Highest Paying Psychology Careers In 2021

Pursuing a psychology major provides the skills and training needed to take up many exciting roles after graduating. While many psychology jobs require at least a master’s or doctorate degree to qualify, several entry-level and related positions exist for those with bachelor’s degrees.

Prospective students considering this path can learn what degrees to be a psychology professional exist and what type of career outcomes they provide. They can also learn about the highest paying roles in the discipline and the states offering the best wages. Keep reading to find answers to your pressing questions.

Jump To A Career

  1. Psychologists
  2. Market Research Analysts
  3. Psychology Professors
  4. School and Career Counselors
  5. Social Workers
  6. Sociologists
  7. Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorders, and Mental Health Counselors
  8. Survey Researchers
  9. Marriage and Family Therapists
  10. Rehabilitation Counselors

Highest Paying Careers in Psychology

1. Psychologists

Psychologists function in both theoretical and applied positions, conducting research on cognition and emotional processes or providing counseling services. Day-to-day tasks vary based on your chosen area of practice, but all roles focus on better understanding how humans function and interact, and providing expert guidance based on evidence-based research.

Career Salary

Psychologists earned median annual salaries of $82,180 as of May 2020, with those in the top 10% of earners bringing home more than $137,590 during the same time frame.

Career Job Outlook

Jobs for psychologists are slated to grow by 3% between 2019-2029, leading to the creation of  

5,700 new jobs in addition to the existing 192,300. Jobs for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists are projected to grow the most.

Requirements to Become a Psychologist

To call yourself a psychologist, you must possess a doctorate degree from an accredited institution. Those practicing in clinical roles must also obtain and hold licensure in their state. If working in a school or industrial-organizational position, you may only need a master’s degree. You can also receive specialized certification in 15 different subfields via the American Board of Professional Psychology.

2. Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts use their analytical and mathematical skills to better understand market conditions and make informed predictions on how a good or service may fare in the current/future market. They review sales trends, create evaluation and data collection methods, and convert this data into digestible information for their clients. They typically work in private business and/or nonprofit settings.

Career Salary

As of May 2020, these professionals brought home annual median salaries of $65,810. Those working in the publishing industries earned the most at $79,040, while those working in management, scientific, and technical consulting services earned the least at $62,400.

Career Job Outlook

The BLS projects that the economy will add more than 130,000 new roles for market research analysts between 2019-2029, leading to an 18% growth for the position. This rate is far faster than the national average growth for all occupations.

Requirements to Become a Market Research Analyst

Most market research analysts hold a bachelor’s degree, though some positions may mandate a master’s degree — specifically those focused on research. Common degree areas include computer and information technology statistics, and communication. This role does not require licensure, but some voluntary certifications exist.

3. Psychology Professors

 Psychology professors use knowledge gained both from their years of postsecondary education and their experience in the field to educate the next generation of psychology professionals. They create lessons, lead classes, deliver lectures, create assignments, and facilitate discussion. They may also act as advisors and/or mentors to students.

Career Salary

Psychology professors commanded annual median salaries of $78,180 as of May 2020, but have potential to earn more. Psychology faculty in the top 10% of earners received more than $180,360 during this time.

Career Job Outlook

Jobs for psychology professors should expand significantly in the coming decade, with jobs for postsecondary professors generally growing by 9%. This should lead to the creation of approximately 4,100 new jobs for psychology professors — in addition to the existing 46,800 roles.

Requirements to Become a Psychology Professor

Psychology professors must possess a doctorate degree in psychology, and many institutions look to hire candidates with professional work experience as well. While licensure is not required to teach, psychology professors previously licensed for their profession may stand out to the hiring committee.

4. School and Career Counselors

These professionals work with students and adults alike to help individuals build coping skills, address social and/or behavioral challenges, identify academic or career pathways, and provide support to teachers and families. They work in both public and private settings.

Career Salary

These professionals brought home annual median salaries of $58,120 in May 2020. Those working in elementary and secondary schools earned the highest wages at $64,960, while counselors in healthcare and social assistance settings earned the lowest at $42,300.

Career Job Outlook

Positions for school and career counselors are projected to grow by 8$ between 2019-2029, leading to the creation of approximately 26,800 new positions. Reasons for this growth include increased enrollment in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Requirements to Become a School and Career Counselor

School counselors usually need to hold a master’s degree in school counseling or a similar subject. Those practicing in public schools must hold state certification or licensure. Private schools typically mandate this on a school-by-school basis. They must also pass a criminal background check.

5. Social Workers

Social workers support individuals by helping them identify and address issues in their lives. They may also treat behavioral, emotional, and mental problems. Social workers typically work for governmental agencies and/or nonprofits, providing support and referrals to help their clients find the support they need to address hurdles in their lives.

Career Salary

While few social workers enter the field to earn a lucrative salary, these professionals receive salaries averaging $51,760 in May 2020. Those in the top 10% of earners brought home wages exceeding $85,820, while those in the bottom 10% received just $33,020.

Career Job Outlook

The BLS projects that jobs for social workers will grow by an impressive 13% between 2019-2029, increasing the number of positions from 713,200 to 803,800. Jobs for child, family, and school social workers are expected to grow the most.

Requirements to Become a School Counselor

Social workers interested in working in support or administrative positions require a bachelor’s degree; those interested in clinical positions must complete a master’s degree and participate in two years of postgraduate supervised clinical work. To practice clinically, you must also possess a license in your state. 

