5 of the Lowest Paying Psychology Careers

I often hear students (especially those completely inexperienced in psychology) state that they want to become a psychologist so that they can "get paid lots of money to listen to people talk." While there are certainly plenty of professionals out there who do earn a respectable living engaging in traditional "talk therapy," the reality is that most people who earn an undergraduate degree in psychology don't even end up working in their chosen field. Those who do continue on to graduate school work in a variety of areas, all with different ranges of pay. Some pay very well; others do not.

We've talked before about some of the highest paying psychology jobs, but what about some of the lowest paying? Obviously, no one sets out looking for a profession that offers poor compensation.

The following jobs may not come with high salaries, but they often serve as great entry-level careers for people just getting started in psychology.

You may have taken the Psychology Careers Quiz and are wondering what's out there for you! In other cases, people who choose these jobs do so because they love their work. After all, money isn't everything!

Probation Officer

probation officer
Boyce Duprey

Median Annual Salary: $53,020

Training Requirements: Generally requires a bachelor's degree in criminology, psychology, social work, or a related area. Applicants are required to undergo a background check, and many states require additional training.

Interest in the field of criminal justice is high right now, and probation officers gigs are listed as one of the hot jobs in criminology. Probation officers perform a range of duties and supervise individuals who have been convicted of crimes. They often help make recommendations to the courts, coordinate with other professionals, and track client behaviors at home, work, and other settings.

Substance Abuse Counselor

substance abuse counseling

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Training Requirements: Varies. Usually, a minimum of a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field, although some states require a master's degree. May also require certification in chemical dependency or a related area.

Substance abuse counselors often work one-on-one with clients who have an alcohol or drug addiction. They may also provide family or group counseling. These professionals often work in chemical dependency programs run by hospitals, private clinics, and other agencies. In many cases, they deal directly with people who are currently experiencing a crisis or who have come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Substance abuse counselors may also collaborate with other professionals, including licensed psychologists, social workers, physicians, family members, and others in order to help their clients.

Psychiatric Technician

Psychiatric Technician
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

Median Annual Salary: $30,860

Training Requirements: Varies. Some job descriptions require applicants to have a minimum of a high school diploma. Others require a minimum of 32-credit hours in the social sciences or a bachelor's degree in psychology, social work, or a related field.

Psychiatric technicians work with patients who are experiencing psychological disturbances. They often work in clinical settings under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional. They typically help patients with basic tasks and may help teach clients new skills that can be used at home or in a workplace setting.

Social Service Assistant

Social Services Worker
Simon Punter / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Median Annual Salary: $33,750

Training Requirements: Varies. Most require a minimum of a high school diploma, while others may specify some completion of college coursework or a bachelor's in a social science area.

Social service assistants work with people who need additional help and support. This might include individuals with developmental delays, the elderly, children, and families. They coordinate with other professionals, including social workers, psychologists, and employers, to ensure that clients have access to the resources that they need in the community.

Daily tasks might include monitoring clients, helping with daily care, determining eligibility for social services, seeking out additional services in the community, and collaborating with other professionals to develop treatment plans.

Child Care Worker

Child Care Worker
Maskot/Getty Images

Median Annual Salary: $23,240

Training Requirements: Varies. Some positions require a high school diploma while others require certification in early childhood education.

Child care workers attend to children in daycare and preschool settings. Duties may include supervising children, preparing meals, directing activities, changing diapers, and establishing consistent daily schedules. For those who work in preschool or educational settings, other duties can include helping children prepare for kindergarten by working on social skills and leading learning activities.

Final Thoughts

Remember, salaries can vary dramatically based upon factors such as where you live, how much experience you have, and the setting where you are employed. While median annual salaries might look low on a national level, you might find that employment for a specific field is strong in your area. This is why you need to learn more about careers, but also be sure to check out the actual job market where you plan to work.

While salary is an important consideration when choosing a career, it shouldn't necessarily be the deciding factor. Job satisfaction, security, availability, and lifestyle factors all play a vital role in the profession that people ultimately choose.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stamm K, Lin L, Christidis P. Datapoint: What do people do with their psychology degrees? Monitor on Psychology. 2016;47(6):12.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Psychiatric technicians and aides. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Social and human service assistants. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Childcare workersOccupational Outlook Handbook.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.