Don’t show psychology grads the money!

28 07 2011

Not very surprising, but a new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science reveals that psychology degree recipients are well below the mean in salary compared to other college majors. This difference persists even when we seek higher degrees.

Image courtesy flickr user truthout - used under Creative Commons license.

Psychology BA degree recipients often take low paying and not entirely related to psychology. Administrative assistant is one frequently obtained job for both Psychology and English majors. By comparison, it is not among the frequently obtained jobs of Economics majors.

Psychology Masters degree recipients get about a $10,000 bonus over the BA degree recipients (41.5k vs. 31k), but they still fall well below the mean compared to other degree recipients – their median salaries 3 years after graduation are a full 1.6 standard deviations below the mean for men! At the opposite end of the distribution are electrical/computer engineering Masters grads, who made around $67k, 1.4 SD above the mean.

Academics don’t fare much better. At all levels (instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, full professor) earn below the mean for academics in other disciplines – for full professors, the mean is 91k vs. 84.5k – .56 SD below the mean.

We all know going into this field that we’re not in it for the money. However, students planning a degree that terminates in a bachelor’s degree should be aware of the pay relative to other degree fields. If, for example, you’re equally attracted to nursing and psychology, then nursing would be a much better choice due to the salary difference.

As for me, I’m in this field for other factors than money: satisfaction, freedom to pursue my interests in research, the feeling that I have when helping students and colleagues, and the pleasure of lerning something new about behavior.