Psychology Professor Career Guide 2024

Table of Contents

Psychology Professor Salary in United States for 2023

Average Annual Salary: $78,810 

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API. Updated at December 8, 2023

Best Colleges and Universities for Psychology Professors in 2023

Best College Majors for Psychology Professors in 2023

Projected Job Employment for Psychology Professor:

Estimated YearProjected YearEstimated EmploymentProjected Employment% ChangeProjected Annual Job Opening
2021203146,40050,80010%4500

Psychology Professor Career Path Overview

A career as a Psychology Professor entails an enriching journey of academic development, research engagement, and pedagogical expertise. In essence, a Psychology Professor's primary responsibilities involve conducting research, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology, mentoring students, and contributing to their institution's service requirements. This career path often begins with a deep-seated interest in human behavior and mental processes, which ultimately leads to a decision to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Psychology.

Education Requirements for a Psychology Professor

The first step towards becoming a Psychology Professor is earning a Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. This undergraduate study provides foundational knowledge about human behavior, cognition, and emotion. Following this, the next step is to earn a Master's degree in psychology. Some doctoral programs do not require a Master's degree for admission, but having one can enhance your understanding of psychology and improve your chances of acceptance into a competitive doctoral program. The terminal degree in this career path is typically a Doctorate in Psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). This rigorous program involves conducting original research and contributing new knowledge to the field of psychology. Some individuals may also choose to specialize in a particular area of psychology such as clinical psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, or developmental psychology among others.

Skills and Experience Needed

To excel as a Psychology Professor, certain skills and experiences are vital. Excellent communication skills are crucial, as professors need to effectively convey complex psychological concepts to students. They also need strong research skills to design studies, collect data, analyze results and contribute meaningful insights to the field. Gaining practical experience through internships or research assistantships during your academic journey is beneficial. It not only provides hands-on experience but also strengthens your research portfolio and makes you more attractive to potential employers.

Licensure and Certification

While licensure is not typically required for a career as a Psychology Professor, some professors who also practice psychology clinically must be licensed. The requirements for licensure vary by state but generally include earning a doctoral degree, completing an internship, and passing a state-approved exam. On the other hand, there are no specific certifications required to become a Psychology Professor. However, earning professional certifications in specialized areas of psychology can enhance your expertise and credibility.

Career Path and Progression

Once you have earned your doctoral degree, you can apply for positions as a Psychology Professor. Early career professors typically spend their time teaching classes, conducting research, and publishing their findings in academic journals. As you gain experience and demonstrate your commitment to the institution and your field, you may have opportunities for advancement. This could include taking on administrative roles such as department chair or dean, or leading major research projects. Remember, a career as a Psychology Professor is not only about imparting knowledge but also involves staying at the forefront of the field by continually learning and contributing to psychological research. It's a rewarding career that combines the passion for teaching with the intrigue of scientific exploration.

Psychology Professor Career Path Education and Training

To embark on a career path as a Psychology Professor, it is essential to have a strong educational foundation followed by specific training in the field. This path begins with an undergraduate degree, typically a Bachelor's degree in Psychology or a related field.

Undergraduate Degree

During an undergraduate program, students gain a broad understanding of psychological theories, research methods, and the application of psychology to various areas of life. Coursework may include areas such as developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and clinical psychology. This foundational knowledge prepares students for advanced study in the field.

Graduate Degree

Following an undergraduate degree, aspiring Psychology Professors generally pursue a Master's degree in Psychology or a related field. This advanced degree allows students to delve deeper into their area of interest within psychology, conducting original research and gaining expertise in their chosen area. However, becoming a Psychology Professor usually requires a Doctorate degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in Psychology. A Ph.D. program often focuses more on research and is ideal for those who wish to teach at the university level and conduct research. On the other hand, a Psy.D. program is more practice-focused and is better suited for those interested in providing psychological services.

Postdoctoral Training

After earning a doctoral degree, some individuals may choose to complete postdoctoral training. This is particularly common for those who want to specialize in a particular area of psychology or who wish to gain additional research experience.