6. Sociologists

Sociologists use their analytical thinking and research design skills to better understand why humans think and behave how they do. They conduct surveys and research projects, college data, and look for patterns within the data that can help them draw conclusions. They may find work in both public and private settings. 

Career Salary

As of May 2020, sociologists received annual median salaries of $86,110. Those who work in research and development in social sciences and humanities can expect to earn the highest salaries at $96,620. Those working in educational services, conversely, earned $65,830 during the same time period.

Career Job Outlook

The BLS estimates that sociologist positions will grow by 4%, on par with the growth rate for occupations as a whole between 2019-2029. This will lead to the creation of approximately 100 new positions.

Requirements to Become a Sociologist

To work as a sociologist, you will likely need a master’s or doctorate degree. If working in clinical and professional positions, a master’s degree will likely suffice. Research and academic positions often require a Ph.D. in sociology. These roles do not require licensure or certification at this time.

7. Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Whether working with clients facing mental health challenges, alcoholism, eating disorders, or other behavioral issues, these professionals help them set and meet treatment goals. They provide counseling, assess ongoing needs, make referrals as needed, and provide support to family and loved ones. They work in both public and private settings.

Career Salary

The BLS notes that these professionals received median pay of $47,660 as of May 2020. Those working in government positions earned substantially more during this time period, commanding wages of $54,070.

Career Job Outlook

Roles for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are slated to grow by a substantial 25% in the coming years, mostly due to states looking to increase treatment and counseling options rather than turning to prison sentences. Nearly 80,000 new roles should materialize between 2019-2029. 

Requirements to Become a Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor

Given the wide breadth of these positions, educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma to a master’s degree in topics such as mental health counseling, psychology, clinical social work, substance abuse counseling, or related subjects. When working in private practice, both behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors must possess a license. To receive this, they must complete a master’s degree and two years of postgraduate supervised clinical experience.

8. Survey Researchers

Survey researchers spend their days collecting data via surveys and analyzing that data to identify patterns and insightful information. They work in public and private settings alike, with the majority employed in professional, scientific, and technical services.

Career Salary

Survey researchers received median salaries of $59,870 as of May 2020, with those working in scientific research and development services earning $74,800 during that same period. Those working in educational services, conversely, received just $53,740

Career Job Outlook

Roles for these professionals are set to decline by 4% in the coming decade. Reasons for this decline include evolving survey methods leading to fewer survey researchers being needed to conduct studies and interviews.

Requirements to Become a Survey Researcher

Educational requirements run the gamut from bachelor’s to doctorate degrees, depending on the type of position. Those working in high-level research positions typically need an advanced degree in statistics, psychology, survey research, or marketing, while entry-level positions typically look for bachelor’s degrees in these areas. These roles do not require certification or licensure at this time. 

9. Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help individuals, couples, and families address relationship challenges and find more effective ways of navigating issues. They facilitate communication, offer counseling services, and encourage skills-building and resilience along the way. They may work in private practice, nonprofit settings, or governmental agencies.

Career Salary

Marriage and family therapists earned median salaries of $51,340 as of May 2020, but those in the top 10% of earners brought home more than $92,930 during that same time period. Conversely, ranking in the bottom 10% of earners is likely to net you $33,140 or less.

Career Job Outlook

Individuals looking for career stability can find this in the field, as roles for these professionals are projected to grow by 22% in the coming years. This growth should add an additional 14,800 positions to the existing 66,200. 

Requirements to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist

To call yourself a marriage and family therapist, you must possess a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, psychology, mental health counseling, or a related topic. You must also hold licensure in your state and participate in at least 2,000 hours of postgraduate supervised clinical experience.

10. Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors support their patients by providing counseling and treatment services for developmental, emotional, mental, and physical disabilities. They develop systems to help improve independent living and work with both families and employers to implement resources and accommodations. They can work for companies, nonprofits, and government offices.

Career Salary

According to the BLS, rehabilitation counselors received median wages totaling $37,530 as of May 2020. Those looking to earn higher salaries may want to work in state government (excluding education and hospitals), as these positions offered median pay of $53,210 during the same year.

Career Job Outlook

More than 120,000 rehabilitation counselors currently work in the United States, but this number is projected to grow to 132,500 by 2029. Reasons for this growth include a larger aging population needing rehabilitation services and an ongoing need from military veterans. 

Requirements to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

The vast majority of positions require a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, disability studies, or a related topic. In addition to academics, students must participate in clinical experiences to gain hands-on skills. Every state sets its own licensing requirements, so check with your state board of counseling to learn about specifics.

Highest Paying States for Psychology Graduates

Psychology graduates can find many fulfilling roles, but those looking to earn substantial salaries may want to consider location before accepting a job offer. The states highlighted in this section offer the highest wages, but consider whether they also require higher costs of living. Also remember that average salaries don’t guarantee a specific salary for graduates.

Clinical/Counseling/School Psychologists Marriage and Family Therapists
California Utah
Hawaii New Jersey
Louisiana Illinois
Oregon Hawaii
Washington D.C. Oklahoma

BS in Psychology vs. Graduate Psychology Degree

As the careers spotlighted on this page have demonstrated, earning a postgraduate psychology degree often leads to greater career choices and higher salaries. Data from Payscale demonstrates that graduates of bachelor’s degrees in psychology currently earn average salaries of $60,467. This number rises to $89,917 for professionals who possess a doctorate in psychology.