Salary/Degree Guides

The 10 Highest Paying Careers in Psychology

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Updated: March 4, 2024, Reading time: 17 minutes

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Surveying the best career paths in psychology, or any field for that matter, presents a daunting challenge. In this article, we endeavor to lighten that load by cataloging the most lucrative career destinations in psychology and how to get there. 

The field of psychology offers a near-overwhelming number of career paths to consider. Because most of these career paths require an academic specialization, students will need the forethought to choose their desired career path while still in school–a big problem for some students. 

This often leads indecisive students to choose the path of least resistance in college or even graduate school, that is, enrolling in a program with the most available career options after graduation. But too often, these students find that these career options are missing a crucial component of something they desire in their professional lives–whether it’s related to money or personal fulfillment. 

In this article, we provide an in-depth review of the highest-paying careers in psychology and the academic prerequisites that enable them. And we list the relevant factors that will impact the decision-making process in pursuing such careers. By the end, you will be well-equipped to evaluate which career in psychology is right for you.

Because, let’s face it, earning a great paycheck makes up a crucial element of professional fulfillment. 

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Psychology Careers and Graduate School

Before we dive into our ranking of the most lucrative psychology careers, let’s look at the state and structure of psychology education. You will notice that the careers we cover in this ranking largely require advanced education and experience. 

The experience required for top jobs works as a function of education. The more education and experience a student earns within the specialization of their career, the less working experience they will need to demonstrate after graduation. 

Conversely, one might find success by entering the workforce after college, but years of successful employment will need to demonstrate their abilities first. Moreover, some psychology professions simply exclude professionals without a graduate or doctorate degree by means of licensure requirements and industry standards. 

So, speculative professionals will need to weigh out the cost-benefit analysis of these various paths.

Regardless of personal skill and talent, chances are that you will need to pursue at least a graduate education to gain access to the best job opportunities that the field of psychology has to offer. 

In short, the psychology job market offers few, if any, fast tracks, and unlike other careers, there will be no substitute for advanced, specialized education–much like the path to becoming a medical doctor.

Quick audio summary:


To compile this ranking, we scoured the internet for employment and salary data relating to psychology professions. Most of the most actionable data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and job recruitment databases. 

We looked to organize these careers based on reasonable attainability. So, we excluded professional outcomes that represent less than 5% of job opportunities in a given sector. Additionally, we included only a limited number of careers requiring a Ph.D. so that the majority of the listed careers will function as aspirational goals for current or prospective graduate students. 

Thankfully though many of the best psychology jobs only require a graduate education with optional doctorate-level advancement. 

To paint the picture of these job markets further, we include a breakdown of regional and geographical factors that impact income.

Cost of living and variables of the local economy often create the gap between underpaid and overpaid–and of course, we don’t need to explain which end of that spectrum is best. 

Additionally, we included the highest average salaries earned in the most lucrative industries for each job. We did this to give students an idea of what they can achieve in the most rewarding sectors of their field.

Here’s an overview of the factors used to create this ranking:

The Most Lucrative Careers in Psychology

With the introductions made, let’s dive in and find out which psychology careers offer the best paychecks. If you have lingering questions about the process of achieving employment in these fields, check out the FAQ section at the end of the ranking. 

There, we cover questions relating to education, career preparation, and specialization in more depth. 

And one last note on the data presented below: We cover some specialized career paths with less publicly available data. In these cases, we based salary data on the general sector’s averages. This means you should expect a larger margin of variability in actual salaries for said career. We will mark these with an asterisk (*). 

1.) Child Psychiatrist*

Child Psychiatrists, or pediatric psychiatrists, employ current best practices to treat and prevent mental health issues in children and adolescents in the capacity of a medical doctor.

These professionals work with clients up through the age of 18, though many will choose to specialize in a particular age group. 

Psychiatrists are very well compensated to begin with, but child psychiatry represents the highest-paying specialization by far. This is due to the sensitive nature of their work with children who act as impressionable and sensitive patients. 

This creates an atmosphere of extreme responsibility in this profession. Thus pediatric psychiatrists must undergo the utmost in training, education, and licensure. The work and dedication required to succeed in this career will test even the most talented professionals and thus justify the enormous compensation on offer.

