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What does a trauma psychologist do

Salary Outlook with Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology Degree






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Trauma and crises are a sad part of our lives. There are many devastating life events that can have a major impact on the psychology and lives of the victims.

Some major traumas that can lead to psychological problems are:

  • Major acts of violence such as war, terrorism and armed robbery with serious injury or death
  • Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and floods
  • Family violence such as rape, child abuse or suicide of a loved one
  • A serious car accident or workplace accident

Trauma psychology is a subspecialty of clinical and counseling psychology. Trauma psychologists work with victims of traumatic events to help them deal with their feelings, develop effective strategies for recovery, and devise skills that will encourage closure so they can move on with a better life.

Students interested in this field can earn their Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology. Earning this degree can take from four to six years, so it is important to understand the compensation you can enjoy after you graduate. Below is more information about the salary outlook with a Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology.

Trauma Psychology Salary Outlook

A good source for overall psychologist salary information is the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS. BLS states the median salary for psychologists in 2018 was $79,000. The lowest-paid with a bachelor’s or master’s degree and limited experienced earned only $43,000. The top 10% with the most experience and Ph.D. degrees earned $129,000 per year. (

BLS also reported that all other psychologists, which could include trauma psychologists, earned a median wage of $100,700 per year. does not have data on trauma psychologists, but the average salary for a clinical psychologist is $91,000. (

Ziprecruiter reports the national average salary for trauma therapists is $79,163. This profession would require at least a master’s degree and a license to practice psychology. (

Some professionals with their Ph.D. in trauma psychology may want to work as part-time or full-time college instructors. BLS states the median salary for all postsecondary instructors in 2018 was $78,700. All psychology instructors earned a median salary of $76,500. (

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High Salary Growth in Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology

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For the best possible salary in trauma psychology, it is recommended to earn your Ph.D. and work in private practice as a trauma psychologist. BLS data show that top-end psychologists with a Ph.D. and experience can earn $129,250 per year. Also, government work seems to be the best place to earn the highest median salary: $96,410. Both the state and federal governments are interested in employing trauma psychologists to help trauma victims of major disasters to deal with the aftermath of their trauma.

General Ph.D. Job Outlook

The job outlook for psychologists with a Ph.D. is strong. There will be a 14% increase in demand for various psychologists through 2026, which is faster than average. Employment for clinical and counseling psychologists also will rise by 14%. Trauma psychologists are a form of a clinical psychologist. There will be more need for psychological services in hospitals, mental health centers and social services agencies to help people who are dealing with major trauma in their lives and communities. (

If you want to teach as a college instructor with your Ph.D., there is a 15% increase in demand for these academic professionals. Some of the demand for more teachers is on a part-time basis, so you may need to take on more than one job with your Ph.D. (

Trauma Psychology Career Opportunities

Obtaining your Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology will make you eligible for many exciting careers. Below are some actual current job listings for professionals with a master’s or Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology.

  • Behavioral health clinician: Focused on knowledge of family trauma and culturally sensitive substance and mental abuse.
  • Clinical psychologist: Work in a stress and anxiety center to work with patients with significant trauma and major depression and anxiety.
  • Psychologist in behavioral medicine: Work with people who struggle will issues related to chronic pain and trauma.
  • Psychologist: Experience in crisis interventions; experience with clinical case management such as crisis response, suicide assessment, etc.
  • Clinical psychologist: Work in a military sexual trauma center and have high and advanced practice skills and judgment in trauma.
  • Clinical psychologist – integrative pain: Work with patients undergoing mental and physical trauma from chronic pain issues. Administer depression, anxiety, risk and other assessment tests, addiction counseling and more.

Featured Online Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology

Northcentral University offers an Online Ph.D. in Psychology with a specialization in Trauma Psychology. This online Ph.D. program has been designed in growing response to higher interest in the field because of the need for more advanced skills and educational opportunities in trauma psychology. (Visit

In this five-year program, you will grow your critical thinking skills, expand your base of knowledge in trauma psychology to be able to evaluate problems with individuals, as well as deal with trauma as it affects society, organizations and the world community.

