Top 10 highest paying jobs in Psychology 2021

highest paying jobs psychology

Over 40 million American adults suffer from mental illness every year with approximately 10 million of these individuals living with serious mental illnesses. Others do not suffer from severe illnesses but fight against the regular daily stressors that leave them feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or even a little panicky at times. In fact, anxiety is one of the top mental health diagnoses these days with 18 percent of Americans currently living with an anxiety disorder. Moreover, around the world, depression is a major cause of disability, often leading to a variety of other problems, including chronic disease and great financial burdens for millions of families.

Although mental health is such a weighty problem here in the United States and around the world, there is hope. Today, professionals know about many ways to combat out-of-control feelings, addictions and concerning emotions. There are numerous medications, behavioral therapy types and other treatment options that have been proven effective for those individuals who are willing to seek professional help when they can no longer help themselves. While these mental health professionals may be called by many different names, most of them have one thing in common, and that is a degree in psychology.

Psychologists are a type of non-medical doctor. Most hold PhDs or similar degrees in their given field. However, the field of psychology is incredibly vast with a variety of focuses on specialty areas, such as forensics, education, industry and research. These professionals practice in a variety of spaces and in many different ways. They may be found working in colleges and universities or at research facilities. Many work for health care organizations while others are hired by sports teams or by the military. Wherever they work, their goal is to improve the mental wellbeing of their patients, helping them build fuller and more fulfilling lives while increasing happiness and decreasing negative feelings.

Every state requires psychologists of all types to hold professional licenses after graduation. In fact, most of these individuals follow intricate educational paths to get into their desired niches. For example, they will start with a bachelor’s degree before attending graduate school and receiving a doctorate. They will then typically complete an internship before receiving their state licensure. It is in graduate school that most psychology majors determine the exact focus that they wish to have in their practices. This is where they will take specialty classes and determine the exact degree that they need.

With so many psychologists needed these days, these professionals are sure to be paid quite well in 2021 and throughout the upcoming decade. That is why now is a great time to consider the following 10 highest paid jobs in the psychology field.


The psychiatrist holds a unique degree as he is the only type of psychologist to be a practicing medical doctor. That means that psychiatrists are the only people on this list to be able to prescribe medications. While they often work with patients to determine the exact medication type and dosage for them and to discuss how medications are affecting them, they are also able to perform many other types of treatment, including counseling and therapy.

It takes most individuals 12 years to become licensed psychiatrists. They must attend undergraduate school and graduate school while also completing a residency before earning a medical degree. These individuals receive extensive training in psychology while al so learning more about traditional medicine so that they can see the connections between physical and mental health. This education will help them better understand the pharmacological needs of their patients and will allow them to treat their patients who are hospitalized.

Psychiatrists definitely earn the most of any professional in the field of psychology. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, psychiatrists on average earned in excess of $220,000 annually as of 2018. There are also plenty of opportunities for employment in this field with the need for psychiatrists growing at a slightly faster rate than average when compared to jobs in America as a whole. Individuals interested in psychiatry should keep in mind that their annual income will vary based on the type of organization for which they work and the area of the country where they live.

Industrial and Organizational Psychologist

Of the non-prescribing psychologists, industrial and organizational psychologists, often called I/O psychologists, are typically among the best paid. On average, they earn well over $90,000 annually while those with over a decade of experience can expect to earn much more than this, typically bringing in over $106,000 annually. According to the BLS, those employed in scientific and research settings earned far more than this while those working in college and other educational settings earned significantly less.

According to the American Psychological Association, these psychologists generally work for large business organizations and practice psychology as it applies to employees and employers in public, community, industrial and business organizations of all types. They may work to address a variety of organizational problems, such as ineffective employees, lost work hours, lack of business development and unhappiness on the job, or they may look at customer and client behaviors and satisfaction ratings to help create effective marketing strategies. Not only must they have solid backgrounds in psychology, but also they must understand statutory and case law in regard to work ethics within business settings.

These individuals must have a master’s degree at minimum, but the highest paid industrial and organizational psychologists must hold doctoral degrees in this specialty area. A doctoral degree will also afford these individuals more opportunities for advancement in the future.