Licensure and Certification

In some countries, including the United States, psychologists need to be licensed or certified to practice. While licensure requirements vary by state, they typically include passing a national examination and completing a certain number of supervised practice hours. Although licensure is not always required for Psychology Professors, it can enhance professional credibility and open up additional career opportunities.

Teaching Experience

Teaching experience is crucial for a career as a Psychology Professor. This can be gained through teaching assistantships during graduate school, adjunct teaching positions, or postdoctoral teaching fellowships. In conclusion, becoming a Psychology Professor requires a significant investment in education and training. However, for those with a passion for psychology and a desire to share their knowledge with others, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling career path.

Psychology Professor Career Path Progression

When it comes to the career path of a Psychology Professor, it's important to understand that the journey is often as unique as the individuals themselves. However, there are certain stages and milestones that can shape the professional journey of many Psychology Professors.

Education Requirements

The first step in the career path of a Psychology Professor typically involves acquiring the necessary educational qualifications. To teach at a post-secondary level, you'll need to earn a doctoral degree in psychology. In most cases, this involves completing a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field, followed by a master's degree, and then pursuing a Ph.D. or Psy.D. The type of doctorate you choose to pursue may depend on your career goals. A Ph.D. tends to focus more on research, while a Psy.D. is more clinically oriented.

Research and Publication

A key component of becoming a Psychology Professor is contributing to the field through research and publication. Engaging in original research, presenting findings at conferences, and publishing in peer-reviewed journals are all crucial steps in establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Many prospective professors begin their research careers during their graduate studies, working as research assistants or conducting independent studies.

Teaching Experience

In addition to research, gaining teaching experience is another important step on the path to becoming a Psychology Professor. This can often be achieved during graduate school through teaching assistantships or adjunct faculty positions. Having hands-on experience with curriculum development, student assessment, and classroom management can significantly increase your competitiveness in the job market.

Professional Licensure and Certification

While not always required for a career as a Psychology Professor, professional licensure and certification can be beneficial, especially if you plan to practice clinically as well as teach. In most cases, licensure involves completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours and passing a licensing exam.

Securing a Tenure-Track Position

The ultimate goal for many in the Psychology Professor career path is to secure a tenure-track position at a university or college. Tenure-track positions are highly competitive and typically require a strong record of research, publication, and teaching experience. Once in a tenure-track position, professors are expected to continue contributing to their field through research and publication while also teaching and mentoring students.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

The field of psychology is ever-evolving, and as such, Psychology Professors must commit to lifelong learning and professional development. This may involve attending conferences, participating in workshops, and staying up-to-date with the latest research and theories in the field. Through these activities, professors can continue to grow their expertise, stay relevant in their field, and provide the best education possible for their students. In conclusion, the career path of a Psychology Professor is marked by rigorous education, dedication to research and publication, hands-on teaching experience, and a commitment to ongoing professional development. It's a challenging but rewarding journey that can have a significant impact on both the field of psychology and the lives of students.

Psychology Professor Career Path Specializations and Subfields

There is a wide array of specializations and subfields available for those pursuing a career path as a Psychology Professor. These diverse areas provide opportunities to focus on specific interests and passions, deepening your expertise while also expanding the breadth of your teaching capabilities.

Abnormal Psychology

A specialization in abnormal psychology allows professors to delve into the study of unusual patterns of behavior, emotion and thought. This can include understanding various mental disorders and their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Professors in this field often contribute to research that aims to improve mental health practices.

Biological Psychology

Biological psychology, or biopsychology, focuses on the relationship between the mind and body. It explores how biological factors like genetics, neurochemicals, and physiology impact behavior and mental processes. Professors specializing in this area may teach courses on neuroscience, brain behavior, or psychopharmacology.

Developmental Psychology

Professors specializing in developmental psychology study the psychological changes that occur throughout a person's life, from infancy to old age. They may teach courses on child development, adolescence, aging, and lifespan development.

Social Psychology

Social psychology is an exciting field that explores how individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by others. Professors in this area may teach courses on interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, prejudice and discrimination, or social cognition.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychologists study mental processes such as attention, memory, perception, problem-solving, and language use. As a professor in this field, you would teach students about these internal processes and how they affect our understanding of the world.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a popular subfield that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental disorders. Professors in this field may teach courses on psychotherapy techniques, psychological assessment, psychopathology, and ethics in clinical practice.

