It can be tough to land a high-paying job with a four-year bachelor’s degree. Some fields pay workers with an undergraduate education quite well; unfortunately, psychology isn’t one of them. The only way to become a clinical therapist or psychologist is to get a master’s degree in psychology. Without that, you’ll only be qualified to work in non-clinical assistant or administrative positions in the psych world—neither of which is likely to pay a lot.
Landing one of the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree in psychology inevitably means looking outside the mental health field. That’s because bachelor’s degree programs in psychology explore not only the mind, but also communication, conflict resolution, data analysis, statistics, history, and research. People with undergraduate psychology degrees work in social services, business, sales, marketing, law enforcement, education, and other fields. Some of these career options open to psychology majors are quite lucrative once they hit their mid-career stride.
In this article about the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, we cover:
In the US, you can’t just become a behavioral therapist, a psychologist, forensic psychologist, or a marriage and family therapist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Even professionals working in school psychology, sports psychology, and as industrial-organizational psychologists need an advanced degree. Most states require that licensed clinical psychologists have a doctoral degree (either a PhD or a PsyD). The handful of states that don’t require a doctorate still call for clinical psychologists to have completed a master’s degree program before they can earn a license to practice. Counselors and psychology assistants also need to have master’s degrees in psychology or counseling. All clinical positions in psychology—whether supervised or unsupervised—require practitioners to have advanced degrees.
There are entry-level jobs and psychology careers that are open to psych majors, though none are especially high-paying. You could become an assistant applied behavior analyst earning about $44,000 per year. You could work as a data analyst in a research laboratory earning about $74,000 per year. Or, you might work for a government drug and alcohol program as a case manager, in the criminal justice system as a victim advocate, or at a juvenile offender facility as a care worker.
Some psychology majors naturally gravitate toward non-clinical psychology-adjacent or human-services jobs because they’re driven to help people. Others, however, decide to study psychology because it will give them insight into other people. “Although a bachelor’s degree in psych doesn’t lead to defined jobs, like a major in accounting or petroleum engineering might,” writes Ronald E Riggio, PhD, in a Psychology Today article about why people study psychology, “it provides a good understanding of human behavior and grounding in social science methodology.”
Students in undergraduate psychology degree programs study:
Abnormal psych explores common mental illnesses and disorders, such as depression, phobias, and eating disorders. Students will also study the research, clinical theories, and treatments for each related illness as well as its context in the modern medical world.
As one of the most commonly related industries to psychology, communications links human behavior to today’s business tactics, marketing tools, and how to manage a healthy workplace.
Students dive into specific tactics to read, interpret, and communicate major data sets. Courses might explore how to put data into action in a psychological or similar professional setting.
This course explores the psychological pathway from birth to death, specifically focusing on each individual cognitive and emotional stage of life.
These courses cover the standard research practices to test new physiological theories in humans and animals. Courses may include the history of major experiments as well as the quantitative and qualitative methods of reaching a conclusion.
A mathematical foundation increases a student’s ability to analyze and interpret crucial statistical data. Students typically require a solid knowledge of algebra to complete related courses.
A basic physiology course explores our body’s major systems and how they interact with one another. Within a psychology program, students specifically explore the impact of the nervous system on other areas.
This curriculum will dive more deeply into specific research and theories around human psychology. Students will learn to understand unique human behaviors, their causes, and how a human may act in the future when presenting specific symptoms.
Research is one of the major pillars of exploring psychological theories, history, and clinical treatments. A university may require psychology undergraduate students to complete both quantitative and qualitative research courses as well as their related labs.
Social psychology topics incorporate how people think about themselves within the context of society and how we interact as a culture. The class incorporates both modern and classic theories around social theory and human communication.
In order to fully grasp past and new clinical data, psychology students must understand the groundwork of statistical theory. Topics include reading data curves, statistical inference, and hypothesis tests.
Students explore the cultural context of psychology from early studies of behavioral development to today’s modern practices. Topics should provide a foundation of important figures, ideas, and developments in the psychology world.
These subjects give aspiring clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists a firm foundation from which to pursue their graduate studies, but they can also give aspiring educators, social workers, salespeople, marketers, and businesspeople the tools they need to succeed. A rich understanding of the human mind can be an asset in any career.