Military Psychologist

A military psychologist works for one of the branches of the United States military, often working with active duty military personnel or veterans who are having trouble coping with their work or with the aftereffects of what they have experienced. Some job titles for these individuals include army mental health specialist, navy psychologist and marine psychologist. In addition to studying psychology and receiving a doctoral degree, these individuals must also become members of the military. Another great option for some is to complete their graduate school internships at military posts, a lucrative option that can pay around $70,000 per year in some areas. Interns can also receive 30 days of paid leave along with free medical and dental care along with plenty of other great benefits. Of course, those who are active military members with doctoral degrees in military psychology can expect to earn far more than this, with many bringing in around $120,000 every year.

These professionals typically deal with incredibly weighty matters as members of the military often see very graphic and dismaying things during their years in the service. They may deal with anxiety, depression, grief or post-traumatic stress disorder or may find themselves faced with severe losses in their own physical or emotional health. In addition, some military psychologists work in the area of research, and current research is focused on finding the best personality types for military service.

This field has been faced with a real need in the past several years as many individuals look elsewhere for their psychology careers. While serving in the military requires great emotional strength and fortitude, this is a great career choice for psychologists who want to experience steady career growth, amazing job security and plenty of benefits.


Neuropsychologists focus on the use of psychology to treat individuals who have suffered from brain or nervous system injuries. They usually hold a PhD or a PsyD degree and have completed a focused internship in their chosen field. While they are psychologists in name, they have far greater knowledge in the inner-workings of the brain, including the anatomy of the nervous system, than their clinical counterparts do. Some of their regular tasks include measuring brain behaviors and diagnosing and treating individuals who are dealing with cognitive deficits. They may use specialty diagnostic equipment, such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging. For these reasons, they frequently work in hospitals and mental health clinics as well as in research facilities. However, some of these professionals may also work for pharmaceutical companies or for major universities that engage in research.

These professionals also earn a high annual salary to match the in-depth work that they do every day. The average annual salary for neuropsychologists across the country is over $91,000 although those with more than 10 years of experience can expect approximately $15,000 more than this per year. The need for more neuropsychologists is expected to rise in the next decade as the profession has grown approximately 10 percent per year in the past.

School Psychologist

The pay range for a school psychologist can vary dramatically based on where he works. For example, those employed by major universities engaging in research are sure to be paid at the top end of a psychologist’s salary while those working for smaller community institutions or local school districts may make far less. However, the median salary across the profession as a whole is $75,000 annually. More good news for psychologists who choose to follow this career track is that the unemployment rate in this profession is quite low at less than 1 percent.

School psychologists must complete a graduate degree program in school psychology and may begin working after receiving a master’s degree. However, many choose to further hone their knowledge and skills with a doctorate, which gives them ready access to even more jobs and also allows them to earn higher salaries. However, a doctorate does require an internship program.

A school psychologist may have a wide range of job duties depending on where he works. However, he will most likely work with students of all ages who require mental health resources for managing stress and anxiety when taking tests or applying to college. These professional may also counsel students who are dealing with anxiety or depression or who have contemplated suicide. Because they often work with underage children, school psychologists typically have a great deal of paperwork to complete for every case. In addition, they must stay in close communication with the student’s parents and with other teachers and staff.

Experimental Psychologist

Experimental psychologists are primarily focused on research and typically work in research facilities, laboratories or educational centers. While all psychologists are focused to some extent on research, these individuals devote their entire careers to understanding more about the human psyche. They use practical data collection methods and empirical evidence to form sound conclusions, often beginning their research in the animal kingdom before transferring what they have learned to the human mind. This knowledge may then be applied to a variety of sub-areas, such as the workplace, the local school district or child development. Most choose to focus a majority of their careers on one or two specific areas, such as mental illnesses, human personalities or memories. What they learn can then be applied by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists during one-on-one or group interventions.

Experimental psychologists, who may also be known as research psychologists, earn a healthy annual salary of approximately $81,000 per year. They may work in teams or may participate in major research on a national or international level, which could result in higher salaries. In fact, those who work in the private sector and those who have more experience and a higher level of expertise often earn over $130,000 annually.

