According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all psychologists work as independent practitioners. They provide a wide range of services, diagnosing and treating people of all ages with mental disorders, behavior problems and other individual or group issues. In general, clinical psychologists enter the field with a doctoral degree in psychology, as well as some postdoctoral training, such as internships or residencies. In private practice, salaries can reach six figures with experience.
In 2012, clinical psychologists in general brought home an average of $72,220 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working in private practice earned closer to $80,760. A 2009 survey by the American Psychological Association provides a similar figure, finding that licensed clinical psychologists earned roughly $87,015 when in private practice.
Earnings by Experience
As with almost any career, earnings vary by experience. According to the APA survey, clinical psychologists in private practice averaged $54,000 a year with five or less years of experience. This was nearly 44 percent less than those with the same level of experience in a group practice setting, where the average was $77,722 a year. With six to nine years of experience, clinical psychologists in private practice earned $88,974, while those with 10 to 14 years of experience averaged $99,789 a year. Some of the highest salaries were for psychologists with 30 or more years of experience, with an average of $118,779 annually.
Though information is limited on how location affects salaries of psychologists in private practice, the BLS does break down earnings for this occupation as a whole. Some of the highest wages were found in Rhode Island, where the average was $92,580, as of 2012. Those working in Alabama also fared better than most, earning an average of $80,430 a year. In Oregon, clinical psychologists earned $69,840, while those in Wisconsin averaged $68,680. The same can’t be said for clinical psychologists in Oklahoma, where the average was $51,730 annually.
The relatively high salaries are at least partly due to licensing requirements, as psychologists must be licensed to work in private practice. While prerequisites vary by state, licensure requires applicants to hold a doctorate in psychology, complete an internship and have one to two years of experience in the field. They must also sit for and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
The BLS expects employment opportunities for clinical psychologists to be good, with an average job growth of 22 percent from 2010 to 2020. This was much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, a projected growth of 14 percent. Expect the best prospects for those specializing in a field or subfield of psychology, such as child, family, marriage or health. In fact, working in a niche in psychology can improve earnings for those in private practice, according to the APA.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Psychologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists
- American Psychological Association: Report of the APA Salary Survey
- American Psychological Association: Direct Human Services Positions – Clinical Psychology
- American Psychological Association: Are You Really Ready for Private Practice?
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