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Top Five Highest Paying Jobs in the Field of Psychology

Highest Paying Jobs in the Field of PsychologySince there is a tremendous amount of diversity among psychology professions, it is only natural that there is a wide range of potential salary earnings as well.

It is well-known that psychology degrees lead to some of the most rewarding careers for individuals who want to have a significant positive impact on the world around them. On the other hand, a lesser-known fact is that some occupations within the psychology field are quite lucrative from an income standpoint as well. Some leading psychologists and psychiatrists in the field even earn around the quarter-million mark annually!

While we know that people that enter a helping profession like psychology aren’t in it for the money, earning a good income gives you peace of mind now and in the future. By maximizing your salary, you can pay off student loans sooner, put more money towards retirement, save more money for your kids’ college education, and so forth.

Of course, earning more money means that you also have a greater ability to buy a home that’s right for you, pay for creature comforts like a nicer vehicle, and afford longer or more frequent vacations – which you’ll need since this is a very taxing profession!

With all that in mind, we’ve put together a detailed list of some of the highest paying jobs that are related to psychology. Let’s have a look!

top 5 highest paying jobs psych

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors that receive specialized training for the treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

Although psychiatrists are often confused with psychologists, psychiatrists differ in that they possess a medical degree and the ability to prescribe medications for the treatment of mental illness.

Similar to a medical doctor, psychiatrists often perform diagnostic testing and physical examinations. Through psychotherapy techniques, psychiatrists are also able to help patients discuss their problems and provide solutions to make meaningful improvements in their lives.

Without a doubt, psychiatry is the highest-paying field that one can enter in psychology. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for psychiatrists in 2020 was $217,100. That’s up nearly $40,000 per year from the 2012 mark, which was $177,520. The 2020 figure works out to a mean hourly wage of $104.38.

Psychiatrists that are employed in the home health care sector earn significantly more than the average, at $262,120 annually. Those employed by local governments also make higher-than-average salaries, averaging $259,010 per year.

In fact, psychiatrists that work in residential care facilities and outpatient care centers also earn better-than-average incomes at $256,040 and $249,260 each year, respectively.

If you’re interested in a career as a psychiatrist, the geographic location in which you practice can have quite an impact on your income. For example, psychiatrists in North Dakota earn more on average than in any other state with a mean annual income of $288,060 or a mean hourly wage of $138.49. Kansas psychiatrists aren’t far behind at an annual mean salary of $281,410. Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nebraska round out the top five highest-paying states for psychiatrists. In each of these states, you can earn a mean annual wage in excess of $268,000 per year. 

However, it’s important not to be blinded by these astoundingly high salaries because attaining these positions requires intense dedication. Once a student receives an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related science, they must enter an accredited medical school to pursue an M.D. degree.

Furthermore, medical students need to complete a four-year residency as well as a minimum of three to four years of practice in the field. Prospective psychiatrists must then pass an examination to gain board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The road to becoming a psychiatrist is a long and difficult one, so students must have a deep passion for psychology and a desire to help individuals with mental illnesses.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Industrial-organizational psychologists work in business positions to help apply their expertise to improving performance in the workplace. These psychologists are concerned with studying workplace behaviors in order to boost productivity and efficiency. Industrial-organizational psychologists are also involved in employee training, business administration, marketing strategies, and human resources.

If you enjoy research and are fascinated with statistics or business, there are a number of universities that offer a bachelor’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology for entry-level human resources positions. However, job and salary opportunities increase when you further your education by getting a master’s or doctorate degree.

The May 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the mean annual salary for industrial-organizational psychologists is $112,690. This is up from $98,800 per year in 2012. The 2020 figure works out to a mean hourly wage of $54.18.

Although the bottom ten percent of earners in this field may only earn a mean of $57,440 per year, there is great income potential because the top ten percent of earners in the field make a mean salary of $192,800 per year.

Industrial-organizational psychologists can find the highest paying employment positions in scientific research and development, where they earn an annual mean salary of $150,910. Industrial-organizational psychologists that are employed in local government also bring home a six-figure salary of $112,020. Other top-paying industries include higher education, management and consulting services, and state governments, all of which offer a mean annual salary of $86,460 or more per year.

The best location in which to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist is California. There, you might expect to earn a yearly salary close to the mean, which is $119,100. New Jersey industrial-organizational psychologists also have a mean yearly salary in the six figures – $106,570 to be exact.

To put things in perspective, the fifth best-paying state for IO psychologists is Texas. There, you might expect to earn just $64,820 per year. This goes to show how geographic location can have an extreme effect on how much you might expect to earn – and just how much of a drop-off there is in terms of mean income from the top-paying states to states just below them on the income list. Choose where you live and work carefully as it can mean the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in income each year.