Clinical Psychologist

While clinical psychology may not be the highest-paid area of psychology, it is one of the most popular with more people holding positions in this subspecialty than in any other area. Clinical psychologists typically work one-on-one with their patients as they work to diagnose, treat and prevent all types of mental illness. They may also work with patients in group settings. While many practice psychology in a hospital or clinic, a number of clinical psychologists have chosen to become private practice therapists, opening their own clinics or even operating out of their own homes. However, wherever these individuals work, they must be licensed in their state as clinical psychologists. Before licensure, these individuals must complete their doctoral work and complete at least one to two years in a supervised residency program.

Those working in clinical psychology make an average of $80,000 per year as of 2015, but can make much more with experience. For example, those with under five years of experience may make under $60,000 per year on average while those with over 10 years of experience can make well over $100,000. In fact, clinical psychologists who are self-employed generally make $110,000 per year.

Counseling Psychologist

At first glance, counseling psychology may sound much the same as clinical psychology. However, the primary difference is that these practitioners generally work with individuals who are suffering from less severe types of mental illness. These professionals work daily to create positive physical, mental and emotional health in their patients, working with individuals of all ages from every socioeconomic area. Counseling psychologists must understand normal mental health and development while being able to recognize problem areas quickly. This is truly a one-on-one practice that requires psychologists to develop healthy, long-term relationships with their patients to accomplish personal and practical goals.

Counseling psychologists may make more than clinical psychologists do, and the 2015 average annual salary was placed at $85,000. As more individuals are recognizing their own mental health crises or are feeling empowered to seek help for the depression, grief and anxiety that has plagued them for years, the need for highly qualified counseling psychologists in the United States is bound to rise. The projected job growth rate by 2028 is 15 percent, which is much faster than average.

Engineering Psychologist

Engineering psychologists combine their knowledge of the human mind and emotions with engineering to determine how machines and people can best work together. They may solve problems with computers, assembly lines and similar types of machines and technology to ensure that employees are able to stay happy and healthy while at work and to create more efficient processes for businesses.

The majority of engineering psychologists work in major industrial settings. However, some may work for the government, such as for the Department of Defense. While they may be known by many names, they must all understand the functioning of normal human psychology on outward processes.

The demand for engineering psychologists has skyrocketed as technology has continued its takeover of the world. Many industries are realizing just how much more efficient they could be if their systems were designed to work more functionally alongside their employees while also making work more enjoyable. Whether these professionals work in the health, manufacturing or technology sector, their job is to improve safety and positivity in their departments.

With such a need for these psychologists, they can expect to earn a healthy annual salary if they are working in a sector that is facing high demand. Starting salaries can be as high as $75,000 while those with doctoral degrees earn an average of $111,000 per year. Those who work as industrial consultants often earn even higher amounts.

Educational Psychologist

Educational psychologists usually work with school-age children to determine how children develop, learn and respond to specific stimuli. They will examine the mental and emotional health of these children while also looking at their social development. Although they often work in preschools and for local public school districts, these professionals may also work for colleges and universities, in community learning centers and for governmental agencies. Some may also hire themselves out for work as private consultants.

Not all children learn at the same rate or with the same materials and resources. The work of educational psychologists is to determine how each child will learn best while also helping children retain what they have learned. Of course, learning at school goes far beyond academics and also focuses on emotional and social growth. These psychologists work closely with students to create more effective patterns of learning in all situations. They may also work with special needs students who need evaluations for special education resources or who are struggling to work together with their peers. Educational psychologists may specialize in a particular area, such as learning disorders or teaching.

An educational psychologist with several years of experience can expect to earn over $82,000 per year. However, those who are just beginning in the field may earn a bit less than $70,000 per year. This field is primed for great growth as increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with learning difficulties and as teaching plans continue to be tailored for the unique needs of a particular classroom.

Clearly, psychologists have plenty of opportunities in their field and are able to choose specialties that most appeal to them. While these 10 psychology career paths are poised to have the most growth and the highest pay rates in 2020 and beyond, those completing master’s or doctoral degrees in psychology may also want to consider the fields of developmental, correctional, forensic, environmental, sports and social psychology among many others. As stress goes up for many Americans who are dealing with schedules that are busier than ever, the need for qualified professionals who can help bring down anxiety levels and improve emotional and mental wellbeing is sure to increase.

As a whole, the field of psychology is increasing at a very fast projected rate of 14 percent over the next decade. With over 26,000 jobs expected to be added in that time, there is plenty of opportunity for those looking to join the field of psychology in 2020.