You can earn a comfortable salary doing any of the jobs mentioned above. Still, you won’t be able to get one of the highest-paying psychology jobs with a bachelor’s degree. ZipRecruiter reports that the average salary for psychology bachelor’s degree graduates is about $49,000 per year—not bad for entry-level pay, but not stellar, either. The good news is that your salary will probably go up as you amass years of experience. The bad news is that you’ll probably never earn as much as a successful clinical psychology professional working in private practice or at a hospital or government agency.
The average clinical psychologist salary is about $98,000, and experienced psychologists can earn a lot more. On the other hand, very few of the positions open to workers with a bachelor’s degree in psychology pay that much. With an undergraduate degree in hand, your earning potential may hit the ceiling somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000, regardless of how much knowledge and how many years of experience you bring to the table.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology can help you break into several fields—some of which pay a lot, and some of which don’t. You can find plenty of people with bachelor’s degrees in psychology working in:
With a focus on behavioral psychology, graduates can assist in the daily administration and management within a wide range of industries. Salaries range based on the recruit’s department, years of experience, and seniority in the company.
Finance and psychology curriculum overlap in several areas—particularly in data analysis, research, and statistics. Paired with the study of human behavior, psych majors with a passion for economics may enjoy this career trajectory.
While you will need a master’s degree for clinical positions, psychology undergrads hold the tools to get hired as clinical assistance, case managers, and other crucial administrative roles at hospitals, rehab centers, and mental health facilities.
As work-life balance and the importance of company culture steps more into the spotlight, each industry requires professionals with a background in communications and employee management. HR specialists have a competitive edge when building programs to guide employees and streamline hiring practices.
Pairing a business minor with a psychology major is a common tactic for an easy post-graduate job search. The study of psychology leads naturally to working with clients, understanding competitors, and managing large teams.
Professional marketers have to put themselves in the shoes of the customer. Grasping a foundation of human behavior and communication gives graduates a leg up in the market research field.
The combination of statistical and communication skills makes sales and retail an ideal career path for those with a passion for sales. While retail sales positions make an average annual salary of just $30,000, sales representatives for larger brands make nearly double this rate.
Social work and human services are some of the most common trajectories for students with a bachelor’s in psychology. Whether graduates choose an administrative position or go on to become licensed as an LCSW, the psychological background creates professionals with skills to support at-risk populations.
In fact, about half of psych majors don’t pursue graduate degrees in psychology or even work in positions related to psychology. Unfortunately, more than half of them end up taking jobs that don’t even require a degree after graduation, and may stay underemployed for years. But getting a high-paying job with a BS in psychology or a BA in psychology isn’t impossible, because there are lots of jobs in the above fields that pay big bucks. Whether you can get them with a bachelor’s degree in psychology will probably depend on how you market yourself and what other qualifications you have.
The highest-paying jobs you can get with a bachelor’s degree in psychology probably won’t be in the psych world. Earning top dollars with this degree means applying for positions like:
Most career counselors earn about $58,000, though it’s possible to earn more. Career counselors in schools and government education agencies tend to earn the most; the top earners in this profession can earn $95,000.
HR reps earn about $63,000 and come from many educational backgrounds, including psychology. The highest-paid human resources specialists earn more than six figures.
Entry-level marketers earn about $40,000, but it only takes a few years for marketers to start earning above $60,000. Marketing managers can earn more than $140,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), so there’s plenty of room for career growth.
Understanding how the human mind works definitely comes in handy in PR, where you can earn about $61,000 making sure that the public has a positive perception of brands or businesses.
The average community services manager salary is about $67,000 and the highest-earning 25 percent make more than $86,000. More importantly, this is one of the higher-paying positions for psych majors that involves helping vulnerable people.
The answer to this question is yes. Contrary to popular belief, a bachelor’s degree in psychology isn’t a useless fluff degree, and it’s not just a prerequisite for a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology. Majoring in psychology can help you get all types of jobs in all kinds of fields in both the nonprofit world and private sector, even if you don’t get a master’s degree. With this degree, you can definitely earn good money, where ‘good’ is a relative qualifier.
Can you get one of the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree in psychology? No, but you typically won’t qualify for the highest-paying jobs in any field with an undergraduate degree, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The best way to increase your chances of earning big bucks with this degree is probably to double-major in psychology and education, marketing, statistics, or nursing. Still, the reality is that perhaps the most lucrative thing you can do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology is to get a master’s degree.
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