Careers devoted to the study of human behavior and the human condition aren’t limited to doctoral-prepared psychologists and psychiatrists. And neither are the impressive salaries that accompany these careers.
Holding a master’s degree in psychology can—and often does—translate well into successful careers in any psychiatric/mental health setting and in any branch of psychology — from psychotherapy in private practice to managing severe psychiatric disorders in a clinical setting. Whether your goal is a terminal master’s degree or a master’s degree that will eventually lead to a doctorate, one thing’s for sure: There are plenty of places a master’s degree in psychology can take you—and they all come with professional gratification and some pretty sweet financial rewards.
The American Psychological Association (APA) said that while many careers in psychology do require a doctoral degree, master’s-prepared professionals are also in demand. Though a doctorate is the universal standard for full authority practice, a number of states do license master’s-level practitioners in some subfields of psychology.
The rise in demand for these professionals is reflected in the growth in the number of master’s degrees in psychology conferred in the U.S.—from 25,268 in 2000-01 to 45,393 in 2016-17, according to NCES. While the statistics are a bit dated, they clearly show the trend: a growing number of psychologists are entering the field with a master’s degree.
What Can Master’s-Prepared Psychologists Expect to Earn?
To get a better idea of the salaries associated with master’s-prepared psychology professionals (often called psychological associates), we can turn to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2019 report. While the salary statistics provided by the BLS do not separate psychology professionals according to highest degree earned, we can look to mid-range salaries for the most accurate representation of what master’s-level professionals are earning (while average salaries for the top 50 percent are likely reserved for those with doctoral degrees).
According to the BLS, the mean, annual salary for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists was $78,200, as of 2019. Mean wages for the top-paying industries during this time were:
- Elementary and Secondary Schools: $80,180
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $100,300
- Individual and Family Services: $85,140
- Offices of Physicians: $95,960
- Outpatient Care Centers: $99,870
The mean annual salaries for the top-paying states during this time were:
- California: $111,750
- New York: $96,170
- Texas: $73,920
- Florida: $77,460
- Illinois: $75,050
The BLS also provided salary statistics for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists who apply the principles of psychology to the fields of human resources, administration, sales, marketing and management. According to the BLS, as of 2019, the annual, mean salary for these professionals was $111,150. Note that most of those jobs likely require a doctorate in psychology.
Mean wages for the top-paying industries during this time were:
- Scientific Research and Development Services: $162,590
- Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services: $96,000
- State Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OES Designation): $72,100
- Management of Companies and Enterprises: $101,600
The mean salaries for the top-paying metropolitan areas during this time were:
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $170,420
Salaries for Psychology Faculty
The APA Center for Workforce Studies’ 2018-19 report on psychology faculty salaries broke down salaries for psychologists by degree type, providing an even clearer view of what master’s prepared psychology faculty are earning in the classroom and in clinical settings.
According to the APA, salaries for master’s-prepared psychology faculty increased or decreased marginally across all levels between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years.
Salaries for master’s-prepared faculty, by title and experience, for the 2018-19 academic year:
- Professor: $86,272
- Associate Professor: $69,265
- Assistant Professor: $60,000
- New Assistant Professor: $59,975
Recent Salary Data for Master’s-Prepared Psychologists and Psychological Associates
While salary reports can provide a great deal of insight regarding trends and averages, it’s often recent job posts that provide a real-time glimpse into what employers are paying psychology professionals who hold master’s degrees as their highest degree.
We sampled a number of job sites in January 2021, choosing only those job posts calling for candidates with a master’s degree. Here are a few salary examples for aggregate U.S. data:
- Psychological Associate: $53,010
- Clinical Psychologist: $99,537
- School Psychologist: $69,742
- Licensing Specialist: $58,845
- Human Services Coordinator: $38,320
- Behavioral Therapist: $37,152