Psychologists with a master's degree work in many different fields, including as licensed counselors, as marriage and family therapists, or in social services. By contrast, psychologists earning their doctorates have different career goals, such as working as licensed psychologists, conducting research or teaching at colleges and universities. Commensurate with these career goals, salaries for master's-prepared people tend to be lower on average than for those earning their doctorates.
The median annual salary for psychologists with a master's was $40,000, according to a 2006 survey by the National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics. The median salary for those with a Ph.D. was considerably higher, at $70,000. This higher salary comes at a cost, however, as Ph.D.s are out of the job market for up to eight years, which is about two years longer than those earning their master's degree.
Many people earning their master's degree in psychology work as mental health counselors or marriage and family therapists. As of May 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median income of $39,710 per year or $19.09 per hour for these professionals. The BLS indicates that there were 156,300 mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists in the U.S. as of 2010, with 58,500 more expected by 2020.
Applied settings interest many graduates with a master's degree in psychology who choose to work as educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors. As of May 2010, the BLS reported a median annual income of $53,610 or $25.77 per hour for this group. The bottom 10 percent of wage earners made an average of $31,920 per year, while the top 10 percent made an average salary of $86,680 per year. States paying educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors the most included New Jersey, $69,700; Alaska, $66,330; California, $64,750; District of Columbia, $63,730; and Rhode Island, $63,140.
Rehabilitative counselors use their master's training in psychology to help disabled persons live independently. There were 129,800 persons employed as rehabilitative counselors as of May 2010, according to the BLS, with 36,600 more, an increase of 28 percent, predicted as entering the field by 2020. The median annual salary for rehabilitative counselors was $32,350 or $15.55 per hour. Type of employer determines median salary for rehabilitative counselors. The median annual salaries as of May 2010 were: state government, $42,930; local government, $38,790; individual and family services, $30,310; vocational rehabilitation services, $29,100; and nursing and residential care facilities, $28,110.