How Much Do Forensic Psychologists Make?
The forensic psychology field has received more publicity in recent years with such television shows as Criminal Minds and many others. This is part of the reason more students are considering a Ph.D. in forensic psychology.
The American Psychological Association (APA) describes forensic psychology as applying clinical specialties to legal subjects. This stresses the application of clinical psychological principles to the forensic environment. This field also is defined as the application of research and experimentation to other parts of psychology, including cognitive and social, to the legal field. This could be the application of results from studies in areas of cognitive psychology to legal questions. (APA.org)
Forensic psychologists focus on these areas:
- Research: Develop and administer research in the field on topics related to the legal system. For instance, you may perform research about how reliable eyewitness testimony is, or how misidentification in police lineups can happen from witness tainting.
- Evaluation: This can be performed for a court or the litigants. Many legal cases need a psychological evaluation for a binding legal decision to be made. For instance, whether the defendant that was convicted of a sex crime must register as a sex offender depends on a psychological assessment – is the person a sexual predator? Or, a child custody decision may not be made by the judge until a decision has been made by a forensic psychologist looking at the parents, and determining if any abuse has occurred.
- Consultation: This is normally done for attorneys who are handling a criminal or civil case. The type of consulting can change, but it generally involves assisting the client in obtaining the desired outcome in the court case.
Duties of a forensic psychologist also can include:
- Evaluating insurance claims
- Providing psychotherapy in family court
- Performing visitation risk assessments
- Investigating potential child abuse cases
To work as a forensic psychologist, it is required to earn a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in the field. You also must have at least two years of supervised professional experience. One year of this must be an APA-accredited predoctoral internship.
Becoming a forensic psychologist requires a lot of time and study, so knowing what a forensic psychologist makes is an important part of your career decision process. Below is detailed forensic psychologist salary information.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information
There are several good sources of salary information for psychologists and forensic psychologists in particular:
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an excellent source of salary information for psychologists. BLS reports the median salary for psychologists is $79,000 as of 2018. The lowest 10% earned $43,800, and the top 10% earned at least $129,000 per year. These numbers include many types of psychologists at various levels of education. If you have your Ph.D. in forensic psychology, you should expect a salary well above the median. (BLS.gov)
BLS also reports more detailed salary information:
- All other psychologists: $100,700
- Industrial-organizational psychologists: $97,200
- Clinical, counseling and school psychologists: $76,900
Median annual wages for all psychologists vary by industry:
- Government: $96,400
- Hospitals: $86,500
- Ambulatory healthcare services: $79,100
- Elementary and secondary schools: $75,800
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports a range similar to BLS: $40,000 to $121,000. However, this site notes professionals who remain in the field of for years can earn between $200,000 and $400,000 per year. Also, most entry-level forensic psychologists earn between $60,000 and $70,000. (APA.org)
Payscale.com reports the average forensic psychologist salary is $67,600. The salary range reported is from $40,000 to $101,000. The site also posts annual bonuses ranging from $495 to $14,000. (Payscale.com). This website also states the average, entry-level salary for this profession is $51,395, with a range between $35,000 and $85,000.
Ziprecruiter.com reports average salaries for forensic psychologists by state. Salaries range from $114,780 to $81,800. (Ziprecruiter.com). Below are the average salaries reported for some of the most popular states:
- New York: $114,780
- Massachusetts: $114,000
- Maryland: $107,600
- California: $104,000
- Virginia: $102,600
- Pennsylvania: $99,500
- New Jersey: $98,800
- Ohio: $97,400
- Texas: $94,400
- Illinois: $91,500
- Florida: $88,100
Job Outlook for Forensic Psychologists
BLS reports the job outlook for psychologists overall is strong. It reports a 14% increase in jobs through 2028, which is faster than average. There also will be 15% job growth for professionals working as clinical and counseling psychologists.
Forensic psychology has grown in prominence and popularity in part because of sensationalist portrayals of the field in movies and TV programs. These characterizations of the career are sometimes inaccurate.
These psychologists may be portrayed as expert criminal profilers who can detect what a criminal could do next. However, forensic psychologists usually practice psychology as a science in the civil courts and criminal justice system.
Given the strong job growth for psychologists generally, there is good job potential for forensic psychologists with a doctoral degree in the future. Salaries for this field are quite competitive once you have earned your Ph.D. or Psy.D. Law enforcement agencies and the legal system have learned that hiring forensic psychologists or using them as experts in trials can increase the odds of prevailing before a judge.
SEE ALSO: How to Become a Forensic Psychologist
With enough years of experience, it is possible to earn well more than $100,000 per year, with top professionals earning $200,000 and even more. This type of high salary potential could make it worth spending four to seven years more in college to earn that coveted Ph.D. in forensic psychology.