Engineering Psychologist

Engineering psychiatrist Engineering psychology is a rapidly growing occupation. For this reason, it is also one of the best-paying jobs in the field of psychology. Demand is high for well-qualified workers, and this often means that employers will pay a premium for the services of an engineering psychologist.

Engineering psychologists focus on improving technology, machinery, and workplace environments in order to enhance human behavior. Similar to the field of ergonomics, engineering psychology centers on understanding the abilities and limitations of humans, and then adjusting systems accordingly.

Engineering psychologists can have extremely rewarding careers since they are often able to save lives by minimizing risks for fatal errors or injuries and produce safer products. Although engineering psychologists can begin working in entry-level positions with a master’s degree, a doctorate expands employment opportunities and provides for a higher salary as well.

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for engineering psychologists is $98,887 per year. The pay range for this position extends from a low of $27,500 per year to a high of $181,500 per year.

Clearly, salaries in this profession vary greatly. There are several factors that affect potential earnings. First, the level of education is a primary factor. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll be in an entry-level position and earn less than someone with a master’s degree or doctorate. Second, your level of experience will influence how much you earn. If you’re fresh out of college with zero experience, you’ll earn less – and likely far less – than an engineering psychologist that has 10 years of experience.

And, as we’ve discussed with other jobs on this list, the location in which you live and work has a significant impact on your potential salary. For engineering psychologists, San Francisco is the best city in which to work from an income standpoint – you might earn around $123,361 per year. In fact, four of the top five cities for engineering psychologist salaries are in California. Of course, the cost of living in California is very high, so it’s prudent to consider those factors when deciding where you want to live and work.

Neuropsychologist

NeuropsychologistNeuropsychologists are mental health professionals that specialize in studying the brain and cognition. Neuropsychologists are vital for cognitive diagnostic testing, brain injury assessments, and medical brain scans. They are also involved in research about how different drugs affect the nervous system, as well as learning more about the mental processes of cognition and learning.

Neuropsychologists are typically employed by universities, research centers, pharmaceutical laboratories, mental health clinics, and hospitals. Individuals that are intrigued by the mind and brain can enter this profession by obtaining a doctoral degree in either neuropsychology or clinical neuropsychology.

Although there is no data presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics specifically for neuropsychologists, PayScale indicates that the average annual base salary is $93,881. While the bottom ten percent of earners in the field make an average of $75,000 per year, the top-earning neuropsychologists bring home $123,000 or more annually.

As is expected, salaries increase dramatically with experience. For example, with five to nine years of experience as a neuropsychologist, you might expect to earn around $92,000 per year. But that figure jumps to $113,000 per year with 10-19 years of experience.

According to PayScale, one of the best areas for maximizing your income in this field is Boston, Massachusetts. The average salary for neuropsychologists there is 6.5 percent higher than the national average. By contrast, neuropsychologists in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, earn 11 percent less than the national average.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders. Clinical psychologists work one-on-one or in group settings with patients to provide therapeutic techniques as treatment solutions. One of the most popular areas of employment in psychology, clinical psychology offers many different work settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient or outpatient care centers
  • Private practice
  • Schools
  • Mental health clinics.

In the majority of states, clinical psychologists are required to possess a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, complete a supervised residency, and pass a licensing examination. This means that it is a long road to become a clinical psychologist, but one of the rewards is the potential for an excellent income.

According to 2020 data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that clinical psychologists earn a mean annual salary of $89,290, up from $72,220 in just eight years. This translates to a mean hourly wage of $42.93.

Like the other occupations on this list, there is great variation in the pay scale. Workers in the bottom ten percent may only make $46,410, but the top ten percent of earners can make upwards of $138,550.

Some employers pay better than the average – much better, in fact. For example, clinical psychologists employed by outpatient care centers make more than average at $109,100 per year. Likewise, clinical psychologists that work in daycare centers earn a mean yearly wage of $105,670. Other top-paying industries for clinical psychologists include home health care, health practitioner offices, and junior colleges.

Which of These Highest Paying Psychology Jobs is Right for You?

It is important to remember that the salaries discussed here are means and averages. As we’ve discussed, the income you earn will vary depending on the location of employment, years of experience, industry sector, and education qualifications, among other factors. In some cases, the variability is extremely wide.

However, the aforementioned careers are usually among the highest-paying jobs in the field of psychology. Likewise, they are typically among the most in-demand jobs in psychology as well. That bodes well for you if you’re planning to become a psychologist and practice in one of the fields discussed above.

These and other disciplines within psychology offer you the opportunity to help people make positive changes in their life. But they also represent the chance of earning an income that allows you to build a comfortable financial footing. It’s the best of both worlds! Of course, it’s important to pursue a discipline about which you are passionate. At the end of the day, money is nice to have, but having job satisfaction and enjoying what you do is often much more valuable!

Further Reading:

Sean Jackson

B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming

M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming

B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts

Updated July 2021