The average psychologist salary is $86,597.86 per year or $41.63 per hour according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS)*.
The BLS also reports a median annual salary of $79,010. Depending on the psychology field you go into, where you choose to work, and how experienced you are, you could make significantly more or less.
The BLS reports the highest and lowest salaries for psychologists, which are as follows:
- The lowest 10% of psychologists earn less than $43,800 per year
- The top 10% of psychologists earn more than $129,250 per year
In general, the more experience and education you have, the higher your earnings as a psychologist.
Average Psychologist Salary by Specialty
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics tracks salary data for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, and Psychologists, All Other. What specialty you choose significantly affects your earning potential.
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
Most psychologists, 110,490 of them, work in this specialty. On average, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists make $85,340 per year or $41.03 per hour. Median earnings are $76,990 per year or $37.01 per hour. The lowest 10% make less than $44,040 per year and the highest 10% make upwards of $129,310 per year.
Psychologists that use their education to solve HR, administration, sales, and marketing problems are industrial-organizational psychologists. Only 780 psychologists work in this specialty as of May 2018. They earn an average annual salary of $109,030, which breaks down to $52.42 per hour. Percentile wage estimates for this occupation show that 50% make less than $97,260 annually and 50% make more. The lowest paid employees earn less than $51,350 and highest paid earn more than $192,150.
Psychologists, All Other
According to the BLS, approximately 13,480 psychologists work in another specialty. These psychologists earn an average annual salary of $95,610 or $45.97 per hour. The median wage is $100,770 per year. Of these psychologists, the lowest 10% earn less than $41,220 while the highest 10% earn upwards of $127,510.
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Average Psychologist Salary by Industry
What industry you choose also affects how much you’ll make as a psychologist. The information below comes from Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018 data from the BLS. For reference, the average psychologist salary is $86,597.86 per year.
Average Psychologist Salary in the Top-Paying Industries
Psychologists working in the following industries make the most money:
- Offices of Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists, and Audiologists: $112,310 average annual salary
- Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities: $107,680 average annual salary
- Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations: $104,240 average annual salary
- Scientific Research and Development Services: $101,550 average annual salary
- Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities: $98,450 average annual salary
Average Psychologist Salary in the Lowest-Paying Industries
These are some of the lowest paying industries for psychologists as of May 2018:
- Grantmaking and Giving Services: $41,220 average annual salary
- Vocational Rehabilitation Services: $68,180 average annual salary
- Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals (privately owned): $68,680 average annual salary
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $70,030 average annual salary
- Community Food and Housing, Emergency and Other Relief Services: $73,960 average annual salary
Average Psychologist Salary in the Most Popular Industry
Approximately 44,120 psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States. This industry employs 35.4% of all U.S. psychologists. On average, these psychologists make $79,340 per year or $38.15 per hour.
The top 10% earn upwards of $117,680 annually. The lowest-paid 10% earn less than $50,170 annually. How much you’ll earn in this industry heavily depends on you experience and the state and school district’s budget.
Average Psychologist Salary by State and City
Psychologists are also paid differently based on what state they live in. Since approximately 88% of all psychologists fall into the BLS category of Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists, the data used below refers to that occupation.
States with the Highest Average Psychologist Salary
The BLS identifies the following as the top five states/territories that pay psychologists the most on average:
- California: $108,350 average annual salary
- Oregon: $103,870 average annual salary
- New Jersey: $98,470 average annual salary
- District of Columbia: $95,500 average annual salary
- Hawaii: $94,550 average annual salary
Why do these states pay psychologists so much more? Cost of living certainly plays a role. Hawaii, California, Oregon, and New Jersey are 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 10th, on CNBC’s list of states with the highest cost of living. Your salary might look a whole lot higher on paper, but you’ll need that extra money to cover housing, utility, transportation, and grocery costs.
Cities with the Highest Average Psychologist Salary
The city you live in also affects your earning potential. The BLS identifies the following cities as the top-paying metropolitan areas for psychologists:
- Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $119,110 average annual salary
- Bend-Redmond, OR: $118,980 average annual salary
- Santa Rosa, CA: $118,860 average annual salary
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: $117,870 average annual salary
- Salinas, CA: $116,210 average annual salary
States with the Lowest Average Psychologist Salary
Some states pay psychologists much less. Here are lowest-paying states for psychologists:
- West Virginia: $59,200 average annual salary
- Oklahoma: $60,760 average annual salary
- South Carolina: $63,050 average annual salary
- Montana: $63,720 average annual salary
- Idaho: $64,270 average annual salary
Is Becoming a Psychologist Worth It?
You need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and an advanced degree to work as a psychologist. Most clinical and counseling psychologists have either a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. Industrial-organizational psychologists generally only need a master’s degree. Along with the required education, you also need to become licensed in the state you plan to practice in.
The road to becoming a psychologist isn’t cheap.
In 2016, Doran and others surveyed 1,283 graduate students and recently graduated psychologists. Their survey findings revealed this:
- 7% had graduate school debt
- The expected median total debt was $120,000 (undergrad + grad school)
- The expected median graduate school debt for Psy.D. candidates was $160,000
- The expected median graduate school debt for Clinical/Counseling Ph.D. candidates was $76,500
- The expected median graduate school debt for research and other Ph.D. candidates was $72,500
Is taking on all that debt worth it?
It certainly depends. If they go into the right industry and specialty, psychologists can earn a lot of money. However, starting salaries still aren’t rising fast enough to keep up with rising education costs. Making loan payments during your early career could prove challenging. Fortunately, you can enroll your federal student debt in an income-based repayment plan. This would make your earlier payments more manageable.
In terms of finding a job, the market looks good for psychologists. Psychologist jobs are expected to grow by 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. The BLS cites the aging population, a need for mental health services in schools, and a need for services for veterans, trauma victims, and individuals with autism as the reason for the greater demand. Psychologists concerned with finding a job post-graduation should look for internship opportunities in those areas.
If you’re passionate about becoming a psychologist, you can make it worth it. You just need to make smart choices about where you to go to school, how to pay for school, and where you work. Follow these tips:
- Only borrow the bare minimum and opt for federal student loans when possible
- Prioritize applying to universities that award stipends and/or tuition waivers to students who work as a research assistant or teaching assistant
- Make interest payments on your undergraduate loans and graduate loans as you go through school
- After graduation, choose an income-based repayment plan that lets you pay more as your salary increases (if needed)
- Choose to work in the public sector for 10 years and then apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness to have your eligible federal student loans forgiven
- Consider applying for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment program, which offers up $50,000 in loan repayment in exchange for a two-year service commitment
Refinance your private student loans to secure a better interest rate and/or lower your monthly payment
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“College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine. (2)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (3)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (4)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 12/14/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.”
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
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Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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