Salary Outlook with a Forensic Psychologist Degree

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While psychology remains one of the most popular fields for advanced education, with almost 28,000 students earning graduate degrees in the field in 2017-2018, federal education officials reported.

But not all specialty areas within this popular field are growing at the same rate. Forensic psychology, for instance, seems to be getting more in-demand among students who want to combine a deep knowledge of human behavior with a desire for justice.

Let’s learn about what degrees are available in the field and what graduates can expect to earn depending on where they live.

Forensic Psychology Degree Options

Jobs in forensic psychology, which is sometimes referred to as criminal psychology, require varying levels of education. In some cases, professionals can find rewarding careers with only a bachelor’s degree. But there are some good reasons to pursue advanced training, such as a master’s, Ph.D. or Psy.D. in forensic psychology.

For any jobs that require professional psychologist licensure, a doctoral degree, whether a Ph.D. or Psy.D., is generally required. Additionally, forensic psychology isn’t a very common option in undergraduate psychology programs, which most often focus on general aspects of the study of human behavior. So a master’s, Psy.D. or Ph.D. can help build the foundation of a specialty in forensic psychology.

Some jobs may require only a master’s degree in psychology, but students may be well-advised to continue on to a doctoral program. This is true not only for those seeking state psychologist licenses, but it’s also the case for many students who want to focus their professional work on a particular population group.

For example, prospective forensic psychologists who want to work exclusively with victims of traumatic experiences, such as violent crimes, may find that their undergraduate and graduate psychology programs did not give them adequate experiences working directly with this particular group.

Forensic Psychology Career Tracks

As a rapidly growing field, forensic psychology degrees may apply to an increasing number of jobs in the future as the field continues to evolve and various organizations learn the value of hiring professionals with specialized education. Forensic psychology once was referred to as criminal psychology, but in recent years, terminology has evolved to provide a more expansive view of the study of human behavior as it relates to crime.

SEE ALSO: How to Become a Forensic Psychologist

Generally, though, individuals with an education in forensic psychology will most often find careers connected to the criminal justice system. This could include positions on all sides of the justice ecosystem, whether that’s dealing with individuals suspected or convicted of crimes, consulting with law enforcement or prosecutors, or serving as expert witnesses for defense attorneys.

Here’s a look at some of the most common jobs in forensic psychology:

  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Correctional Counselors
  • Probation Officers
  • Correctional Treatment Specialist
  • Victim Advocate
  • Expert Witness
  • Jury Consultant
  • Investigator
  • Criminal Justice Training Director

Forensic Psychology Doctorate Salary Overview

While we’ve discussed the value of other types of forensic psychology degrees, most professionals will reach their highest possible earning potential with the help of a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Both are doctoral degrees, and Census data found that those with professional degrees, such as doctorates, earn about double what a typical high school graduate earns.

We wanted to understand potential salaries for forensic psychology professionals across the U.S., including those with or without a doctoral degree. We calculated a state-by-state average across three possible jobs in the field (Clinical Psychologists, General Psychologists, and Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists), according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

SEE ALSO: How Much Do Forensic Psychologists Make?

According to our analysis, the highest average annual wage across the three jobs was in California, where a typical forensic psychology professional can expect to earn upwards of $107,000. Average salaries in the District of Columbia were also in the six figures, while salaries in Colorado and Connecticut were close to that level. The lowest average forensic psychology salary was in South Carolina, with an average of about $56,000. While this is considerably lower than many other states, it still represents a major boost over the state’s overall average annual wage, which is about $44,000.