You will learn in this program that exposure to disaster and trauma can cause major emotional and behavioral issues for victims, survivors, relief workers and bystanders. The Northcentral Trauma and Disaster Relief specialization will prepare you to understand needs of people who were witnesses to natural disasters, accidents, abuse, physical injury, bullying and more, and who are dealing with how to deal with feelings related to these traumas.

Required courses in this specialty include:

  • Research Models
  • Statistics I
  • Tests and Measurements
  • Introduction to Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
  • Advanced Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis and Design
  • Research Design Planning
  • Psychology of Violence
  • Psychology of Traumatic Stress
  • Disaster, Terrorism, and Mass Violence: Impacts on Mental Health
  • Trauma-Informed Assessment, Risk and Diagnosis
  • Trauma-Information Interventions with Disaster and Trauma Survivors
  • Gender and Cultural Considerations in Disaster Trauma and Response

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Earning a Ph.D. in Trauma Psychology can be a good fit for you if you want to work with patients who are dealing with various serious trauma in their life, from natural disasters to terrorism to sexual and mental abuse, among many others. Working with these types of patients can be very intense and demanding, but many psychologists find it deeply rewarding.

You also can earn a high salary of $75,000 and above if you earn your Ph.D. in Psychology and get your license to practice. You further can expect strong demand for highly educated and experienced clinical psychologists with highly developed skills in treating trauma subjects.


  • Things You Can Do With a Doctorate In Psychology Degree. 2019 (N.D.).  Retrieved from:
  • Highest Paying Psychology Careers in 2019. (2019). Retrieved from

People who have experienced traumatic events sometimes require professional assistance to help them process the life changes or psychological consequences of their experiences. People who are suffering from trauma may have problems with drugs or alcohol, or may have difficulty maintaining employment or stable relationships. Trauma psychologists specialize in treating problems caused by traumatic experiences.

Duties of a Trauma Psychologist

Trauma psychologists conduct assessments of clients suffering from a life-changing event such as a severe injury, death of a loved one, abuse history, or experience with crime or war. They use therapeutic techniques, such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that have been proven to benefit trauma patients in empirical studies.

Trauma therapists design treatment plans, evaluate the results for the client and make changes to the plan as needed. They are also expected to keep up with current research to ensure that all treatments are based on evidence and consistent with the most up-to-date understanding of trauma treatment.

Trauma Aware: Treating PTSD

People who have suffered a traumatic experience such as combat frequently experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past, therapists such as psychologists generally approached PTSD and other disorders according to the medical paradigm, in which the patient is treated as a person with an illness and the therapist is treated as a medical professional and authority figure.

Today, many practitioners support a different paradigm in which PTSD and other trauma-induced conditions are seen as survival adaptations rather than the symptoms of an illness. This model emphasizes the need for the trauma or PTSD psychologist to express empathy and validation. Many of these therapists practice independently, while others work with PTSD organizations and other nonprofits. While some therapists do still use the old medical paradigm, more and more professionals are moving to a more trauma-aware model of care.

Trauma Psychologist Education

Trauma psychologists, like all psychologists, must complete a doctoral program and then obtain a license to practice psychology. Different states have different rules for people practicing as counselors or therapists, but all states require a license and doctorate for psychologists.

The American Psychological Association provides a list of undergraduate and graduate programs in trauma psychology. Some of these programs concentrate on specific aspects of the discipline, such as PTSD or trauma-related drug issues or even trauma caused by involvement in a particular military conflict.

Psychologist Job Outlook and Considerations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 median income of a psychologist was ​$82,180​ a year. Job growth for this profession is projected to be 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is average when compared with other industries.

If you want to become a trauma psychologist, the Sidran Institute offers suggested articles and other materials on the characteristics that make a therapist genuinely helpful to a trauma survivor, such as the ability to offer a sense of respect, useful information, a point of connection and a sense of hope.