After years of specialized education, psychologists may begin careers in a variety of work environments and with equally variable salaries. The starting salary of a psychologist in any discipline is significantly higher than the average U.S. salary, though markedly lower than the average salary earned with experience. Even within the field of psychology, the average salary differs widely from one field to another.
Starting salaries for assistant professors of psychology averaged $59,155 annually, according to an American Psychological Association survey of 2009 doctorate recipients. Depending on the department, the average salary ranged from $51,103 to $59,447. As an instructor or lecturer, psychologists began at an average salary of $42,212 annually; the initial average salary for educational administrators was $72,767.
Psychologists employed in research settings earned slightly higher average salaries than those in academia. The APA reported that the mean initial annual salary for psychologists working at a research center at a university or institute was $67,364 for 2009 Ph.D. recipients. The lowest average salary was for researchers in the psychiatry departments at medical schools, where they earned a mean wage of $50,275. Overall, psychologists engaged in research averaged $60,767 annually.
Direct Human Services:
An APA survey of psychologists earning their doctorates in 2009 found that the average starting salaries for those offering direct human services depended largely on the type of employer. Clinical psychologists had initial salaries ranging from $48,846 at community mental-health clinics or centers to $73,563 in the criminal-justice center. If entering a group practice, the mean salary was $50,667.
Psychologists employed at university counseling centers began at an average of $56,430 annually; those working at Veterans Administration medical centers averaged $70,542; and those engaged at state or local psychiatric hospitals earned an average of $66,500 per year. Clinical child psychologists began at an average of $56,643, slightly more than the $56,533 earned by counseling psychologists. School psychologists averaged $63,391 annually, and administrators of human services earned an annual mean wage of $67,804.
Applied psychology applies the principles of psychology to daily situations encountered in life. Rather than treating patients, applied psychologists use their knowledge to help understand the motivations and behaviors of societies, groups or individuals. Overall, the applied-psychology discipline offered an average starting salary of $75,304 annually to 2009 doctorate recipients, according to the APA survey. At consulting firms, the salary averaged $78,727.
The majority of starting psychologists reported that a psychology doctorate was essential in acquiring their first position. Twenty-four percent reported it was helpful. The APA reports that, in 20 years of conducting surveys with recent graduates, the pattern of the psychology doctorate being necessary or useful in obtaining a starting position has remained consistent. A master's degree is the typical education obtained by industrial-organizational psychologists, though master's graduates may also find employment as psychological assistants in other fields. Few graduates with a bachelor's degree in psychology are able to find employment within the field.