Psychologists study how mental processes affect human behavior. They use research to explain emotions, feelings and actions. A master’s or doctoral degree is required to work as a licensed counseling or clinical psychologist, and all states mandate a license. Though states may have individual exams, the national Association of School Psychologists awards a national designation that is recognized by 31 states. An estimated 98,330 psychologist were employed in 2009 according to BLS.
There are several types and areas of specialization as psychologists. Health psychologists analyze how biological, psychological and social factors influence mental illness. Neuropsychologists look for relationships between the brain and behavior. Geropsychologists specialize in issues that affect the elderly. And school psychologists work in elementary schools to create the best learning environments for students. With any of these specialties, psychologists earn median wage of $31.75 per hour or $66,040 per year, as of May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The greater the experience, the better the compensation, according to the PayScale Report as of May 2010. New psychologists earn $49,283 per year, while those with one to four years of work make $61,730. Those with five to nine years get $71,729 and those with 10 to 19 years receive $88,489. Finally, those with 20 or more years of experience are paid $92,046 on average.
According to the BLS, the state with the best opportunities of jobs is New Mexico, with 2.1 psychologists per 1,000 workers. This large supply of professionals, however, makes for lower salaries at $29.75 or $61,880. The state with the best-paying jobs is New Jersey at $44.41 hourly or $92,380 per year. It has fewer opportunities at 0.8 jobs per 1,000 workers. Among cities, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, has the most employment at 4.6 per 1,000, but pays only $26.25 or $54,560. Greeley, Colorado, has the best pay at $81.86 or $170,280.
Jobs for psyschologists will grow by 12 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS, which is the average for all occupations. School psychologists are needed because of the growing awareness of student behavioral problems. Clinical psychologists are required to mitigate the costs that unhealthy lifestyles, such as obesity and smoking, have on health care costs. Job prospects will be best for those with a doctoral degree from a leading university in an applied specialty like health or counseling.