Psychology Employment Trends

A few recent career reports have suggested that psychology majors earn among the lowest salaries after graduation. These stories can be discouraging if the ink is still drying on your newly early psychology diploma.

Despite these sometimes dire career predictions, several recent surveys have suggested that psychology is one of the most popular college majors. So why are so many students flocking to psychology if the job predictions are less than stellar? One important thing to remember when looking at career outlook reports is that psychology is a diverse field. As many as 75 percent of those who earn a bachelor's in psychology never continue on to graduate school. Only about 25 percent of those with a bachelor's degree end up working in a profession closely related to psychology.

So what exactly are all of these psychology majors doing after they graduate? If you've ever wondered which specialty area in psychology was the most popular or how much psychologists earn, then check out some of the following employment statistics.

What People Doing With Their Degrees

Psychology employment
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So if the majority of people graduating with a bachelor's in psychology are not working directly in their major field and are not going on to graduate school, what exactly are they doing?

Some of the top areas of employment for psychology majors include sales, advertising, management, marketing, human resources, and business administration.

Specialty Areas of Psychologists

Specialty Areas of Psychologists

Kendra Van Wagner

Clinical psychology is by far the single large specialty area for psychologists. According to the APA Research Office, 37% of working psychologists are clinicians. Counseling and developmental psychology are the next major areas of employment. Other specialty areas include social/personality psychology, school psychology, educational psychology, cognitive psychology, and experimental psychology.

Work Settings of Psychologists

Work Settings of Psychologists

Kendra Van Wagner

More than 40% of psychology work in the private, for-profit sector or are self-employed. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, more than 34 percent psychologists were self-employed in 2010, compared to the 1 in 10 in the general population.

Where are psychologists typically employed? There were an estimated 160,000 working psychologists in 2012. Approximately 31 percent of these professionals worked in educational service settings, and another 29 percent were employed in social assistance and healthcare.

Women and Minorities in Psychology

Women and Minorities in Psychology

Kendra Van Wagner

Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, the number of women majoring psychology has grown tremendously over the last 30 years. While women made up 46% of those earning a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1971, this number had grown to a whopping 77.5% by 2002.

While minority students made up less than 12% of undergraduates in 1976, that number had grown to nearly 25% by 2002. There has also been growth in the number of women and minorities earning doctorates in psychology. In 2001, 71% of doctoral graduates were women while 16% were minorities.

How Much Are Psychologists Making?

Stack of money

Current salaries for working psychologists can vary tremendously based on factors such as geographic location, specialty area, work setting, educational level, and years of experience. suggests that psychologists in the United States earn median salary of $69,274 per year as of 2015. Those with skills in areas such as neuropsychology, forensic psychology, and clinical research are suggested to command higher salaries than their peers.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook gives a similar figure of a $69,280 median salary per year. Those at the lower end earn less than $40,000 while those at the upper end earn more than $110,000.

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Article Sources

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Psychologists, on the Internet at

    Frinke, J.L., & Pate, W.E. (2004). Yesterday, today, and tomorrow careers in psychology, 2004: What students need to know. American Psychological Association.
  • References