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Four Top-Paying Specializations in Psychology

PhD in Psychology can open doors to a number of worthwhile and lucrative careers. This article examines four psychology specializations with significant earning potential in the United States.*

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

The ideal candidate for the Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology specialization is someone who can help companies improve their employees’ overall performance and well-being. I/O psychologists will be tasked with overseeing employee selection, performance management, work attitudes, motivation, organizational behavior, leadership, and establishing a symbiotic work environment that fosters the well-being of employees. Those in the I/O psychology profession do not need a formal license to practice, unlike other disciplines of psychology.


When the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed its most recent rankings for the 20 fastest-growing occupations within the US, I/O psychologists came in at No. 1, with a median income of $83,580 per year. The projected growth rate of this occupation is a staggering 53% between now and 2022.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology primarily focuses on the identification, treatment, and prevention of various mental health disorders. This line of work requires professionals to effectively provide an outlet for individuals, groups, and families to communicate and work through issues. Clinical psychologists are needed in various settings, including hospitals, schools, the military, healthcare organizations, and private practices.

This field requires a doctorate in psychology and a license to practice. License requirements are dictated by state, and some states require that the candidate’s degree is from an American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited program.

As of May 2013, the BLS stated that the average salary for a school psychologist was $71,840. Also reported were the top-paying states for clinical and school psychologists, including New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Alabama.

Counseling Psychology

Individuals specializing in counseling psychology help people deal with personal crises, adjust to big life changes, and solve life challenges. It is a rewarding career that can make a big difference to someone’s well-being. Like clinical psychology, this field requires a license to practice. However, while clinical psychologists often work with individuals who have a history of mental illness, counseling psychologists work with psychologically healthy individuals.

There are many job titles that fall within the parameters of a counseling psychologist, including therapist, advocate, researcher, and consultant. Counseling psychologists can also work in a variety of settings, including schools, private practices, government agencies, and outpatient care. As of 2013, the average wage for counseling psychologists was $72,710, according to the BLS.

Forensic Psychology

CSI enthusiasts who have a passion for solving real-life crimes should consider obtaining a PhD in Forensic Psychology. While challenging, this career path can prove to be a rewarding endeavor for those with the drive and persistence required to succeed in this line of work.

Although the salary of a forensic psychologist depends greatly on geographic location and current economic climate, the average forensic psychologist with zero to one year of experience earns $53,500 per year, according to the latest BLS figures. Professionals in the field with two years of experience earn an average annual salary of $66,000. Those who have been in the field for 19 years or longer can expect to make an average of $74,988. These figures indicate that longevity in this field comes with significant financial benefits.

While it’s always nice to have a profitable career, it’s equally important to have passion for your job and the necessary credentials and education to effectively improve the lives of others. Those interested in pursuing an online psychology degree program should request more information about Walden’s doctorate in psychology.

*Salary information may vary by geography, current economic climate, experience, and industry.