Average annual forensic psychology salary by state

California $107,040.00
District of Columbia $102,715.00
Colorado $95,315.00
Connecticut $90,625.00
New York $88,213.33
Alaska $87,626.67
Oregon $86,880.00
Hawaii $86,430.00
Rhode Island $84,120.00
Maryland $83,793.33
New Jersey $83,550.00
Iowa $83,356.67
Massachusetts $82,746.67
Minnesota $82,703.33
New Hampshire $82,486.67
Washington $81,593.33
Virginia $80,076.67
Delaware $80,060.00
Michigan $79,686.67
Louisiana $79,263.33
Nevada $78,046.67
Pennsylvania $77,346.67
Georgia $76,780.00
Utah $76,693.33
North Dakota $76,435.00
Ohio $74,100.00
Kansas $73,266.67
Wisconsin $72,813.33
North Carolina $71,490.00
Illinois $71,410.00
Texas $70,850.00
Florida $70,403.33
Arizona $69,646.67
Alabama $69,510.00
South Dakota $69,390.00
Missouri $69,163.33
Tennessee $68,726.67
Maine $68,296.67
Indiana $67,923.33
New Mexico $67,843.33
Vermont $67,765.00
Arkansas $66,033.33
Idaho $65,600.00
Nebraska $65,540.00
Mississippi $65,040.00
Wyoming $63,795.00
Kentucky $63,783.33
Oklahoma $63,093.33
Montana $60,813.33
West Virginia $59,100.00
South Carolina $56,145.00

General Psychologists have the highest average annual wage across the U.S., with a typical psychologist making about $91,000 per year. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists come in on the low end with an average yearly salary of about $53,000, while the overall average for the three jobs is just under $76,000 per year.

Average annual salary for forensic psychology jobs

General Psychologists $91,142.38
Clinical Psychologists $81,417.20
All $75,786.76
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $53,348.44

Forensic psychology jobs are expected to expand across the U.S., but some states have much higher potential for growth than others, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Projected growth rates through 2028 are highest in Utah, where forensic psychology jobs are expected to expand by nearly 23%, though Vermont is close at 21.3%. Michigan’s projected growth rate is less than 1%, which is the lowest among the states for which data was available (numbers for Alabama, Kentucky and Washington were not published).

SEE ALSO: Online Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Average projected growth in forensic psychology job openings by state, 2018-2028

Utah 22.8%
Vermont 21.3%
Nevada 18.6%
Colorado 17.6%
Florida 15.9%
Idaho 15.8%
South Dakota 15.8%
New Hampshire 15.5%
Indiana 15.4%
New York 15.2%
Hawaii 14.9%
Montana 14.8%
North Dakota 14.8%
Maryland 14.3%
Georgia 13.4%
District of Columbia 13.4%
Oregon 13.1%
Connecticut 12.5%
Arkansas 12.4%
West Virginia 12.2%
Delaware 12.1%
Virginia 12.0%
Louisiana 11.4%
Nebraska 10.9%
Rhode Island 10.7%
Wyoming 10.1%
Arizona 9.9%
California 9.8%
North Carolina 9.4%
Iowa 9.3%
Wisconsin 9.2%
New Jersey 9.0%
Pennsylvania 8.9%
Massachusetts 8.7%
Kansas 8.4%
Minnesota 7.9%
South Carolina 7.7%
Tennessee 7.4%
Maine 6.9%
Oklahoma 6.6%
Ohio 6.3%
New Mexico 6.1%
Illinois 5.7%
Alaska 5.2%
Missouri 5.0%
Texas 3.3%
Mississippi 2.9%
Michigan 0.3%

Each of the three forensic psychology jobs are expected to see positive growth through 2028, with Clinical Psychologists likely to see the most rapid expansion, more than 15%. This is about triple the rate at which all jobs in the U.S. are expected to grow in that time.

Average projected growth in forensic psychology job openings, 2018-2028

Clinical Psychologists 15.41%
Psychologists 12.17%
All 10.65%
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 4.36%


As American society continues to evolve in its understanding of crime and criminal justice, it will be crucial to hear the voices of those who have spent their lives studying the nexus of human behavior and the legal system. Fortunately for those professionals, high wages and rapid expansion of job opportunities are likely across much of the U.S.