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Clinical psychologist salary & career outlook

clinical psychologist

If you've always been good at helping friends and family solve personal problems, then you might consider becoming a clinical psychologist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists "assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders," which consists of helping people deal with short-term and long-term problems by interviewing them, giving diagnostic tests and conducting research. While some positions only require a master's degree in psychology, you typically need a doctoral or specialized degree in psychology to become a clinical psychologist, the BLS reports. You also often need licensure or certification, the specific requirements of which vary by state, and preferably the following qualities:

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Observational skills
  • Patience
  • People skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Trustworthiness.

If you're already sold on becoming a clinical psychologist, wait until you hear about the strong job outlook and salary.

Clinical psychologist salary

You can certainly make a sustainable living as a clinical psychologist. According to the BLS, as of May 2013, clinical, counseling and school psychologists in America earned a mean annual wage of $72,710, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $39,020 or less and the highest-paid 10 percent earning $112,380 or more.

As with many professions, salary tends to vary among industries for clinical psychologists. BLS data show that the top-paying industries in America for clinical psychologists, as of May 2013, were:

  • Scientific research and development services: $91,990 annual mean wage
  • Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals: $86,070 annual mean wage
  • Employment services: $81,890 annual mean wage

Location can also impact how much you earn as a clinical psychologist. According to the BLS, the top-paying states in America for clinical psychologists, as of May 2013, were:

  • Hawaii: $102,990 annual mean wage
  • Rhode Island: $93,170 annual mean wage
  • Alabama: $85,800 annual mean wage

As an added bonus, Alabama ranks particularly well when it comes to the cost of living relative to salary. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center ranked Alabama 8th in the U.S. on its cost of living index (though Rhode Island finished 42nd and Hawaii last).

And the top-paying metropolitan areas in America for clinical psychologists as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:

  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA: $114,560 annual mean wage
  • Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ: $110,640 annual mean wage
  • Madera-Chowchilla, CA: $105,150 annual mean wage

Job outlook for clinical psychologists

If you want to become a clinical psychologist, you're in luck: The field is growing. According to the BLS, employment of clinical psychologists (paired with counseling and school psychologists in the data) is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is as fast as the average for all other occupations.

A couple of possible explanations for the projected growth of clinical psychologists are the aging population needing services as they deal with the "mental and physical changes that happen as they grow older," the BLS explains, and psychological services being needed for "veterans suffering from war trauma, for survivors of other trauma, and for individuals with autism."

Certain states are predicted to have especially strong growth. According to state labor data collected by Projections Central, the 10 American states with the highest projected growth of clinical psychologist jobs (paired with counseling and school psychologists in the data) between 2010 and 2020 are:

  • Utah: 33.6 percent growth
  • Indiana: 29.5 percent growth
  • Kentucky: 28.6 percent growth
  • Virginia: 27 percent growth
  • Kansas: 26.2 percent growth
  • Wyoming: 25.6 percent growth
  • Maryland: 24.5 percent growth
  • Minnesota: 24.2 percent growth
  • Alabama: 23.9 percent growth
  • Texas: 23.6 percent growth

You get to help people, you can potentially make a sustainable living, and the field is projected to grow rather significantly. Facts like that help make the many years of schooling (which could be upwards of 10 years total) required to become a clinical psychologist seem all the more worth it for many people. First step: a clinical psychology program. Next step: making people's lives (including your own) better. It's a pretty good setup.

Sources:

"Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014," Missouri Economic Research and Information Center,
http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

Long Term Occupational Projections for Psychologists, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm

Psychologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-1