Average Earnings Of American Psychologists

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings across a diverse array of specializations. In general, they all have the goal of helping people live happier, more fulfilled lives. Learn more about clinical psychologists, what their training involves, and how much they earn below.

Learn more about clinical psychologists and their income
What is a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional who holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology degree (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology degree (Psy.D.). Clinical psychology is a broad field with multiple specialties, but jobs in this arena usually involve working directly with people rather than conducting research. Some clinical psychologists may also specialize in working with individuals at specific life stages, such as children, teens, or seniors.

What do clinical psychologists do?
Clinical psychologists may perform a variety of tasks depending on the details of their specific role. Typically, they use psychotherapy and other treatments to support their clients in addressing social, mental, emotional, and/or behavioral issues and reaching their personal goals.

This process usually begins with an evaluation where the provider takes stock of where their client is at and what challenges they may be facing, after which they’ll devise a unique treatment plan that’s right for the particular individual. 

Differences between clinical and counseling psychologists

Clinical and counseling psychology are occupations with a similar focus but some key differences. Both clinical and counseling psychologists help clients manage mental health concerns. Clinical psychologists tend to focus on severe disorders, while counseling psychologists help clients work through psychological concerns that are related to common life challenges. Clinical psychologists may, for example, specialize in treating people with ADHD, while counseling psychologists may help clients navigate mental health concerns arising out of their career. 

Clinical and counseling psychologists often work in different settings, as well. Counseling psychologists may work in schools, community health centers, or career counseling centers; while clinical psychologists might work in research centers, hospitals, or clinics. 

How to become a clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist must complete several years of education and training before they can be licensed to practice in their home state. Their training usually begins with a traditional four-year degree. Next, they must choose a specialty or elect to study general clinical psychology, and then they’ll begin an additional four to seven years of training to earn their doctorate. Typically, the licensing authority of the psychologist’s home state needs to review documentation proving that all requirements have been fulfilled before proceeding with licensure. If the individual has met the criteria, they may then be licensed to practice.  

As stated above, there are two different types of degrees that a clinical psychologist might get to start their career. A clinical psychologist who wants to specialize in science and research might earn a Ph.D. A clinical psychologist who wants to specialize in clinical work will likely get a Psy.D.

Clinical psychology students typically perform work in a school-sponsored internship setting as part of their degree completion. They will also have to pass examinations and become licensed in their state, which typically involves an additional internship. These internships last for a set number of hours, since clinical psychologists are required to practice under the supervision of another psychologist as part of their licensing requirements. 

The required number of supervised internship hours varies by state. For example, New Hampshire, Maine, and many other states require that psychologists have 3,000 hours of supervised experience, while Nevada requires 3,700, and Missouri requires 1,500. Many states (e.g., New Hampshire) stipulate that students must complete half of the required hours before the end date of their doctoral program and the other half after they’ve graduated.

In addition to the technical skills that must be acquired, there are several soft skills that can help a clinical psychologist thrive. When working with a psychologist, many clients want to ensure there is a solid therapeutic connection before proceeding with treatment. Being able to communicate effectively and understand a client’s goals can help a psychologist develop that connection. Problem-solving, research, and organizational skills are also considered helpful.  

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Learn more about clinical psychologists and their income
How much does a clinical psychologist make in a year?
Clinical psychologists tend to earn somewhat less than professionals in other scientific fields. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for a clinical psychologist is about $82,000 per year. However, there may be additional earning potential in some cases. If a psychologist specializes in a certain area of psychology (e.g., neuropsychology) or a certain age group (e.g., geriatric psychology), they may be able to charge more for their services. Also, some clinical psychologists make well over the average income because they work in major metropolitan areas, have many years of experience, or have a highly in-demand specialization. The top 10% of clinical psychologists earn over $160,000 per year.

It’s important to note that setting can also have a major influence on earning potential. A clinical psychologist working in a hospital setting tends to earn about $96,000 per year. Those who work for home health services tend to average closer to $132,000 per year. 

Geographical location can influence earning potential as well, as salaries vary from state to state. For instance, New Jersey tends to pay clinical psychologists the most, with their average income being over $143,000 per year. California is another one of the highest-paying states for this job title, with an average salary of $122,000 per year. Pay can also depend on where a clinical psychologist is located within their state; for example, salaries in Ray Brook, New York, may be lower than those in New York City. To view specific information about salaries in your state, you can check details from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How much does it cost to see a clinical psychologist?
The average cost of a psychotherapy session in the US is $100–200. However, a clinical psychologist may charge more depending on their speciality and years of experience. Higher service charges and salaries make sense for this field, since there are many costs to account for. Clinical psychologists must pay to maintain state and national licensing and certifications as well as malpractice insurance. They may have to pay for office space and staff, and also need to repay any student loans that they used to pursue their career in helping others. 

That said, the cost of seeing a clinical psychologist can be prohibitive for many people who might be interested in seeking treatment from this type of provider. There are certain options available for more affordable professional treatment, however. One way to save money on psychotherapy is to go through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. Telehealth services like this can connect you with a licensed mental health professional who can help you with a variety of challenges and concerns. Because online therapists often work from home, their services may be more affordable than those of traditional in-person therapists—and since research suggests that online therapy offers similar benefits to in-person sessions, you can trust you’ll be getting the quality of treatment you deserve. If you’re interested in online therapy, continue reading for client reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor reviews

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If you’re considering pursuing a career in clinical psychology, you may now have a clearer understanding of what working in this field entails and what your earning potential could be like. If you’re looking to enlist the help and support of a clinical psychologist or other mental health professional, consider trying BetterHelp.
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