School Psychology

School psychologists focus on the psychology of learning within the educational system. Professors in this subfield often teach courses related to child and adolescent development, educational interventions, and the psychological assessment of students.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology applies psychological principles to the workplace to improve productivity, work quality, and employee wellbeing. Professors in this field may teach courses on leadership, personnel selection, organizational behavior, and work motivation. The variety of specializations in the psychology field offers a rich diversity of topics for aspiring Psychology Professors to explore and share with their students. Each subfield provides unique opportunities for teaching, research, and contribution to the broader field of psychology.

Psychology Professor Career Path Job Market and Outlook

The job market for Psychology Professors is relatively stable, with a steady demand for experts in this field across higher education institutions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for postsecondary teachers, including Psychology Professors, will grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The growing number of students seeking higher education, particularly in psychology and related fields, is expected to fuel this growth. Colleges and universities need Psychology Professors to teach a variety of courses, from introductory psychology to advanced seminars in specialized areas such as cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, or social psychology. In addition to teaching, Psychology Professors often conduct research in their area of expertise. They may write research papers and articles, present at conferences, and apply for grants to fund their work. This aspect of the job can be competitive, as funding is often limited and the publishing industry is highly selective. Job prospects are generally best for those with a Ph.D. in psychology, especially those who have a specialization in an area with strong demand. For example, industrial-organizational psychologists are currently in high demand due to the increasing need for psychological services in the workplace. Those with a Master's degree may find opportunities at community colleges or in adjunct positions. Geographic location also plays a role in the job outlook for Psychology Professors. Urban and suburban areas with large colleges and universities tend to have more opportunities than rural areas. However, online education is changing this dynamic and creating opportunities for professors to work remotely. Despite these positive trends, it's important to note that the academic job market can be competitive. Aspiring Psychology Professors should be prepared for a rigorous job search process, which can include networking, presenting at academic conferences, and publishing research. In conclusion, the job market for Psychology Professors is relatively stable and growing, driven by increasing student enrollment in psychology programs and the ongoing need for psychology research. Those with advanced degrees and specialized expertise will have the best job prospects.

Psychology Professor Career Path Salary and Compensation

A career as a Psychology Professor can be both rewarding and lucrative. The salary and compensation for this career path largely depend on several key factors, such as the level of education, years of experience, location, and the type of institution where you work.

Education Level and Salary

Typically, the higher your education level in psychology, the higher your earning potential. Professors with a Ph.D. in Psychology usually earn more than those with a master's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for postsecondary teachers was $79,540 in May 2019.

Experience and Salary

Experience plays a significant role in determining a Psychology Professor's salary. As you gain more years of teaching and research experience, you're likely to see an increase in your pay. Entry-level professors usually earn less than their experienced counterparts. However, after several years of teaching, conducting research, and publishing scholarly articles, they can see their salaries increase significantly.

Location and Salary

The location also influences a Psychology Professor's salary. For instance, professors working in urban areas or at institutions in high cost-of-living states typically earn more than those in rural areas or states with a lower cost of living. Additionally, international opportunities can also offer attractive compensation packages, although these may come with additional considerations like cost of living adjustments or relocation expenses.

Type of Institution and Salary

The type of institution where you work can significantly impact your earnings as a Psychology Professor. Professors working at private institutions generally earn more than those at public schools. Additionally, research-intensive universities often pay more than colleges that are primarily teaching-focused.

Additional Compensation Opportunities

Beyond the base salary, there are other ways Psychology Professors can increase their earnings. These can include consulting work, writing textbooks or scholarly articles, speaking engagements, and conducting research or special projects. Many professors also receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and tuition waivers for family members. In conclusion, a career as a Psychology Professor can be financially rewarding, with numerous factors influencing the salary and compensation. With the right combination of education, experience, and location, you can optimize your earning potential in this fulfilling career path.

Psychology Professor Career Path Tips for Success

Embarking on a Psychology Professor career path requires not only academic prowess but also a clear roadmap to achieve your professional goals. To be successful, you need to cultivate certain skills, acquire relevant qualifications, and gain the right experience. Here are some tips that will steer you towards a successful career as a Psychology Professor.

