Like it or not, the amount of money a person can make in mental health almost always boils down to two things: how much education does the person have, and are they working in private practice or a public health setting?
The reasons for this are simple. People with advanced degrees can get further with licensing and are able to do things that unlicensed mental health workers can’t, like making diagnoses and performing clinical and board-approved supervision. At the same time, whether or not a person is working for a non-profit or in private practice will make a big difference in their paychecks.
If you’re considering a degree in psychology or don’t know where to specialize, and money matters to you, read on to find out the highest paying jobs in the field.
Of all jobs in the mental health field, private practice psychiatrists are generally paid the most. This is because psychiatrists must attend traditional medical school. Like any other doctor of medicine, psychiatrists go through medical school and have the letters ‘MD’ after their name. The only difference between them and other doctors is that where one might specialize in pediatrics, psychiatrists specialize in the mind.
Psychiatrists can gain additional experience and education in a variety of areas of interest. You could, for example, have a psychiatrist who is also an autism spectrum disorder specialist, but that would more dictate the types of clients they see rather than having any meaningful difference in their paychecks.
Psychiatrists can do anything a medical doctor can in terms of writing and filling prescriptions. Their practice and focus are more drug-related than other types of psychologists.
Doctors of Psychology
People with doctorates in psychology are not the same as psychiatrists. These doctors don’t attend traditional medical school. Instead, they have the letters ‘PsyD’ by their names. Like psychiatrists, they can supervise others in the field of psychology, but they don’t have the medical degree to write the prescriptions. While they can diagnose any pathology or run a private practice, their interests are generally in working closer one-on-one with patients than anything drug related. In general, they’re the next highest paid mental health professionals in the field.
Masters Level Clinicians
Much more casual than their supervisors, who are usually the PsyD psychologists but sometimes psychiatrists, master’s level clinicians are what most laypeople would call therapists or counselors. Known for being hands on with clients in both private practices and community health centers, they’d be the ones to wear jeggings for women and call to check up on you personally if you missed an appointment. Their letters could range from ‘LMFT’ or ‘CHMC’ to ‘MSW’ for licensed marriage and family therapist, clinical mental health counselor, and master’s level social worker respectively.
Pay for master’s level clinicians varies by the type of work they do, years of experience, and if they’ve received additional training to supervise bachelor’s level and newer master’s level mental health workers. Private pay clinicians can generally bill out between 50 and 150 dollars an hour but are usually salaried at much lower rates.
Bachelors Level Direct Support Workers
Direct support mental health workers are often found in the family courts or working with high-risk families to implement treatment plans. Whether it’s supervising family visits, carting kids to and from foster care placements, or making sure parents are meeting treatment team goals, direct support mental health workers often take on social work type roles. Paid hourly, many don’t make much more than minimum wage in the United States, and many have plans to apply to graduate school to continue their educations or use this time for graduate program internships.
In the end, most people don’t get psychology degrees for the paycheck. With the amount of education needed to get to the top of the field, it wouldn’t make financial sense. For most, studying in this challenging but rewarding field is about making a difference or gaining an understanding of people and human behavior. Before making any binding decisions about degree programs at top psychology colleges, or even where you hope to land in the field, consider your motives first. After that, if your goal is to make the most, plan on getting a doctorate.