Psychology Teacher: Job, Education and Salary Information

Psychology Teacher: Job, Education and Salary Information
The Editorial Team October 4, 2012

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If you’re fascinated with human behavior and you enjoy working with young adults, you might think about becoming a psychology teacher.

Psychology teachers educate students in the basic concepts of why people act the way they do. The science of psychology studies human behavior based on observational analysis, the scientific method and psychological theories. Students learn about different types of psychological approaches to understanding and managing human actions.

Most psychology teachers work in high schools and postsecondary institutions. The majority of teachers primarily focus on instruction, but those who work in colleges or universities may also be professional psychologists. College instructors may work as counselors, clinical psychologists and researchers.

> Who makes a good psychology teacher?

Teaching at the various levels
> High school
> Postsecondary/college

Related careers
> Jobs beyond teaching

Best of the Web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: psychology teachers

  High school Postsecondary
Education Master’s degree/master’s preferred and state-issued certification Master’s degree/doctorate preferred
Typical study time 4-5 years 6-9 years
Median salary $57,200 $72,470
Job growth outlook +6% +13%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Who makes a good psychology teacher?

Good psychology teachers need to be:

  • Patient
  • Persistent
  • Organized
  • Well-spoken
  • Able to motivate
  • Dedicated to their specialty
  • Strong communicators
  • Knowledgeable on psychology practice and theory

Psychology teacher job description

If you work as a psychology teacher, you will probably end up instructing on the high school or college level. The work environment will differ based on the level of instruction and the particular school.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most high school teachers work in public or private schools. High school teachers can expect to work outside of school hours grading papers and tests but usually do not work during summer months.

Psychology professors have a much different work environment. Those who teach psychology at the college level may work in universities, colleges, community colleges and vocational schools during hours set by the institution. Time outside of class is often devoted to psychological research or clinical work settings.

If you decide to work as a psychology teacher, you can expect to spend most of the day working with students. Teachers should expect to spend time providing lectures, assisting students with class activities, answering questions and getting the students involved in psychological experiments. The exact nature of classes will vary based on the level of instruction and the type of psychology students are exploring in the class.

Teaching at various levels

High school psychology teachers

High school psychology teachers develop courses introducing students to the basics of psychology. Courses provide an overview of leading theorists in the field of psychology and describe current knowledge on the workings of the human mind. Students may learn about common psychological disorders and study where intelligence comes from.
Continue reading to learn more about high school psychology teachers

What high school psychology teachers do

The basics of a high school psychology teacher’s work day are like those of most high school teachers:

  • Lecturing students
  • Selecting class projects
  • Giving and grading tests
  • Grading papers
  • Managing a classroom
  • Making homework assignments
  • Holding parent-teacher conferences

High school psychology classes delve into the workings of the human mind. In class, teachers might pose questions like:

  • Do you concentrate better if you chew gum?
  • Are frequent Facebook users more or less lonely than other people?
  • Which is more disruptive — cell phone conversations or regular conversations?

Because many bachelor’s degree programs require students to take an introductory psychology course, a high school psychology class is a great choice for college-bound students. High school psychology teachers need to keep these kinds of students in mind when developing courses.

Educational and certification requirements

High school psychology teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree. In many cases, they are required to have a master’s degree in education or psychology.

However, high school teachers also need to have student teaching experience and a state certification. This certification may also require an exam.

Salary and employment projections

Career-oriented websites offer these estimates of annual high school teacher pay:

  • BLS: $57,200 (median)
  • $45,889 (average)
  • $50,000 (average)

The projected job growth for high school teachers is 6 percent.

Pros and cons of being a high school psychology teacher


  • You get summers off.
  • You help young people understand the workings of their minds and personalities.
  • You get to plan outings and class projects.


  • Students of other cultures may have differing views of psychology.
  • You may need to be bilingual or trilingual to teach effectively.
  • Students may be skeptical of psychological theories.

Postsecondary psychology teachers

Postsecondary psychology teachers work in colleges and universities. In addition to teaching a wide variety of courses in psychology, they may also conduct research and mentor students
Continue reading to learn more about postsecondary/college computer psychology teachers

What do postsecondary psychology teachers do?

Postsecondary psychology teachers help students earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology. Key duties include:

  • Developing lesson plans
  • Choosing textbooks and multimedia
  • Conducting lectures
  • Grading tests and papers
  • Advising graduate students
  • Keeping office hours for all students
  • Conducting research on campus and in the field
  • Writing articles for scientific journals
  • Supervising class projects

Educational and certification requirements

Postsecondary psychology teachers usually need a master’s degree or doctorate. They also may need student teaching experience and a state board certification.

Salary and employment projections

The BLS estimates postsecondary teachers earn a median annual salary of $72,470. Here are two estimates of postsecondary psychology teacher salaries:

  • $49,393 (median)
  • $60,000 to $70,000 (range)

The BLS projects 13 percent job growth for postsecondary teachers.

Pros and cons of being a postsecondary psychology teacher


  • You have many choices in your career.
  • You teach serious students who are going for a degree.
  • You can collaborate with the best and the brightest psychologists.


  • It’s difficult to get into a secure tenure-track position.
  • You may not get the summer off.
  • As you move toward a PhD, your work becomes more theoretical.

Professional development

Continuing education

Continuing your education depends on your interests. Do you want your career path to lead to school administration, or would you like to transition to working as a school psychologist? Or, do you want to do research? Do you want to move to a different area of psychology, such as clinical, developmental or child psychology?

You will also want to ask yourself if a PhD is practical or relevant in your school. Does it help you reach your life goals?

Professional associations


Related careers

Jobs beyond teaching

  • Principal, assistant principal or district administrator
  • School psychologist
  • Marketing strategist
  • Researcher

Best of the Web

Psychology websites and blogs

Psychology teachers on Twitter

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