The median annual salary for full-time psychologists holding doctorates or highest professional degrees in the United States was $85,000 in 2015, up from $80,000 in 2013, according to a recent report from the American Psychological Association.
Management positions had the highest median salary among all position types ($110,000), followed by research positions ($95,000) while teaching positions had the lowest median salary ($62,000), the report APA’s Center for Workforce Studies released last May finds.
The highest management salaries were found in the private sector, especially within the private for-profit sector ($150,000), excluding self-employment. Salary levels differed by the number of people under supervision. Higher management salaries ($141,000) were found for positions indirectly supervising through subordinate supervisors a staff of more than 20 people or directly supervising five to 20 people ($110,000).
Compared to median salaries in 2013, research positions rose 7.1 percent while professional service positions rose 4.1 percent. Teaching positions decreased 11.9 percent and management positions dropped 2 percent.
Psychologists trained in industrial/organizational psychology had the highest pay ($125,000, up from $108,000 in 2013) while those trained in educational psychology had the lowest ($75,000, down from $78,000 in 2013).
Psychologists teaching in private educational institutions earned a median salary of $70,000 compared to $60,000 in public institutions. Median salary for those teaching at four-year colleges ($63,000) was higher than in pre-school, elementary and secondary school settings ($55,500).
Psychologists in the Middle Atlantic Division earned the most ($108,000) and those in the East South Central Division were the lowest paid ($59,000).
The report breaks down median salaries for full-time psychologists by degree field, type of position, sector, geographic region and demographic characteristics.
Data analyzed came from the 2015 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.
Results were based on a weighted sample of 135,000 full-time psychologists, meaning they worked at least 35 hours per week.
The NCSG is conducted every two years so the APA Center for Workforce Studies salary report follows the same cycle.
Psychologists with doctoral degrees, such as a Ph.D., had higher median salaries at $85,000 in 2015, compared to those with professional degrees, such as a Psy.D., at $75,000.
The salary study reflects the changing job market and the need for doctoral training programs to make adjustments as psychotherapy becomes more and more the domain of master’s level clinicians earning lower salaries.
Starting with its 2019 curriculum, the Clinical Psy.D. degree program at William James College in Newton, Massachusetts, will require courses in management, leadership and program evaluation.
“Those are the things that are going to get you hired as a psychologist,” said Stacey Lambert, Psy.D., chairperson of the school’s clinical department and associate vice president for academic affairs.
The new curriculum was developed in response to feedback from employers, alumni and others about what’s needed in the psychology workforce, Lambert said.
“It used to be psychologists, they never taught this to us. We just learned psychotherapy and then when you get out, they’re like, ‘You’re the boss. You’re the manager,’ and we never learned any of those skills,” Lambert said.
“We have to prepare these students for a different reality, a different marketplace than what we had when we trained.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of psychologists will grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty.
Some progress is apparent in closing the gender pay gap in the APA report. Median salary differences were generally higher for male psychologists ($91,000) than female psychologists ($80,000). But the figure for men rose 1.1 percent from 2013 compared to 6.7 percent for women. Approximately 57 percent of APA members are female and 42 percent are male with the remaining 1 percent unspecified.
APA Research Associate Luona Lin, the salary report’s lead author, was cautious in commenting on any trends in the gender pay gap issue.
“Unfortunately, the current reports cannot provide adequate answers,” Lin said in an email. “Examining gender gap in salaries requires a number of other important control variables such as age, race/ethnicity, position type, hours worked, years of experience, etc. This kind of analysis is certainly on our horizon, but is not directly addressed within this report.”
Among other demographic characteristics, median salaries were highest for psychologists ages 60-64 ($105,000) and for white ($88,000) compared to African-American ($80,800), compared to other racial/ethnic minority psychologists ($71,000). Psychologists with disabilities ($98,500) were higher than those without ($84,000).
The survey went through a methodological change in 2010, so data before that year may not be comparable after. For this reason, Lin said earlier data to examine trends was not included in the latest report.
The report notes that the strength of NSCG data is the large and nationally representative sample drawn from the American Community Survey which offers a detailed breakdown of degree type and major field. “The NSCG is one of the most useful data sources for understanding the nation’s psychology workforce,” the report concludes.
By Janine Weisman