Psychologist Pay Rate Increases 5.2% in 2021, While Mental Health Workers See Much Smaller Bump

The hourly pay rate for psychologists in behavioral health facilities increased about 5.2% in the past year, while hourly wages for mental health workers saw a much smaller bump of 1.2%.

Those figures come from the new 2021 Behavioral Health Salary & Benefits Report recently released by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS).

To reach the findings, HCS surveyed a total of 721 behavioral health facilities, which provided data for 25,562 employees. Participating facilities were scattered across the U.S., with 44% identifying as not-for-profit organizations, while the rest were for-profit entities. HCS looked at everything from hourly pay rates and bonuses to benefits and turnover rates in the report. 


When it comes to pay changes, the study showed that the average hourly rate for a psychologist increased to $52.67 in 2021, compared to $50.06 a year earlier. Those amounts — and all other hourly data in the report — do not include benefits, bonuses or pay differentials. 

However, it’s worth noting all states and care settings are not created equal when it comes to psychologist pay rates.

For example, psychologists in Missouri had the lowest average pay rate of $48.41, while those in New York brought in an average of $57.85 per hour. Additionally, psychologists working in hospitals and community health centers make 10% more on average than those who work in different care settings, according to the study. 


Meanwhile, average pay rate for mental health workers and psychiatric aides saw a much smaller jump in 2021. It increased from $16.66 in 2020 to $16.86 this year. 

Low pay is a common complaint in the behavioral health industry, with experts and executives arguing that payers need to increase reimbursements rates for behavioral health providers so that those organizations can pay clinicians more to better recruit and retain employees and address the industry-wide behavioral health workforce shortage. 

On the topic of retention, it’s worth noting that mental health workers and psychiatric aides, who see some of the lowest pay rates, also see the highest turnover. According to the report, average turnover for that population was just shy of 33%. Meanwhile, program managers saw the lowest turnover rates, at 21.7%. 

The average turnover for all employee types included in the report was 29.8%.

You can find the full salary and benefits report here.

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