Can a Psychology License Make Me Rich?
Although a psychology degree without a license will probably not lead directly to wealth and riches; the question, “Can a psychology license make me rich?” requires examination of 3 relevant factors:
- Are you going to get a license to practice with a Master’s degree or with a Doctorate?
- What type of psychology degree will you have?
- Where will you be living and what will have to pay in expenses?
Master’s or Doctorate?
One of the factors contributing to income is whether or not you will be practicing with a master’s degree or a doctorate. If you have a master’s degree, the next question will be, “Is the degree a terminal psychology degree (one that requires no further graduate study), one that prepares you for further study (a research-based degree), or is it an applied psychology degree?
Baron Perlman, Ph.D., professor, expert and author of the book “The Master's Degree In Psychology” says,
“My first recommendation is to choose the career and graduate education that makes the most sense to you. Study your alternatives. You may decide to opt for a terminal master's degree and seek employment, or a terminal master's with the option to go on to doctoral work. On the other hand, you may decide you want to work toward a doctoral degree from the start. Capable, motivated students who know that the work and responsibilities they want require a doctoral degree, and are willing to make the four to five year commitment, should be encouraged to seek admission to doctoral programs.
Many departments offering a terminal master' s program of study do not offer a doctorate, recognizing that the master's degree is the appropriate and recognized degree for some areas in psychology. For example, elementary and secondary schools recognize the master's as the appropriate degree for their counselors and psychologists. Likewise, a master's in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology allows graduates to work in personnel, training, and organizational development. A recognized terminal master's degree (e.g., counseling, education, I/O) allows recognition as a professional. The master's experimental degree is often aimed at preparing students for doctoral admission, but the private sector also employs graduates with this degree.
Many students are interested in working in clinical psychology with a master's degree, but there is controversy about practicing at this level. Psychologists, state licensing boards, and the health care industry often view the doctorate as the appropriate degree for clinical work. Anyone wishing to be a clinician should learn about the career at both the master's and doctoral level. Some students may be pleased with master's clinical work, others may seriously consider admission to an American Psychological Association (APA) accredited doctoral program.”
One of the key distinctions Dr. Perlman makes is that of an American Psychological Association (APA) accredited doctoral program as opposed to one that is not APA approved.
Beginning in 2017 the APA will limit the matching of doctoral graduates with internships to only those students having completed a program accredited by the APA or the CPA (Canadian Psychological Program). While this measure is being taken to ease the burden on the match system as well as ensure the quality of practicing psychologists, it will have a grave impact on those who attended schools which are not accredited by either the APA or the CPA. Word to the wise; if you are intent on amassing riches with your psychology doctorate, be sure to attend an APA or CPA accredited institution. Failure to comply with the new regulations will make completion of a credible internship nearly impossible.
What branch of psychology will you be practicing?
Keeping in mind that the graduate degree you take into the market (master’s or doctorate) greatly determines income, another facet of consideration is that of specialty. What area in the realm of psychology will you be focusing on in your work? Will you be working in elementary schools as a counselor or will you be nurturing a private practice focusing on sexual abuse? Will you be a clinical researcher or a marriage and family therapist working for a state agency? The answers to all of these questions are paramount to determining the income you might expect.
Marilyn Masterson Ph.D. suggests thinking long and hard before embarking on a career specialty in psychology. While on the path to her doctorate in counseling as well as post-doctorate, she witnessed a variety of mixed results when it came to career choices;
“I have always wanted to help people simply because I feel it is the right thing to do, for me at least. I have watched those I knew very well and some I just observed get very confused and befuddled simply because they were focused upon the money and not the career. What I mean is that those who were caught up in worrying about how much it would cost to pursue their dream; how much they would see as a return on their investment and how soon--as well as being captivated by the titles and prestige, ultimately ended up the least happy. To be honest, I don’t think I've even paid attention to their incomes when I have seen or spoken with them. Their faces, attitudes and overall demeanor tell me without a doubt that I may have a smaller income then they do, but I am happy. Happiness is something you can’t put a price tag on.”
Whether or not a license in psychology will make you rich also depends on factors like; where you will be residing (cost-of-living); how much you will be paying in student loans; whether you will be working in private practice or for a business entity; and whether or not you will supplement your income with other activities (like publishing books or articles, or teaching night school.)
Cost-of-living is essential to consider when thinking about financial prospects. The best resource for looking at income-based-on-geography is website published by the United States Department of Labor. The Department of Labor has broken down the entire spectrum of psychology-related professions and their availability throughout the nation (for examples of these follow link.) The Department also publishes a handbook called, “The Occupational Handbook” which highlights each career option and the various earning potentials and requirements for entering the field. Once you have an idea of what income potential you will have in a particular city or town, research and assess the cost-of-living in that location. Given these two amounts it should be fairly easy to assess what your chances are of becoming “rich.”
Student loan repayment schedules are another facet of consideration when deciding how soon or if you will become rich with your degree and license. All student aid decisions should be made with the advice of a qualified loan counselor and you should be well-apprised ahead of time what portion of your income will be allotted to repayment of academic financial assistance. Factoring these considerations into your cost-of-living projections will be one more piece to the puzzle of determining whether or not you will become rich with your psychology license.
Personal aspects of your life are important to include in your financial aspirations. For example, will you be married or raising children during the years which you will be establishing your career? Phil Rodman M.A. who is a licensed psychologist in the field of child psychology made a decision early-on not to make commitments until his career had achieved a level he considered “livable.”
“I worked very hard to assimilate my career goals and my financial challenges. I pictured myself stable (with a steady income) long before getting married or having children. I did just that and have never regretted it. I owned a nice home, had a car paid for and knew where my career was headed before I married my wife. It removed a lot of stress from the equation.”
Whether or not a psychology license will make you rich seems to be dependent on a few factors for which you can plan for and strategize. Questions like where you will live, what your specialty will be, whether or not you get a master’s or a doctorate and who you work for once licensed all are queries which can be answered by asking one additional thing: “What will make you happy?” While happiness can in fact lead to riches, it is not such a sure thing that riches will in fact lead to happiness. Possibly the road to wealth is embarked upon with each question, including happiness, factored into play.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for psychologists are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2023.