Experimental psychologist salary & career outlook
Experimental or research psychologists are concerned with general theories of psychology, collecting data and exploring behavioral studies in order to answer complex questions about how people think and behave. One of the benefits of this career is the potential to contribute research across the various subfields of psychology, as opposed to being limited to a particular area of study. For instance, their work may explore ways to make workplaces safer or more productive, how to improve schools or student learning, how to improve software or computer user interfaces to maximum the usage experience, or how best to treat those with substance-abuse problems. Usually, experimental psychologists are driven to answer their own questions, and research areas often align with the practitioners' areas of interest, be it public health, technology, education or something else.
Their work is focused on research rather than on treating patients clinically. They often work in government or university labs, private research centers, and nonprofit or business organizations. And while their work typically involves studying people, research psychologists might also collect data from experiments with animals, such as rats, monkeys and pigeons. They also may teach courses and write articles about their work, especially if they are employed by universities. To be a research psychologist, you must be able to perform difficult, detail-oriented work, and be able to work both independently and in a group.
Experimental psychologist salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't break down the salary for this type of psychologist specifically, but psychologists who are not clinical or organizational psychologists are considered as part of the "psychologists, all other" category, which earned an average annual wage of $88,400 in May 2013, according the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The industry with the highest concentration of jobs for psychologists in this category is the executive branch of the federal government, which paid an annual mean wage of $88,080 in 2013. This category employed nearly five times as many as the second-largest-concentrated industry, offices of health practitioners.
States employing the most psychologists (including research psychologists) are Florida, California and Texas. Meanwhile, the states that pay the most for psychologists in the "all other" category, with 2013 annual mean wage data from the BLS, are:
- New Hampshire: $132,590
- Minnesota: $123,600
- Maryland: $104,770
High-paying cities for psychologists, with BLS wage data and ACCRA cost-of-living rankings per state provided by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, include:
- Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, Florida: $122,220 average annual wage, state ranks No. 29 for cost of living
- Sacramento-Arden Arcade-Roseville, CA: $110,350 average annual wage, state ranks No. 47
- Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD: $106,150 average annual wage, state ranks No. 42
Psychologist job outlook
The BLS does not project the job outlook for research or experimental psychologists, specifically. However, for the major category of psychology, it projects job growth of 12 percent during the 2012-22 period; this aligns with the average growth rate expected for all jobs during this decade. Industrial-organizational psychologists should see more rapid growth of 53 percent, which is good news for those interested in pursuing research in the field of industrial psychology, which explores the environments in which people work and the dynamics in the workplace.
Those with additional training in research methods, through a doctoral degree and post-doctoral experience, may have an advantage in the job market, according to the BLS.
Psychology education and training
The profession of psychology requires rigorous education and training. A doctoral degree is commonly required to work as an experimental psychologist, which can either be a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy in psychology) or Psy.D. (doctor of psychology). Math skills and specialized training in conducting research and collecting data are essential. Additionally, licensure or certification is required for practicing psychologists, and may be required, depending on your employer or location, to conduct experiments or research.
If you are interested in online education, you could receive training in experimental psychology from online Ph.D. programs in psychology at accredited universities or, of course, through traditional, campus-based programs. Explore the list of programs provided here to determine if one of them is a good fit for you.
"Understanding Experimental Psychology," American Psychological Association (APA), http://www.apa.org/action/science/experimental/index.aspx
Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center,
Psychologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Psychologists, All Other, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,