Developmental psychologist salary & career outlook

Developmental psychologists work to better understand the influence of social, cognitive and physiological factors on the personal development that takes place throughout the course of an individual's life. Although most developmental psychologists focus on infants, children or adolescents in their research, some may specialize in adult development or issues specific to aging and the elderly.

The duties of a developmental psychologist include the design and implementation of scientific studies. These studies may be clinical, observational or survey-based, and they typically aim to expose behavior patterns that can provide insight into the workings of a developing mind. The findings from these studies are typically written up in formal reports for publication or used as a basis for further research.

Education for developmental psychologists

Developmental psychologists, like other psychological professionals, must earn at least a master's degree before they will be considered as serious candidates for work in the field. Positions of a clinical, counseling or research capacity typically require a Ph.D. or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.

Independently practicing psychological professionals in all states and the District of Columbia must earn licenses before they can practice legally. Regulations and educational or vocational requirements for licensure of developmental psychologists vary by state. Online psychology degree programs can help potential developmental psychologists work toward the advanced education necessary for a successful career in this industry.

Developmental psychologist salary info

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that members the occupational category including developmental psychologists earned a national mean annual salary of $88,400 as of May 2013. For the same period, the bottom 10 percent of earners in the category made $42,550 or less, and the top 10 percent took home $117,090 or more.

The working environment of a developmental psychologist can have an effect on salary expectations. Here are the highest-paying environments for psychological professionals in 2013, according to the BLS:

  • Alternative and other health practitioners' offices: $104,450 average annual salary
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting services: $102,500 average annual salary
  • Scientific research and development services: $98,990 average annual salary
  • Outpatient care centers: $97,020 average annual salary
  • Offices of physicians: $92,740 average annual salary

New Hampshire, Minnesota and Maryland were the top-paying states for developmental psychologists in 2013, but they also ranked as some of the more expensive states for everyday living in a 2014 study released by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Here are a few states with comparatively affordable costs of living where developmental psychologists reported comfortable mean annual salaries to the BLS:

  • Kansas: $98,830; ranked sixth in affordability
  • Iowa: $100,300; ranked ninth in affordability
  • New Mexico: $95,130; ranked 15th in affordability
  • Georgia: $85,370; ranked 11th in affordability
  • Texas: $86,150; ranked 12th in affordability

The Indianapolis-Carmel metropolitan area in Indiana also stands out as a hot destination for developmental psychologists, who reported a mean annual salary of $92,860 in the fifth-most affordable state in the nation.

Job outlook for developmental psychologists

Job opportunities for developmental psychologists in the U.S. are expected to grow about as fast as the national average, according to the BLS, with 11 percent employment growth projected between 2012 and 2022. An increasing understanding of the role development plays in mental and behavioral health is cited as a driver of growth in the field.

States that employ more developmental psychologists should see the expected percentage growth translate to greater overall raw job gains than others over the next several years. Florida topped the BLS list in 2013, employing about 50 percent more developmental psychologists than second-ranked California. Other states with relatively high rates of developmental psychology employment include Maryland, New York and Texas.


  1. Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development, http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm
  2. Occupational Employment and Wages: Psychologists, All Other, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193039.htm
  3. Psychologists, All Other, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,