The best paid careers in psychology.

November 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm 16 comments

Psychology is an amazingly diverse subject, with roots in many fields. Of course, with this diversity, you can expect a very diverse range of pay between them all. This post will show the highest paid jobs in psychology, in order from highest to lowest.

Please note: The pay for psychology jobs vary depending on where you live! This list ‘mixes’ the pay between jobs in the UK and USA. However, all these are subject to change depending on geography and general changes over time.


In the USA, this is deemed the highest paying job that has it’s roots in psychology. The reason there is a * by the name is that you require much more training to be a psychiatrist than just a psychology degree. Typically, a psychiatrist will require medical qualifications (usually around 8 years AFTER an advanced psychology degree) before they are ready for employment. Work typically involves the diagnosis of mental illness and prescription of suitable medication. The pay range is still very varied depending on the nature of the work. The average pay is between $120,000 and $180,000 a year (£75,000 – 112,000), although some can make in excess of $250,000 (£156,000) a year when working in the private sector.

Occupational (aka organisational/industrial) Psychologist

Occupational psychology is concerned with psychology in the business environment. They improve the functioning of businesses by improving performance of staff through training, improving staff morale and job satisfaction, and maximising the effectiveness of small groups at work. Occupational psychologists make $60,000 (£37,000) on average, but can make up to $160,000 (£100,000) when working for private businesses. Pay also depends on level of expertise, length of contracts and geography.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical Psychology deals with the psychopathology of people and reducing mental illness where possible. The main difference between a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist (except, of course, the pay) is that clinical psychologists are not qualified to prescribe medicine. A clinical psychologist can expect to make in the region of approx $40,000 (£25,000) to $125,000 (£80,000) for senior positions. Again, pay varies depending on experience, geography and whether you work in the private or public sector.

Educational Psychologists

Education psychologists generally work to help young people in education overcome obstacles and difficulties whilst learning. This includes helping teachers become more aware of social factors that influence learning, and helping to enhance the ways in which teachers teach children. They can work in a variety of fields, from Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) to schools and colleges. On average, an educational psychologist can expect to make between $40,000 (£25,000) for starting positions and $90,000 (£54,500) for more senior positions. As always, pay will depend on expertise and location.

Forensic Psychologists

Forensic psychology and forensic psychology degree programs focus on the psychology of legal processes in courts. It may also involve the assessment of criminal behaviour and understanding the psychology behind such behaviour. Forensic psychologists are NOT like the criminal investigators in CSI! Maybe the psychological aspects, but certainly not crime scene investigation. Forensic psychologists are employed mainly by prisons, but are also seen in rehabilitation settings (such as hospitals and clinics). Forensic psychologists can expect to make between $32,000 (£20,000) and $90,000 (54,500) depending on, you guessed it, expertise and location.

There are graduate programs in forensic psychology available through accredited online schools.


So there you have it, some of the top paid jobs to be found in psychology. It is worth noting that all of the above require extra qualifications AFTER completing a 3 year accredited psychology degree. Most also require at least 1-2 years of applied work experience in a relevant setting. So, you can expect to be learning for around 7 years before you can even start. Of course, that is no reason to be disheartened! Psychology careers are as rewarding as they are fascinating, so (in my opinion) 7 years is a very worthy investment.

Also, the pay indicated in this post was correct at the time of writing – my source being the BPS website and other reliable web sources. To see more, visit the BPS psychology areas section.

Take care,


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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. angelina  |  November 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    thank you so much for this great infrormationn !!! good job

  • 2. Natalia Micheo  |  August 16, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Thank u very much! Ure helping me tomake a decision.

    • 3. Sam Eddy  |  October 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Hello Natalia,
      I’m glad my post has helped you. Good luck with your decision!

  • 4. Matt Hagens (@mhagens)  |  October 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    This is a good list too of the best paying jobs in the US

    • 5. Sam Eddy  |  October 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      Hi Matt, thanks for the link. I’ve approved it for readers to make use of.

  • 6. Donald Round  |  November 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    The info above is bunk insofar as it applies to the US.

    To be a licensed psychologist a doctoral degree (PsyD or PhD) is required, which takes 5-7 yrs (never 3 years!), including a one year pre-doctoral internship. (To be a neuropsychologist, as I am, requires an additional 2 year post-doctoral fellowship, so the total education/training is 7-9 years.)

