Possible Salaries for a Psychology Major

Once you’ve explored the education, training, and internship needed to complete a psychology major, you may wonder how long it will take you to repay all those federal student loans. The fact is, salaries for a psychology professional have a wide range of potential based on environment of practice, level of education, and many other factors. Get the most out of your major by learning which factors will most affect your projected salary after school.

One factor to consider is the projected future need for psychologists in different fields. With an undergraduate psychology degree you may find work in teaching or as an assistant, but you will sit at the lower end of the pay range. As a master’s level psychologist you may earn more, but still will not be able to run your own practice or set your own fees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest-growing field of psychology is clinical practice due to healthcare changes, an aging population, and a growing focus on preventive medicine.

The bottom line is that there’s a projected beginning, middle, and high-level expectancy for psychology salaries. Many factors will influence these rates such as hours worked, the environment you work in, and overhead costs. For instance, a self-employed doctoral-level psychologist may earn more than a school psychologist, but he must pay for his own insurance and overhead expenses, which can quickly add up.

Beginning Level

If you have just graduated college and passed your EPPP exam, you may qualify for the beginning level pay scale of psychologists. Don’t let these figures discourage you; they are merely an average starting point. Many factors will influence your actual take-home pay, including the hours you work, your employer, and any special skill sets you possess, such as a background in research. Entry-level psychologists earn about $38,000 annually, figured on full-time, year-round employment.

The branch of psychology that you choose for practice is the biggest determinant of your salary. The Bureau of Labor suggests that across the board, I/O psychologists had higher beginning pay rates in 2008, but only by a few thousand dollars. Of the lowest 10%, these psychologists brought home less than $38,690, whereas their clinical counterparts made about $37,900.

Possible Salaries for Psychology Major

Another factor that will affect your salary is your location. Psychologists practicing in New Jersey made about $10,000 more than those working in Ohio, according to the Bureau of Labor’s 2009 database. Seeking employment in larger cities may be more conducive to a higher beginning salary. However, keep in mind that this general statistic may backfire on you if there are many psychologists to choose from within the metropolitan area.

Your choice of employer will affect your annual salary range. Historically, psychologists working in elementary-level schools had the lowest salaries. The defining factors for this may include lower levels of advanced education, such as master’s level psychologists thrown in the salary statistical mix with doctoral level psychologists. Conversely, the Bureau of Labor's data reflect that psychologists working in independent practice or in healthcare practitioner’s offices brought home higher salaries.

Mid-Level

After the ink dries on your license and you gain a little professional exposure, you may be eligible for the mid-level pay range of psychologists. Starting at around $61,000 annually, this mean salary is influenced by many factors including your geographical location, specialty, and educational level. Psychologists in high demand, such as consulting and industrial contractors, may jump right past the beginner-level pay range and start here.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics divides psychologists into two categories: clinical, counseling, and school psychologists; and technical, industrial, and organizational psychologists. Historically, the latter group makes more than the former according to the 2008 statistics. Mid-level clinical psychologists earned between $48,700 and $82,000 annually. I/O specialists earned between $54,100 and $115,720 at the same level.

The economics consideration of supply and demand will also affect your salary. Mid-level psychologists working in California, for instance, make more than their Rhode Island counterparts according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Your employment location will affect your salary as much as the geographical need for psychologists in your region. Individual and family-services psychologists made the least in 2008, whereas those working in healthcare practitioners’ offices made the most at about $68,400.

High-Level

The average annual salary of psychologists is extremely diverse, ranging from an earnest $37,900 to more than $149,120, depending on experience, specialty, and level of achievement. Many factors add to that statistic, but the basic number of positions available may dwindle at the higher echelons of experience and education. However, the more specialized you become, the more you are worth.

Highly trained and specialized psychologists, such as those working in neuropsychology or independent contracting for organizational restructuring, will fall into the high-level pay range, unlike their counterparts working in school psychology or counseling. Just to illustrate this point, there are only 641 board-certified neuropsychologists in the United States according to the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology.

The Bureau of Labor statistics break the myriad specialties in psychology into three basic elements for statistical salary reporting: clinical, industrial, and “other.” The 90th percentile of clinical psychologists earns $109,470 annually, and falls into the lowest range of high-level psychology salaries. The next step up, the category of “other” psychologists, earns about $117,470, with 10% making even more than that. This category includes specialties in the government, hospitals, and independent research. The highest-paid psychologists include those in the 75th percentile as I/O specialists, who earn at least $121,780 annually.

Last Updated: 05/08/2014

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