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The Highest Paying Career for a Clinical Psychology Degree

by Beth Greenwood

Clinical psychologists are mental health professionals who diagnose and treat mental illness and behavioral disorders. Most have a doctorate of psychology degree and must be licensed to provide services. Although clinical psychologists use different treatments including psychotherapy, only Louisiana and New Mexico allow them to prescribe medications. Clinical psychologists are typically well-paid, but earn more in some work settings, roles or locations.

Basic Salaries

The American Psychological Association last completed a salary survey of its members in 2009 and reports that at the time, clinical psychologists earned a median salary of $87,015. Clinical psychologists earned an average annual salary of $72,220 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS groups clinical psychologists with counseling and school psychologists, so the reported salary includes data from all three specialties. Indeed.com reports the average salary of clinical psychologists was $69,000 as of December 2013. The BLS projects a 22 percent growth rate for clinical psychologists through 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.

Job Setting and Industry

Job setting and industry affected salaries for clinical psychologists in 2012, according to the BLS. Clinical psychologists in several settings earned more than the average for the group. Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, for example, paid $74,960, and state government paid $76,390. Although only 30 psychologists reported working in the area of continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly, they earned an average annual salary of $92,550. Non-clinical work settings and industries provided the highest wages in 2012. Clinical psychologists in scientific research and development services earned $83,960, those in employment services made $94,290 and those who worked in business schools and computer and management training -- another small group of 30 individuals -- took home $100,310.

City Vs. Country

Geographic location -- rather than clinical specialty or position -- has a significant impact on clinical psychologists’ salaries, according to the BLS. Although rural areas in general have lower pay, clinical psychologists in the highest-paying rural area of far western Pennsylvania earned an average annual salary of $89,640. That figure was considerably less than the $97,860 clinical psychologists earned in the lowest of the top-paying metropolitan areas, Visalia-Porterville, California. In the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, however, clinical psychologists earned $117,050. Rhode Island was the top-paying state at $92,580.

Serving Veterans

The Veterans Administration provides a variety of opportunities for clinical psychologists to earn salaries well above the national average, according to the USAJobs website. Clinical psychologists who worked in the field of substance abuse could earn a salary ranging from $106,369 to $108,521 in 2013. A clinical psychologist who took a position in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder could earn up to $113,496. Management roles often pay more, as indicated by a position for a clinical psychologist who would act as the associate chief of staff, with a high salary of $147,857 in 2012.

Specialization Makes a Difference

Clinical psychologists who choose to specialize may earn more or less than the average salary of general clinical psychologists, according to employment website Indeed.com. The four primary specialties in this area of psychology are child psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology and gerontology. Child psychologists earned an average of $63,000 annually in 2014, while health psychologists made $70,000. Neuropsychologists earned considerably more at $89,000 annually. Gero-psychology, which focuses on the elderly, was the best-paying specialty, with an average salary of $90,000.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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