I Make $150,000 In Healthcare — But My Male Colleagues Are Paid More

illustrated by Vero Romero.
In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six-figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census with the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Today, we chat with a 34-year-old behavioral psychologist from Indianapolis, IN. Previously, we spoke to a 28-year-old school psychologist from San Francisco, CA, a 28-year old sales director in the medical device industry from Austin, TX, and a 28-year old senior social media associate in the aviation industry in Washington D.C.
Advertisement
Job: Behavioral psychologist
Age: 34
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Degree: BA, MS, PsyD
First Salary: $60,000
Current Salary: $150,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I wanted to be a cardiologist. My father put it in my head that I should be a doctor or a lawyer. In 5th grade, we had a field trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia where you can walk through a giant model of the human heart so, naturally, I thought that was cool. My job now is healthcare-adjacent and I have my doctorate, so I guess that's close enough!"
What did you study in college?
"I got my BA in Psychology and Sociology from Rosemont College, then my MS in Psychology from Saint Joseph's University, and my PsyD from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"None from undergrad, I had a full academic scholarship. But for my Masters I took out $36,000 for tuition. My 5-year doctorate program was $25,000 a year. Even though I tried to work as much as I could through school, eventually I was working less than 10 hours a week so I had to take out some Grad Plus loans to help cover my bills.
"I ended up with a total of $275,000 in debt. I got on an income-based repayment plan as my loans were all Stafford loans (thank goodness). After deferring a year, I have been repaying for four years and I am not even touching the principal yet. Now that I am making six figures, my plan is to be really strict and pay them off within five years."
Advertisement
Have you been working at this job since you graduated college?
"I worked at two different placements to get the required supervision for licensure, which took about a year and a half. I then had a brief stint at a company that went under. My last position I was at for two years but then I moved to another state.
"My husband is in the military so we move often, which makes job stability hard. I always have part time contract work on the side to help with that. But my current position is remote so I'm really excited I'll be able to keep it no matter where we go!"
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I work for a major health insurance company making clinical decisions about coverage of services for people with Autism. We do a lot of provider education to get people greater access to quality care."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"Yes. Previously I had been making $90,000 in a different type of position doing direct clinical work, and I knew this position paid more because it was more administrative. I also had very unique qualifications that were in high demand, plus the company scouted me so I felt I had more leverage.
"I asked what the salary range was for the position and the recruiter said it was $140-160,000 so I asked for the midpoint of that range. After I started, I found out my male counterpart makes $20,000 more than me so, yeah ... gender wage gap! Still, it would have been more like a $30,000 difference if I hadn't negotiated."
Advertisement
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"Yes! If I could have created my dream job, this would be it! I feel so lucky that the company sought me out (on LinkedIn, keep your profile current!) and I really love the balance of clinical work, research, and assessment skills I am able to use in my particular area of specialty."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I would have left the company that went under. I stuck it out for way too long hoping things would get better, and I could have put more effort into my contract work instead of losing half a year of stress and very little pay plus the worry about damage to my reputation when people see that place on my resume. It went down in flames and I would prefer not to be associated with them — there's always awkward questions about what happened."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"To try to attend more networking events, conferences, and other extracurriculars as much as possible in grad school. I was working a lot trying to make ends meet, so I didn't prioritize those types of things. In hindsight, a lot of the required training placements during school and right after would have been easier to get if I had developed more professional connections."
DashDividers_1_500x100_3
Are you a woman under 35 with a six-figure salary ($100,000+) and want to tell your story? Submit it here.
Advertisement

More from Work & Money