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How Much Does a Therapist Make a Year

By Kathryn Vasel · January 29, 2024 · 7 minute read

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How Much Does a Therapist Make a Year

The average annual pay for a mental health therapist in the U.S. is $75,895, according to employment website ZipRecruiter.

But there are many factors that can influence this number, including experience, specialty and location. If you’re interested in starting a career as a therapist, employment demand is expected to be strong so it’s likely there’s good job security.

Here’s a closer look at what a therapist does and how much money they can make in a year.

What Is a Therapist?

If you like talking with people and helping them work through issues to improve their lives, a career as a therapist might be a good fit.

Therapists generally specialize in working with specific groups of people or in certain areas. For instance, some might concentrate on working with children, older adults, or married couples, or with people who need help with issues like eating disorders or drug abuse. Therapists can work in different settings, including health practitioner offices, hospitals, schools, private practices, and home health care services.

It can be a long path to becoming a therapist. Therapists need an undergraduate degree and typically have a master’s degree in psychology or in a related field or specialty. There are also hands-on experience requirements through supervised clinical work. States have different requirements when it comes to obtaining a license, but the process usually involves filling out an application and passing an exam.

There are other skills that go beyond education that help make a good therapist. Soft skills like strong communication and organization skills, being a good listener, and having empathy and patience are also important to being successful in the profession.

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Therapist vs. Psychologist

The title “therapist” is often used broadly to include various professions. It’s sometimes used interchangeably with “psychologist,” but there are differences between the two.

The educational requirements are heftier for those interested in pursuing a career as a psychologist. Psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology and to pass certain exams to be able to secure a license.

There is strong demand for psychologists. The Labor Department forecasts employment of psychologists to grow 6% from 2022-2032. Over that decade, there’s projected to be about 12,800 openings a year.

How Much Do Therapists Make Starting Out?

When you’re just starting out as an entry-level mental health therapist after all those years of education and clinical work, you can expect to earn an average of total pay of around $46,600 a year, according to data from Payscale. As you grow in your career and gain one to four years of experience, the average compensation increases to $50,677.

But keep in mind that there are a lot of considerations when it comes to determining a good entry-level salary, including location, experience, skill level, specialty, and demand.

What Is the Average Salary for a Therapist

Wondering how much a therapist makes after they’ve been working for a few years? The average annual salary for a mental health therapist in the U.S. was $75,895, according to ZipRecruiter. Here’s how that breaks down: $36.49 an hour or $6,324 a month.

For marriage and family therapists, the median annual pay was $56,570, according to data from the Labor Department. The growth rate for therapists in this field is expected to grow 15% from 2022-2032 — a lot faster than the average.

There’s a large range in how much a therapist can make, with ZipRecruiter seeing the top earners (those in the 90th percentile) making $118,000 annually.

Note that while some therapists will choose to bill by the hour, when it comes to compensation, there’s a difference between being paid salaried vs paid hourly.

Recommended: What Is Competitive Pay?

What Is the Average Therapist Salary by State?

Wondering how a therapist’s salary compares to the highest-paying jobs in your state? Here’s a breakdown of what the average annual salary of mental health therapists by state.

State

Average Salary

Alabama $55,535
Alaska $75,842
Arizona $65,716
Arkansas $59,437
California $72,117
Colorado $68,023
Connecticut $74,203
Delaware $68,126
Florida $55,479
Georgia $64,601
Hawaii $77,511
Idaho $62,082
Illinois $70,696
Indiana $65,737
Iowa $75,470
Kansas $65,997
Kentucky $60,521
Louisiana $65,619
Maine $66,004
Maryland $69,120
Massachusetts $79,870
Michigan $65,064
Minnesota $78,700
Mississippi $68,666
Missouri $64,585
Montana $63,047
Nebraska $62,663
Nevada $80,187
New Hampshire $64,267
New Jersey $82,592
New Mexico $74,183
New York $77,089
North Carolina $59,880
North Dakota $73,997
Ohio $73,378
Oklahoma $65,700
Oregon $78,617
Pennsylvania $64,507
Rhode Island $74,257
South Carolina $65,582
South Dakota $74,053
Tennessee $71,824
Texas $63,977
Utah $71,494
Vermont $68,905
Virginia $69,153
Washington $77,294
West Virginia $55,583
Wisconsin $81,874
Wyoming $66,016

Source: Zippia

Therapist Job Considerations for Pay and Benefits

Helping people better themselves and overcome problems can be a very fulfilling line of work. And there’s a need for more people to work in the mental health field.

For example, employment growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is expected to increase 18% from 2022-2032, according to the Department of Labor. Because of these strong employment growth projections, being a therapist likely comes with job security.

Becoming a therapist can also bring scheduling flexibility, especially if you run your own practice. Being able to set your own hours can result in a better work-life balance. However, some therapists might have to offer after-hour sessions to work around clients’ schedules.

Working one-on-one with people and forging relationships can also be a satisfying perk, but it can also be emotionally stressful. That’s why this profession might not be the best fit if you tend to be more introverted.

Recommended: 15 Entry-Level Jobs for Antisocial People

Pros and Cons of Therapist Salary

The educational requirements for a therapist are higher than other professions, which could mean you graduate with a hefty debt load that can put pressure on future earnings.

However, your earnings potential increases as you gain more experience and the pay is higher than other occupations. The Labor Department reported that the median weekly earnings of full-time workers were $1,118 in the third quarter of 2023 The average weekly pay for a mental health therapist in the U.S. was $1,459 in November 2023, according to ZipRecruiter.

The pay and benefits can differ depending on where a therapist works. For instance, joining a bigger practice or hospital could bring about additional benefits like retirement savings plans and health care benefits compared to smaller or a solo practice.

The licensure requirements to become a therapist can be time consuming. Each state has its own licensing requirements that you’ll have to navigate. There can also be continuing education requirements in order to maintain your license.



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The Takeaway

Becoming a therapist can be very rewarding on a personal, professional, and financial level. Be prepared for the path it takes to get to this career: an undergraduate degree, a master degree in a specialized area, clinical experience, the state license and exam process, and continuing education.

To help decide if this is the right career path, evaluate what’s important to you in your career and if it’s financially feasible. For some workers, a $100,000 salary is good, while others might need more or less depending on their cost-of-living.

Take the time to evaluate your budget. The education requirements could mean taking out student loans, which can put strain on your budget. Online tools like a money tracker app can help you create a spending plan that’s right for you.

FAQ

What is the highest-paying therapist job?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a therapist can earn upwards of $111,800 a year.

Do therapists make $100k a year?

While a typical mental health therapist makes around $75,895 a year, it is possible to earn $100,000 or more a year. Salaries often vary depending on experience, specialization, and location.

How much do therapists make starting out?

Early in their career, a therapist earns an average of $46,600 a year, according to Payscale. But with more experience, compensation can increase to $50,677.


Photo credit: iStock/LightFieldStudios

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