Experimental psychologist salary & career outlook

experimental psychology

by Lorna Collier | May 23, 2011



Experimental or research psychologists study behavior rather than treat patients clinically. They often work in government or university labs, private research centers, and nonprofit or business organizations.

In addition to 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.

Some of the common fields for psychological research include neurological and genetic factors affecting behavior, such as attention span, learning and memory, and substance abuse. 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 made an average of $86,510 in 2010. The industry with the highest concentration of jobs for non-clinical psychologists is the federal executive branch, which paid an average salary of $87,160 in 2010.

While Salary.com does not track pay for research or experimental psychologists, the site does report that a clinical research director in the U.S. earns an average salary of $133,717, with 90 percent earning more than $233,049 and 10 percent earning less than $70,859.

Glassdoor.com lists several wage ranges for research psychologists, including:

  1. A university position paying between $63,000 and $68,000
  2. Two U.S. Army research psychologist positions paying an average of $76,414
  3. The U.S. Air Force looking to hire a senior research psychologist at a wage range of $144,000 to $157,000

States employing the most psychologists (including research psychologists) include California, Florida and New York. Meanwhile, states that pay the most, with 2010 annual mean wage data from the BLS, are:

  1. Arizona ($102,310)
  2. New Hampshire ($97,710)
  3. Maryland ($97,560)

High-paying cities for psychologists, with BLS wage data and ACCRA cost-of-living rankings provided by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, include:

  1. Jacksonville, Florida ($127,580), 25
  2. Chicago, Illinois (99,930), 20
  3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona ($105,950), 36

Psychologist job outlook

The BLS does not project the job outlook for research or experimental psychologists, specificically. However, the bureau finds the job growth for psychologists, in general, from 2008 through 2018 is expected to be 12 percent--about the same as the average growth rate expected for all jobs. Those with additional training in research methods may have an advantage in the job market.

Psychology education and training

The profession of psychology requires rigorous education and training. A doctoral degree is commonly required to work as an experimental (or just about any sort of) psychologist, which can either be a PhD or PsyD. If you are interested in online education, you can receive training in experimental psychology from online PhD programs in psychology at accredited universities. There are also, of course, traditional, campus-based programs from which to choose.

For related information from Schools.com, see:

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About the Author

Lorna Collier writes about education, health and careers.