Clinical Psychology Salary and Career Outlook

Clinical psychology can be a rewarding field if you are interested in the inner workings of others’ minds. Clinical psychology requires years of schooling and training, but may yield a career you enjoy. Learn more about clinical psychology salaries and career opportunities.

Earn an MA in Psychology Online from Pepperdine

Pepperdine University’s online Master of Arts in Psychology program prepares students to pursue doctoral study or a career in human services.

  • Open to all undergrad majors
  • No GRE required 
  • Can be completed in about 18 months


Clinical Psychologist Job Description

Clinical psychology is a professional field focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of various mental, psychosocial, emotional and behavioral health issues. 

It is a broad and inclusive subfield of psychology—with specializations such as pediatrics, learning disabilities, substance abuse, geriatic mental disorders and many others. 

Psychologists in this realm may work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to behavioral counseling centers to private practice, delivering services to clients. Others are employed in academic and research settings, studying the causes of mental health issues and various treatment regimens. 

It is important to note that Ph.D.-trained clinical psychologists are not considered part of the medical profession as would be the case with a psychiatrist. They are not permitted to prescribe medicines or perform client medical procedures or surgeries. 

Clinical psychologists are, however, permitted to administer behavioral assessments, diagnose patients, provide treatment plans, and use various treatment protocols, methods, and plans to improve the health of their patients. 

Great Clinical Psychologist Jobs

As a professional field, clinical psychology encompasses a number of sub-niches and specializations that may allow for opportunities for career success. With psychology jobs growing much faster than average, here are a few clinical psychology career options, some of which may require a graduate degree, such as a master’s in clinical psychology

Behavioral Health Clinician: Professionals in this role often work for a private health clinic or community health center, assisting clients facing behavioral challenges such as addictions. Opportunities in this area typically require a master’s degree along with a certification like NAADAC via the Association for Addictions Professionals. 

Child Psychologists: This area of psychology attracts those who want to work with youth and children. Responsibilities may include teaching children healthy coping mechanisms, assisting them with emotional distress and overcoming destructive mental patterns, and offering academic guidance. A doctoral degree is typically required for working as a psychologist at schools, in private practice, at an inpatient or outpatient facility, in a research laboratory or in other settings. 

Clinical Case Manager: This role often involves managing a caseload of clients in a hospital, behavioral health center, or even in a private setting like an eating disorder clinic. Case managers serve as a resource to clients assisting in navigating through challenging life and family situations. A master’s degree is typically the entry point for child case managers (PDF, 476 KB)

Clinical Psychology Adjunct Instructor or Professor: Some trained in the clinical psychology field may opt for teaching positions at a community college or four-year institution. Typically, experience in the field in a clinical or research setting is required along with a master’s degree. Those aspiring for an associate or full-professor position will typically need a Ph.D. (PDF, 71 KB). 

Neuropsychologist: Clinical psychologists in this subspecialization focus on brain functionality and behaviors with the goal of assessing cognitive performance to determine brain injury or damage. There are opportunities in many settings, including brain injury centers, stroke treatment or in academic research.

Private Practice Psychologist: Another option for clinical psychologists is to set up their own private practice working with a client base ranging from young adults to families. As a private practitioner, you meet with clients typically in person to help them overcome obstacles to becoming high functioning individuals. A minimum of a master’s degree is a prerequisite for this private practice psychologists

Clinical Psychologist Job Outlook

Employment of psychologists is projected to increase 3% from 2019 to 2029, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), much faster than the average of all other occupations. 

Demand is expected to be greatest for those seeking opportunities in schools, hospitals, behavioral health clinics, and social services agencies, according to the BLS. The geriatric counseling area is also promising as the percentage of older adults grows. 

School counseling also will continue to grow due to the increasing awareness of mental health issues among students in school. These professionals will be called upon to support students, particularly those with learning disabilities, special needs, and behavioral issues. 

Finally, there are psychologists in private practice, many of whom work part time as independent practitioners and set their own hours. Demand for these professionals is high at clinics, government agencies, and businesses seeking counseling support for staff and those they serve. 

What Is the Median Salary for a Clinical Psychologist?

The medium annual wage for psychologists is $80,370, the BLS reports, with clinical psychologists earning $78,200.

5 Best-Paying Cities for Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologist salaries can vary widely by geographic area. Here are some cities where annual mean wages are highest for clinical psychologists, according to BLS data on psychologists (2019):

  1. Santa Rosa, CA: $136,390
  2. Jefferson City, MO: $118,920
  3. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks – Ventura, CA: $117,966
  4. Trenton, NJ: $114,740
  5. Honolulu, HI: $113,930

Top States For Clinical Psychology Careers

Here are the states with the highest employment levels in this occupation and the number of clinical psychologists employed, according to BLS data on psychologists (2019):

  1. California: 16,960
  2. New York: 11,030
  3. Texas: 8,430
  4. Florida: 5,270
  5. Illinois: 5,100

Is a Clinical Psychologist Career Path Right For You? 

If you are interested in a career in clinical psychology, take time to explore whether this is the right path for you.

Pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology for the wrong reasons may result in an unpleasant experience that is costly in terms of your time and money. 

Also consider that there are many distinct disciplines within psychology, all providing different opportunities. So your vetting process should involve looking at the pros and cons of various disciplines like behavioral health, neuropsychology and research. Think about the type of clients you want to work with and the problems you seek to help solve. 

Choosing a career in psychology is a big decision. Salary and job opportunities are just some of the many factors to consider. Job satisfaction and quality of life may also play a role in your decision. 

So ponder how a career in this space will suit your personality and aims before committing. In the end, the best opportunity for you will be the one that brings you the most satisfaction while fulfilling your personal and professional needs. 

Earn an MA in Psychology Online from Pepperdine

Pepperdine University’s online Master of Arts in Psychology program prepares students to pursue doctoral study or a career in human services.

  • Open to all undergrad majors
  • No GRE required 
  • Can be completed in about 18 months


Last Updated August 2020