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6 Top Earning Therapist Specialties in 2024

Most people pursue a career in therapy to help others and fulfill a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, it’s hard to pay rent with purpose alone. While demand for therapists and mental health practitioners is increasing, not every specialty is a ticket to a well-paying job.

As more people realize the importance of mental health and the stigma around getting help fades, therapists of all kinds will only grow in demand. Those looking for a job with purpose and great pay will want to explore these 6 different types of therapist specialties and their salaries.

Top-Earning Licensed Therapy Careers

One of the biggest hurdles standing between most aspiring therapists and a high mental health counseling salary is the need for specialized education and licensing. This path can vary significantly, from the extensive commitment of years in college and medical school, to more streamlined licensing requirements that may not necessitate a specific diploma.

So what type of therapist makes the most money? The demanding prerequisites in the following careers not only restrict access to opportunities but also contribute to elevated incomes, given the heightened barriers to entry.

Highest Paid Counseling Jobs that Require Licensing

1. Psychiatrist

If you are interested in the medical side of mental health, psychiatry stands out as one of the top-earning therapy specialties. It’s important to remember that psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing mental illnesses. One of the reasons they are so highly paid is they need a medical degree and can prescribe medication.

Because they are both trained medically and in mental health, it generally takes about 12 years of schooling, post-high school, to become a psychiatrist. The associated costs are usually more than $300,000. That being said, psychiatrists also have the ability to earn close to $300,000 per year.

Psychiatrist is a highly paid therapist specialty

2. Forensic Psychologist

If you’ve watched every season of CSI, you are probably one of those people who’s intrigued by criminal activity. And maybe you want to become part of making sure people don’t get away with criminal behavior.

In that case, a career in forensic psychology might be an exciting field for you to explore. You’ll get to combine psychology and law, and use psychological principles to better understand criminal behavior.

As a forensic psychologist you will likely work within the criminal justice system — either in law enforcement, courts, or correctional facilities — to assess and treat people. Your expertise may be needed for criminal profiling, evaluating competency, and providing expert testimony.

Forensic psychology is highly specialized. It can take 10 to 15 years of mental health schooling and training, and cost between $50,000 and $80,000. A forensic psychologist’s yearly salary ranges between $56,000 to $121,000.

3. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

If you’re interested in helping people have better outcomes in their family lives, you may want to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).

LMFTs usually counsel individuals, couples, and families to help them overcome relationship challenges and improve their overall functioning. As people understand more and more how much family dynamics shape their lives, the demand for LMFTs continues to grow. LMFTs provide counseling that helps people have better communication, lower family conflict, and become more resilient around emotional distress.

If you decide to become an LMFT, you can establish private practices or work in clinical settings, such as government agencies, social service departments, or mental health clinics. It generally takes about eight years of education after high school to become an LMFT and the costs can vary greatly, ranging from between $15,000 to more than $120,000 (depending on which school you attend). Also remember that you might be required to work unpaid intern hours. However, once you’ve completed these prerequisites, it’s possible to make six figures as an LMFT, with top earners making a little over $100,000 per year.

Clinical Psychologist is one of the highest paid therapist specialties

4. Clinical Psychologist

The highest paid therapists work with people experiencing more severe challenges, such as mental health disorders. Pursuing a career as a clinical psychologist will mean either researching, diagnosing or treating people dealing with the many different disorders found in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (the DSM), such as schizophrenia or OCD.

As a clinical psychologist, you might conduct research or work with people of all ages, delivering treatment or gaining more insight into mental health clients’ particular needs. Most clinical psychologists work in private practices, hospitals, and research institutions. If you feel inclined to teach, you could also get a job as a professor of clinical psychology to pass your knowledge on to future therapists.

While it’s possible to be a clinical psychologist by getting a master’s degree, the highest paying clinical psychologists have either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. It takes about 13 years after high school to complete the schooling and internship requirements for this lucrative career. The cost of a clinical psychology degree typically amounts to approximately $50,000. Similar to LMFTs, internships in this field may not offer pay. However, salaries for licensed professionals generally range from $100,000 to $140,000 per year.

Top-Earning Therapy Careers That Don’t Require Licensing

If you don’t feel comfortable putting your life on hold to go back to school, or you are unable to dedicate four-plus years to studying, followed by an indeterminate amount of apprenticeships, internships, and other licensing requirements, all is not lost.

There are plenty of high-paying therapy specialties that don’t require a lot of free time or the up-front costs of a lengthy education. Here are some of the top-earning mental health careers that don’t require licenses or specialized degrees.

5. Substance Abuse Counselor

Many who wish to assist individuals with substance abuse issues have firsthand experience or have witnessed the challenges of addiction in their own lives or communities. While substance abuse and addiction have gone down slightly, they have also been declared an epidemic since substances like fentanyl are far more deadly than other opioids once were. This has increased the demand for qualified substance abuse counselors.

It’s possible to become a substance abuse counselor even if you only have a high school diploma. There are continuing education programs or certificate programs, such as those at Arizona State University and UCLA extension, costing as little as $3,000. Starting salaries in this field can be upwards of $50,000-plus.

Sex & relationship coach is a top earning therapist specialty

6. Sex and Relationship Coach

Sex and relationship coaching is one of the highest paid jobs in the counseling field and does not require a degree. You can become one through certification training.

In this profession, you’ll work with adults to help them improve their sexual lives for better intimacy and communication. Meetings with clients could take place in a home office, a rented space, or over zoom, offering a lot of flexibility.

Most programs take one to two years to complete and you don’t need any prior degrees. Because sex and relationship coaching is a specialized niche, it’s often possible to break out of salary caps and find new ways to monetize your skills. Professionals in this field can generally earn salaries between $50,000 and $225,000 a year.

Best of all, certification training through the Somatica Institute can help you get started quickly. We provide all the business and marketing tools you need, in addition to the knowledge and experience required to attain coaching mastery.

Choosing the Best Top-Earning Therapy Specialty for You

It’s OK to think about money when looking for a career helping people. Purpose can help drive you and make every day feel meaningful, but even the most selfless people still want to live comfortably. These six top-earning therapy specialties can give you a career that feeds the soul, but also feeds your family.

If you already work in a therapeutic field, finding a niche specialty like sex and relationship coaching can make the difference between just feeling good – and feeling good while also living well.

If you’re ready to dive into a sex and relationship education program, the Somatica Institute is one of the only approved CE-granting schools for professionals and coaching hopefuls.

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