Average income of psychologists has dropped noticeably, survey shows

By National Psychologist Editor
July 1, 1998



Columbus, OH — The average income of psychologists has plunged notably during the past 30 months, dropping to an average of $73,850 a year from $86,200 in late 1995, according to a survey conducted by The National Psychologist, an independent newspaper that circulates to 31,000 psychologists nationwide.

The findings are based on a mail survey conducted in May and early June. One thousand practitioners were polled, with 291 (29%) responding. The results appear in the publication’s July/August issue. Participants were asked to indicate their “annual income from psychology (net after expenses.)”

The National Psychologist conducted a similar survey in late 1995. In both surveys, psychologists were asked if they had given serious thought during the past six months of leaving the practice of psychology. In both surveys, about 40% replied they had given it serious thought. However, there are no verifiable signs that psychologists are actually leaving their profession in any significant numbers, according to the newspaper.

The survey further disclosed that complaints about managed care continue to be as horrific as they were in 1995. Some psychologists said they are “holding their own” by working longer hours, and by limiting their practices to out-of-pocket payment at the time services are delivered.

To attempt to verify the substantial drop in incomes, The National Psychologist began to spot check with psychologists around the country to ascertain if they were feeling the pinch of a precipitous downturn in income during the past 2 1/2 years. None of those interviewed expressed surprise at the magnitude of the drop, and most blamed the lower fees paid by managed care organizations as the reason with a decline of payment per therapy hour from $85 to $60-$65 having become familiar in this current healthcare climate.

In a related development, The New York Times reported in its June 28 issue that big health insurers are now sharply cutting physician fees, and are also imposing strict new rules which physicians say will undermine patient care. Among the most aggressive fee-cutters named in the article were Aetna U.S Healthcare, Blue Cross plans in at least seven states, United Healthcare and Cigna. The article further quoted that a recent review of contracts by AMA found provisions that give insurers the right to dictate fees and lower them at will instead of working them out with doctors.

The preponderance of survey respondents were in the 45-55 year age bracket with more than 90% being doctoral level psychologists.

View the related graphs which illustrate the survey’s findings.

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