One of the primary considerations for many students who are thinking about the possible career choices in which they might be interested is, of course, salary. This article provides some information regarding the salary range that one could expect to earn with a career in forensic psychology.
As with any career field, the amount that one can expect to earn depends upon a number of factors. In forensic psychology, those factors include: level of education, setting in which one works, the types of activities in which one engages, and the number of years of experience.
Level of Education
In general, either a Masters or Doctoral degree is necessary to engage in the activities of a forensic psychologist. It is possible, after obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, to work in some of the same settings as forensic psychologists, but the pay earned with a Bachelor’s degree will be substantially less than that earned by those with Masters or Doctoral degrees.
In general, the starting salary for a Masters degree in psychology is typically about $10,000 higher than the starting salary for those with Bachelors degrees in psychology. In addition, it is generally the case that those with Masters degrees will earn higher salary increases than those with Bachelors degrees.
In a similar vein, the starting salary for those with Doctoral degrees in psychology is again about $10,000 higher than for those with Masters degrees in psychology, although this can vary considerably by type of setting.
As a very general statement, from data collected across the United States and averaged (so these can vary considerably by professional setting and geographic location), those with Bachelor’s degrees in psychology can expect to begin their careers with salaries in the $30,000s, those with Master’s degrees can expect to begin their careers with salaries in the $40,000s, and those with Doctoral degrees in psychology can expect to begin their careers with salaries in the $50,000s.
Forensic psychologists work in a wide variety of professional settings. Some of these settings include: academic or research settings such as universities, law schools, or research institutions; clinical settings, such as community mental health clinics, forensic psychiatric facilities, or state hospitals; legal settings, such as court clinics, or mental health courts; correctional settings, such as at jails, prisons, halfway houses, or community probation offices; as well as a wide variety of private practice settings, depending upon one’s area of expertise. Salaries can vary widely across these different settings and typically depend upon the number of years of experience of the forensic psychologist.
In terms of academic settings, private universities, law schools, and research institutes typically pay higher salaries than public universities. As a general statement, doctoral-level psychologists can expect to earn annual salaries ranging between $55,000 and $130,000, depending upon their experience and rank.
Clinical settings can vary widely and so the salaries that forensic psychologists earn in these settings also vary. As a general statement, a Doctoral-level forensic psychologist can probably expect to earn between $50,000 and $90,000 in most types of forensic clinical settings. Again, this will vary with experience and rank. Administrative positions tend to be higher paying and private facilities tend to pay higher salaries than public or state clinical settings.
The types of legal settings in which forensic psychologists work can include mental health courts or court clinics. Again, salaries can vary widely and depend on one’s experience and expertise. As a general statement, doctoral-level forensic psychologists who work in these types of settings can expect to earn about the same salaries as those working in state clinical facilities (somewhere between $50,000 and $90,000).
There is a great need for forensic psychologists within the correctional system. This system is one of the largest employers of Masters-level forensic psychologists. The annual salaries of forensic psychologists within the correctional system depends upon the number of years of experience in the system and the educational attainment of the individual, with doctoral-level psychologists earning more than master-level psychologists. Masters-level forensic psychologists in the correctional system can expect to earn annual salaries of about $40,000 to $80,000 depending upon their level of experience and number of years working in the correctional system. Doctoral-level psychologists can expect to earn annual salaries of about $50,000 to $140,000 depending on their experience, number of years working in the system, and whether they have administrative responsibilities.
Forensic psychologists in private practice determine their rate, typically by the hour, so it can be difficult to calculate an annual salary since the hours vary considerably. Some forensic psychologists choose to work only a few forensic cases each year but may earn large sums of money for this work. The hourly rate that a forensic psychologist charges varies widely and is typically dependent upon his or her experience and area of expertise. Generally, forensic psychologists charge more per hour for their time than do non-forensic clinical psychologists since the legal issues inherent to forensic psychology place the psychologist at a higher risk for litigation and since forensic psychology is an area of specialization. Hourly rates for forensic psychologists can vary between $150 and $600 (or even higher) depending upon the type of forensic work that is being conducted and the experience and expertise of the forensic psychologist.
For more information on the salary level of psychologists and forensic psychologists, please see the post entitled Forensic Psychology Salary Information and other related posts under the Forensic Psychology and Education and Training tabs on this site.