Psychology Degrees Pay Less Than Others: Don’t Do it for the Money

There are many features to consider when choosing a field. Just to name a few: job security, hours, quality of life, and pay. A recent report from Perspectives on Psychological Science reviewed one of these factors for individuals who received psychology degrees across the educational ladder. Their conclusion: those who receive psychology degrees make less money, on average, than their counterparts from other fields. Those who major in psychology for their bachelor’s degree have a median starting salary of $35,300, which is well below the average of $42,719. This gap persists into midcareer levels. Think getting a master’s degree will help narrow the gap? Not so much. The authors state: “education beyond the baccalaureate will probably result in a higher salary, but fields with relatively modestly paid baccalaureates, such as psychology, are also the fields with relatively modestly paid master’s degree holders.”
The last example the authors provide is for doctoral level degrees in psychology, particularly for those in academic careers (e.g., professors, instructors). All the way across the ladder, from instructors to full professors tenured at their university, these individuals receive less in pay than their academic counterparts.

There are several potential explanations, including the low prestige associated with less hard science disciplines, the feminization of psychology, and our society’s (lowered) priorities for children and mental health. So, for those who want to choose a career in which money is the most important factor, perhaps psychology is not the best choice. However, for many, including me, being a psychologist is a calling. I hope that some day priorities will change and that social workers, child care providers, psychologists, and psychology researchers receive as much in pay as investment bankers and corporate lawyers. In the meantime, I encourage those of us who chose this field to remember all of the other perks.

Related: 20 Worst-Paying College Degrees in 2010