Academic Qualifications

A career as a Psychology Professor typically begins with an undergraduate degree in psychology. However, the journey doesn't stop there. A Master's degree in Psychology is often the next step, offering a deeper dive into specific areas of psychology such as social, cognitive, developmental, or clinical psychology. Ultimately, earning a Ph.D. or PsyD in psychology is essential to secure a position as a professor. This level of education allows you to contribute new knowledge to the field through research and publication.

Research Skills

In academia, research is paramount. As a Psychology Professor, you will be expected to conduct original research in your area of expertise. This could involve designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and publishing results in academic journals. Developing robust research skills early on is crucial for success in this career path.

Teaching Skills

While research is a significant component of a Psychology Professor's role, teaching is equally important. Professors are responsible for educating the next generation of psychologists. This requires the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively, inspire and engage students, and provide constructive feedback. Gaining teaching experience as a teaching assistant during your graduate studies can be incredibly beneficial.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

The field of psychology involves analyzing human behavior and mental processes, which requires a high level of critical thinking. As a Psychology Professor, you'll need to solve complex problems, interpret data, and make informed decisions. These skills are essential for both research and teaching.

Networking and Collaboration

Building a strong professional network can significantly enhance your career as a Psychology Professor. Networking can lead to collaborative research opportunities, invitations to speak at conferences, and even job offers. It's also beneficial to maintain good relationships with your students, as they could become future colleagues or collaborators.

Continuous Learning and Professional Development

The field of psychology is constantly evolving with new theories, research methods, and clinical applications. As such, continuous learning and professional development are critical for staying current and relevant in your field. This could involve attending conferences, participating in workshops, or undertaking further education.

By following these tips, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the rewarding yet challenging career path of a Psychology Professor. Remember, success doesn't happen overnight. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a passion for the study of the human mind.

What is the role of a Psychology Professor?

A Psychology Professor is a professional who teaches psychology courses at the undergraduate or graduate level in universities and colleges. Their role involves delivering lectures, creating course syllabi, designing and grading assignments, conducting research, publishing scholarly articles, advising students, and participating in departmental and institutional committees. They play a crucial role in shaping the minds of future psychologists by imparting knowledge about various psychological theories, research methodologies, and practical applications.

What qualifications are needed to become a Psychology Professor?

The qualifications to become a Psychology Professor typically include a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Psychology or a related field. Some institutions may hire individuals with a Master’s degree for certain teaching positions, but a Ph.D. is usually required for tenure-track positions. In addition to academic qualifications, prospective Psychology Professors should also have strong research skills, excellent communication abilities, and prior teaching experience. They must also stay current with developments in their field through continuous learning and research.

What are the steps to become a Psychology Professor?

The journey to becoming a Psychology Professor typically begins with obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology or a related field. After that, prospective professors may pursue a Master's degree although many go directly into a Ph.D. program. During their doctoral studies, they typically gain teaching experience as teaching assistants. After earning their Ph.D., they often undertake postdoctoral research positions to further hone their research skills and increase their publication record. The final step is applying for faculty positions at universities or colleges.

What skills are important for a Psychology Professor?

A successful Psychology Professor should possess strong communication skills to effectively convey complex psychological concepts to students. Research skills are also crucial as professors are often expected to conduct original research in their field. Other important skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, and the ability to work independently as well as part of a team. Professors also need to be proficient in academic writing and public speaking.

How is the job market for Psychology Professors?

The job market for Psychology Professors is competitive. The demand for these professionals is influenced by factors such as the number of psychology programs offered by educational institutions, the number of students enrolling in these programs, and the availability of funding for faculty positions. Despite the competition, opportunities can be found particularly in institutions expanding their psychology programs or replacing retiring faculty members. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth in postsecondary teaching positions, including Psychology Professors, over the next decade.

What is the average salary of a Psychology Professor?

The average salary for a Psychology Professor can vary greatly depending on factors such as the type of institution (public or private), geographical location, years of experience, and level of education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for postsecondary psychology teachers was $76,620 in May 2020. However, salaries can range from below $40,000 for entry-level positions to well over $100,000 for experienced professors at prestigious institutions.