    A psychiatrist needs to earn an MD degree (4 years) plus complete a 4 year residency to be able to be board-certified, which is a requirement for most medical staff positions. So the total training is not so dissimilar as to length of time: 8 years for a psychiatrist vs. 5-9 for a psychologist.

    The training is very dissimilar, and psychiatrists learn very little about psychology, just as psychologists learn little about medicine. Later on, after formal training, each may pick up a fair degree of knowledge of the others’ field, and often do.

    There is also a difference as to earning potential, with $70,000 versus $170,000 average salary for psychologists and psychiatrists, respectively. A lot of this pay differential is b/c of the relative power differential (MDs rule the roost in medical/healthcare environments) but it is also generally the case that MDs tend to have higher stress jobs, longer hours, and a commitment to their work that puts the job ahead of anything else.

  • 7. Donald Round  |  November 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Addendum to the above:

    I should add that licensure is necessary in psychology to be able to offer services to the public. One can call oneself a ‘psychologist’ with a doctoral degree in any field of psychology but it is not legal to offer clinical (i.e., mental health) services as a ‘psychologist’ w/o state licensure.

    • 8. Sam Eddy  |  November 20, 2011 at 1:45 am

      Hi Donald,

      Thanks for your really in-depth comments; it’s great to have words from a professional in the field who has gone through the long training, particularly in such an interesting field.

      I’m unsure whether you read the part where I said that psychologists need a 3 year undergraduate degree as well as the postgraduate degree that also takes 3 years. Add the 1-2 years work experience and it does take about 6-7 years. You may however mean that American postgraduate degrees take 5-7 years, which I find astonishing if that’s true! Interesting to see how different the degree structures are between the US and UK if so.

      Again, thanks for the comments. I hope readers find them useful.

      • 9. Donald Round  |  November 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm

        Sam, there are many differences between the US and UK regs as regards psychologists, and I am no expert on the UK, certainly.

        Here in the US a PhD in Clinical Psychology takes about 6 years on average (as I wrote, this includes a one year pre-doctoral internship), and this is after an undergraduate degree which is usually 4 years, not 3. It would not be possible to complete the PhD degree in less than 4, no matter how intensely one worked/studied, given the requirements. A PsyD is usually shorter time-wise than a PhD given generally less strict and less onerous research demands.

        Some doctoral degrees have a masters degree en route to the doctorate but these are not so-called “terminal” master’s, meaning that it is not a stand-alone degree which allows any real professional status but rather a step on the process of learning to carry out original research. I do not believe at this point that there is any state in the US which allows psychologists to have less than a doctorate if they are to be licensed. Many doctoral level psychology faculty at a university are un-licensed, meaning that they cannot offer clinical services to individuals.

        Hope this clarifies a bit, but again, there is little consistency between countries as to what constitutes a ‘psychologist’, and here in the US it is state – not federal – regs that control the field of clinical psychology. I wish it were more standardized here but we Americans have tended to eschew federal control.

        There is an awful lot of confusion here as to what a psychologist is, even among healthcare personnel.

        Regards, Don

  • 11. Xavi  |  January 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I’v had my interest in observing thing & behaviors so this makes me intrested in making a decision..thnx buddy

    • 12. Sam Eddy  |  January 31, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Hi, that’s great news! I’m glad the post has helped ease your decision making process.

  • 13. Wales  |  February 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm


    • 14. Sam Eddy  |  March 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      I’ve never heard of personeel psychology – I assume you mean personel? In turn, I can only assume you mean some form of occupational/business psychology/human resources type area. There is demand for all areas of psychology, but a hugely non-proportionate amount of applicants. To succeed, you’ll need a lot of experience in the area and a great attitude.

  • 15. Gideon Azi  |  March 12, 2012 at 9:51 am

    currently i’m a “psychiatric nurse”,how can i become a psychiatist or any of the above named jobs?

    • 16. Sam Eddy  |  March 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      I’m unsure as to the exact route you’d need to take (especially as I don’t know where you’re from – USA, UK etc.?)
      I suspect you’d still need to take full formal training to become a psychiatrist, regardless of the fact you’re a nurse. This, as stated above, can take many years, but can certainly pay off if you really want that career.


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