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

2.) Human Resources Director

Human resources directors work at the intersection of psychology and business. These professionals employ a mastery of both industrial-organizational psychology and business acumen to assist large companies in their daily operations. 

Specifically, these directors typically oversee an organization’s human resources department and work to ensure that human capital is correctly cared for, managed, and enabled. These professionals carry out this objective by planning and organizing administrative functions. 

Aside from overseeing the hiring and firing of personnel, these professionals work towards meeting goals of operational efficiency. In other words, these directors stand responsible for the functionality of an organization’s workforce. If this sounds like a daunting responsibility to you, you’d be right. 

But it’s also why this career offers such competitive compensation packages. If you’d like to pursue this career, we recommend earning dual degrees in psychology and business, such as a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master’s of Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

3.) Executive Coach

Executive coaches work at the top end of organizations to coach, train, and counsel their leaders and managers. These professionals find staggeringly lucrative compensation when working with science and tech-facing organizations, with the top 10% of coaches earning over $200,000 annually. 

So what’s the catch? Well, this career represents one of the most skill and performance-based careers on this ranking. That is, you will have to maintain expert knowledge of the industry in which you work and employ a mastery of business dynamics because these professionals are expected to improve the performance of executives–who already work in the upper echelon of their field. 

These coaches develop training objectives and development regimens to help ambitious professionals reach the next level of performance and optimization. 

To put it simply, this career path represents the pinnacle of life and business coaching and will be extremely competitive. So, if you choose this line of work, your best bet is to demonstrate success by coaching business professionals until you can land employment with a large company. 

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

4.) Change Management Director*

Change management directors work at the forefront of innovation within an organization. These professionals work closely with an organization’s leadership and personnel to initiate and oversee programs or strategic alterations that might impact the organization in a larger context. 

Change management directors are not necessarily psychologists by trade, but to effectively chart the impact of change across an entire organization, they certainly must understand it on a deep level. That’s why many change management professionals begin with an education in psychology. 

If you’re interested in this career of professionally calculating cause and effect, we would suggest earning dual degrees in business and psychology, such as a Bachelor of Science in Business Analytics and a Master of Industrial-Organizational Psychology.  

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

5.) Industrial-Organizational psychologist

Professionals working in this field apply the fundamentals of psychological science to the inner workings of companies and organizations to hit prescribed operational objectives. Your specific role in this field will depend on the particular specialty or type of position you seek out. 

But as mentioned above, the best salaries come to those working in research and development or R&D. This work involves testing experimental methods to glean valuable intel for clients and consulting agencies.

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

6.) Business Processes Consultant

This subsector of the field of management analysis offers a chance for psychology specialists to employ their unique skill sets to improve various aspects of operational performance. This niche perfectly matches a background in industrial-organizational education

The role of this profession is to conduct research and analysis of operational practices and to audit a client organization in this context. This profession offers much greater flexibility and independence than jobs in human resources management. 

As such, it offers a great option for professionals who want to specialize in analyzing and assisting in a particular aspect of functionality in many organizations rather than taking responsibility for all aspects of functionality in a single organization.

Students interested in this career path will want to develop a background in IO Psychology along with business analytics. What you don’t cover in education, you should look to make up for with internships and early employment. 

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

7.) Engineering Psychologist*

Engineering or human factors psychologists work in a burgeoning field where the interests of psychology, business, and engineering intersect. These professionals evaluate health concerns relating to a workplace or product and then implement strategies and programs to mitigate said risk.

In this career, you will investigate the ever-evolving relationship between humans, machines, and technology and the resulting impact on health and safety. As more technology becomes psychological in nature–such as social media–the demand for these professionals continues to grow. 

While the average salary of this professional stands high, professionals working in private consulting will see average salaries in the six figures (around $120,000). Those looking to earn employment in such a position will need a competitive edge. 

To build such an edge, we recommend earning degrees in technology and psychology, such as a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology followed by a Master’s in Human Factors Psychology. Human Factors graduate programs remain rare, so consider earning a Master’s in Research Psychology and tailoring your studies towards human factors.

