creating appropriate treatment plans, transporting patients to their appointments and coordinating social services like housing and transportation.
These professionals can work in a variety of settings, including in private treatment centers or hospitals.
National average salary: $53,386 per year
Education requirements: A high school diploma is required for this position, but an associate degree can improve job prospects.
Read more: What Does a Psychiatric Technician Do?
Similar to guidance counselors, school psychologists work with students across all grade levels, including college. These professionals are tasked with helping students achieve academic success, sometimes while also managing physical or intellectual disabilities or challenges at home.
School psychologists also coordinate with other faculty to devise the most appropriate curriculum for students’ academic skills and interests. They may also refer students to other staff to address discipline issues.
National average salary: $55,781 per year
Education requirements: School psychologists in public schools must have a master’s degree and to find employment at the college level, a doctorate may be required.
Related: Is School Psychology a Good Career?
Professionals in this role help diagnose and treat mental health issues in a clinical setting. They may work with clients individually, with their families or in groups, and often coordinate with community groups and/or services to provide patients with comprehensive care. Mental health nurses typically assess a patient’s mental health, diagnose illness and prescribe courses of treatment.
National average salary: $60,056 per year
Education requirements: To become a registered nurse, you will need to earn a four-year degree and complete state licensure. Some registered nurses complete a Master of Nursing degree (MSN) with a specialty in mental health care. Earning an advanced education can improve your job prospects and give you the training to complete higher levels of care.
Psychology professors apply their expertise in psychology to classroom instruction at the college level. In this role, you’ll create a curriculum to give students a thorough knowledge of the field. You’ll also administer and grade tests and other assignments. Depending on the organization you work for, you may also carry out experimental research and/or publish academic papers.
National average salary: $88,390 per year
Education requirements: Some educators can qualify for adjunct professorships at lower pay with a Master of Arts in psychology. To pursue employment as a tenure-track psychology professor, you’ll need a doctorate.
In this role, psychologists address all aspects of patients’ mental health issues. They use direct observation and various methods of testing to create courses of treatment. In individual treatment sessions, clinical psychologists listen to patients’ histories to target specific instances of trauma or other difficulties. The psychologist will then help their client create goals and monitor their progress toward them.
Many of these professionals specialize in working with certain age groups like children or the elderly, or specific issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders or addictions.
National average salary: $106,674 per year
Education requirements: Clinical psychologists typically need a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (aka, PsyD). Some programs might also require a one-year internship where you’ll get hands-on experience treating patients under the supervision of established psychologists.
Read more: How To Become a Clinical Psychologist
Psychiatric nurses create and implement treatment plans for a variety of issues, such as depression, trauma, mood disorders and substance abuse. They may recommend psychotherapy, medication or both. Professionals in this role may find employment in hospitals, prisons, treatment facilities or schools for people with disabilities.
National average salary: $110,495 per year
Education requirements: To work as a psychiatric nurse, you’ll need to hold at least an associate degree in nursing, but a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) could make you a more qualified job applicant. Nurses must also complete a licensing exam and earn certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Read more: What Is a Psychiatric Nurse?
Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists apply principles of psychology in workplace settings. These professionals assess an employee’s work habits and personal interactions and managers’ supervisory styles to plan more effective and healthy ways of conducting business. Industrial-organizational psychologists need to have strong observational skills and the ability to listen to management’s concerns to make the most appropriate recommendations for each company. Psychologists with this position might suggest new ways of structuring teams, ways to redirect workflow, where and how to improve work-life balance and how to resolve conflicts at work.
National average salary: $113,320 per year
Education requirements: To become an industrial-organizational psychologist, you’ll likely need a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), though some individuals may find work in this field with a master’s degree.
Related: I-O Psychology vs. HR Management
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat mental health issues, including mood, behavioral and personality disorders. These professionals are usually experts in diagnostic processes like medical and psychological testing and can target treatment to their patients’ unique needs.
Besides therapy and medication, many psychiatrists use non-medicinal practices like biofeedback, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists may work with outpatient clients in an office setting or inpatient facilities like hospitals.
National average salary: $113,320 per year
Education requirements: To become a psychiatrist, you’ll need to earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, and complete several years of post-graduate training. As with other medical specialties, you’ll also need to complete an internship and a residency under the supervision of established psychiatric doctors. After this training, you’ll need to earn licensure from the state in which you intend to practice.
Read more: A Day in the Life of a Psychiatrist
Why work in the psychology field?
The mental health field can be rewarding since your job directly helps your clients’ emotional well-being and general life satisfaction. Depending on your job setting, you will likely have the autonomy to choose between different therapeutic styles and techniques to best help your patients. Because the field offers such diverse positions, you also have the opportunity to choose between different occupational settings, including schools, private practice and group practices with other professionals.
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