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How Much Do Criminal Psychologists Make?

Criminal psychology is another term for forensic psychology. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), criminal psychology focuses on providing psychological services and expertise within the legal and justice systems. This psychologist works to create accurate, relevant, and credible data, and conclusions that help legal arguments and the making of judicial decisions. (APA.org)

Criminal psychology is useful within the criminal justice system because many people in that system may suffer from a psychiatric condition. Or, they have characteristics that are related to a clinical and legal decision. Each person in the criminal justice system has both a clinical and legal status. Those people can be broken down into the following groups:

  • Civil: Work with people who are participating in civil litigation, including personal injury, child custody, guardianship, and disability cases.
  • Criminal: Work with people who are involved in criminal proceedings, such as defendants contesting their ability to stand trial. Also work on cases involving insanity, diminished capacity, sentencing issues, or waiver for juveniles, and people acquitted due to an insanity plea.

Criminal psychologists also provide important services to attorneys, courts, insurers, and even employers.

Becoming a criminal psychologist requires a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, followed by a postdoctoral specialization in forensics.

Below is detailed information about the salary outlook for criminal or forensic psychologists.

Criminal Psychologist Salary Information

There are multiple sources of reliable data for criminal psychologist salaries.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

BLS data does not explicitly mention criminal psychologists. But the median salary for all psychologists was $79,000 in 2018, with the top 10% earning $129,000. (BLS.gov)

Salaries also are affected by the industry in which you work:

  • Government: $96,400
  • State, local and private hospitals: $86,500
  • Ambulatory healthcare services: $79,100
  • Elementary and secondary schools: $75,800

Many criminal psychologists work within the criminal justice system, which is a part of the state, local or federal government.

APA.org

The APA reports that most forensic and criminal psychologists earned between $33,800 and $121,900 in 2013. But professionals who stay in the field the longest can eventually make $200,000 or even $400,000 annually. (APA.org)

The organization also notes that salaries in this field will vary by sector of employment. But the majority of entry-level jobs with a doctoral degree start at $60,000 or $70,000. With a master’s degree, expect a starting salary of $40,000 per year.

Payscale.com

Payscale.com reports an average salary as a criminal psychologist of $76,000. There is a reported salary range of $40,000 to $116,000. (Payscale.com)

This website shows that salary for criminal psychologists varies largely by experience level. For a worker with one year of experience, the salary is $458,000. For a criminal psychologist with 10-19 years of experience, the wage is $88,000, and for more than 20 years, you can earn $116,000.

Salaries can be above or below the median of $76,000 by city, as well:

  • Chicago: +29%
  • Los Angeles: +24%
  • Denver: +12%
  • Houston: +12%
  • Boston: -20%
  • Miami: -21%
  • New York City: -34%

Ziprecruiter.com

This website publishes salary information by state for criminal psychologists: (Ziprecruiter.com)

  • New York: $114,700
  • Massachusetts: $114,045
  • California: $104,000
  • Virginia: $102,620
  • Pennsylvania: $99,500
  • Colorado: $99,400
  • New Jersey: $98,800
  • Ohio: $97,400
  • Texas: $94,400
  • Florida: $88,110

Job Outlook for Criminal Psychologists

The job outlook for criminal psychologists is uncertain as there is not a lot of data that mentions this specialty. However, BLS data shows a 14% increase in jobs for psychologists by 2028, much faster than average. For clinical, counseling, and school psychologists, there will be a similar increase in job demand. (BLS.gov)

Experts advise the best way to find jobs in the limited and competitive criminal psychology field is to obtain internships at forensic hospitals, correctional facilities, and mental health centers.

It also is helpful to be a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. At this time, this society has 3,000 members and is expected to grow. More experienced clinical psychologists are deciding to focus on forensic work to get away from the limits of managed care.

As long as television shows and films glamorize forensic and criminal psychology, there will be much interest from students. This media attention usually means the demand for the work will far outstrip the supply.

Summary

Job demand for psychologists is rising, and it may be growing for criminal psychologists, as well. With the proper degree and enough experience, you can earn more than $60,000 per year as a criminal psychologist.

SEE ALSO: Top Online PhD in Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

However, Psychology Today points out that forensic psychology has become very popular because of television and film portrayals of the work. So, if you only plan to earn your master’s degree, you may find trouble getting work when many other applicants have a Ph.D. (PsychologyToday.com)

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Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Editor-In-Chief

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.