Will psych majors make the big bucks?

June 8, 2011

A new crop of college graduates have just landed on the job market. Right now they're probably just hoping to get any job, if at all. However, for psychology majors, the salary outlook in both the short and long term is particularly poor, according to a new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

It's generally known that psychology majors don't make a ton of money when they're starting out; they're not like , many of whom go straight into a job that pays well for their technical skills. But some people have suggested that a psychology major may pay off later in the career, as the critical thinking skills and literacy of the liberal arts education become more valuable. D.W. Rajecki of Indiana University was skeptical. "Psychology educators say liberal arts skills should be valuable in the workplace. Employers say they value liberal arts skills in employees," he says. "I say, 'show me the money.'" So, with Victor M.H. Borden, he set out to examine several data sets on earnings for people in different fields.

As expected, they found that psychology majors' median starting salary of $35,300 is well below the average for . But they found that this is also true at midcareer, when psychology majors are still paid below the average. They fare particularly poorly when compared to graduates in other science fields, engineering, and health.

"Face it, wages are tied to specific occupations, and real-world data show that psychology alumni just don't work in areas that pay top dollar," says Rajecki. Advanced degrees don't help, either. "Even psychology professors obtain appointments at the lower end of that salary scale."

Rajecki doesn't think this means 18-year-olds should stop choosing psychology as a major. "Psychology is a remarkable academic discipline that seems to get more interesting every passing year. Why should any student avoid the field?" he says. And, of course, money isn't the only thing that matters. But when academic counselors are giving students advice, they should make it clear that psychology isn't necessarily the road to riches.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Do all people experience similar near-death-experiences?

July 26, 2017
No one really knows what happens when we die, but many people have stories to tell about what they experienced while being close to death. People who have had a near-death-experience usually report very rich and detailed ...

Heart rate study tests emotional impact of Shakespeare

July 26, 2017
In a world where on-screen violence has become commonplace, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is turning to science to discover whether the playwright can still make our hearts race more than 400 years on.

Talking to yourself can help you control stressful emotions

July 26, 2017
The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people ...

Risk for bipolar disorder associated with faster aging

July 26, 2017
New King's College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may 'age' more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shakescene21
not rated yet Jun 08, 2011
This article should be required reading for would-be psych majors, before they sign up for $50,000 in student loans.
xznofile
not rated yet Jun 08, 2011
Same goes for art & music schools.
JJC
not rated yet Jun 09, 2011
Does this count grad school? Obviously the "wage" at grad schools is quite low, but if you consider it as further schooling I don't think it should impact the average.

Most psych undergrads should understand that grad school is basically mandatory if you want a career in psych.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.