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

8.) Clinical Research Coordinator*

Clinical Research Coordinators oversee and manage research operations and experimental projects. In the modern day, large companies realize that data often offers more value than gold. With this in mind, there’s more psychological research in action–both publicly and privately funded–to unearth the inner workings of human behavior.

Thus, there’s a tremendous opportunity for accomplished researchers who are ready to oversee large projects. To enter this job market, you will want to earn a Master’s in Research Psychology and look to manage and complete as many quality research projects as possible. 

Additionally, look to join an internship program involved in clinical research. While many positions of research coordination will require a Ph.D., this rapidly expanding market paves the way for other levels of experience to manage smaller projects as well. 

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

9.) Genetics Counselor

While not exclusively a profession of psychology, the expanding field of genetics counseling looks to include more psychology-facing professionals prepared to handle genetic psychological issues. As one of the fastest-growing job markets in the country, this profession represents an exciting opportunity for those interested in genetics mapping technology. 

To enter this job market, you will want to earn a Master’s of Genetic Counseling or Genetics with a specialization in psychology. Alternatively, you can work towards a specialization in psychological elements by earning a Bachelor’s of Psychology before your graduate degree. 

Additionally, professionals will find that building such specialization works to increase earning potential. The BLS reports that the top 10% of genetics counselors make a whopping $128,380 or more.   

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

10.) Psychology Teacher

Working as a psychology teacher represents an excellent opportunity for students who enjoy learning and teaching. One issue though is the somewhat stagnant growth of this job market. This means that the job market will be extremely competitive, which means professionals might not find the job they want–when or where they want.

Be that as it may, this job offers solid salary potential for qualified professionals; however, you will need to earn at least a Master’s for better job opportunities. And to qualify for positions at colleges and universities, you will likely want to consider earning a Ph.D. 

To launch a successful career as an educator in the field of psychology, you will want to earn at least a Master’s of Psychology with a specialization in education. Conversely, you might want to consider earning a Master’s of Education with a specialization in education. 

Highest Paying States 

States with the Most Jobs

How do I launch a successful career in Psychology?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I launch a successful career in Psychology?

As you likely noticed in the ranking above, the most lucrative careers in psychology all have one thing in common: they require specialization in a unique professional skill set. The earlier you start building such specialization, the better. And it’s never too soon.

Let’s take a look at some strategies that will help to set you up for success after graduation:

How do I find an internship for my desired specialization in Psychology?

The beautiful thing about internships is that they are designed–by definition–to accept inexperienced students and burgeoning professionals. This means that they can start building their competitive edge in a specialization in a field that otherwise requires advanced education. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to build professional experience in a specialized internship as early as possible. Not only will it help you earn acceptance into top education programs, but it will also set you up for success once you enter the job market. 

Many employers will count an internship towards in-industry work experience. This means that if you manage to complete an internship while earning a degree, you will enter the job market more experienced than your peers in the eyes of potential employers

Should I pursue research projects in line with my professional aspirations in Psychology?

Much like an internship, research projects present an opportunity to establish expertise in a niche of your field. Ideally, you would identify and pursue an area of research that represents a subject of interest to future employers. 

For instance, research psychology students who endeavor to complete research on the topic of social media and mental health would be perfectly primed to work on human factors jobs with similar interests. 

How do I determine my competition in my state’s job market in the field of Psychology?

In the ranking above, we took special care to provide a glimpse of each job’s market by geographical location. Choosing the right area for a job is often as important as choosing the right job. 

Some state’s job markets are severely congested and will present considerable competition for the newly graduated. In these states, employers have all the power, so even if you land employment, you might not earn the salary you deserve. 

To get a good idea of the competition in a state’s job market, compare the number of jobs to the average salary. States with a large number of jobs and high average salaries will represent a thriving job market. A large number of jobs and lower-than-average pay represent a highly competitive and congested job market. 

Additionally, be sure to take the cost of living into consideration. Some of the “best” salaries will be artificially inflated by the state’s cost of living. For instance, California represents one of the largest employers of psychologists. 

And yet many of its cities yield the country’s highest costs of living. These costs can be mitigated by savvy budgeting and planning, but if you want the biggest bang for your buck, consider finding a state with a low cost of living paired with above-average salaries. 

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