Salaries for Forensic Psychologists

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According to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA), psychologists working in settings where psychology and the law overlap are “in hot demand.”

Forensic psychology—best defined as the application of psychological expertise within the judicial system—has enjoyed tremendous growth in recent years. Ira K. Packer, PhD, a clinical psychiatry professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told the APA that there is now a “proliferation of the need” for psychologists who can lend their expertise to the legal system. In fact, Packer points out that the demand for forensic psychologists is outstripping the supply as the legal system continues to put their expertise to use.

Clinical forensic psychologists, in particular, enjoy an abundance of professional opportunities, thanks to an increase in demand, and can diversify their practices and receive lucrative revenue streams that are not dependent upon insurance reimbursement.

The APA article reported that, while salaries for academic, research, and institutional careers in forensic psychology are similar to other subspecialties of psychology, forensic psychologists in private practice are more likely to receive top compensation. Many of the leading forensic psychologists, for example, earn between $200,000 and $400,000 per year.

Forensic Psychology Salaries – From Fellowship to Clinical Practice

Salary ranges for forensic psychologists can vary widely according to the nature of the work and the setting in which it is performed. Forensic psychologists may work for state or local governments, private practices, correctional facilities, mental hospitals, and police departments, among others. Those with experience in the field often go on to start their own practice, securing long-term relationships with thriving law firms.

Forensic Psychologist Postdoctoral Fellowship Salaries

Forensic psychologists new to the field earn their first regular paycheck from their postdoctoral fellowship. A 2010 resource directory of postdoctoral fellowships by the APA revealed a salary range of between $30,000 and $57,000. A few examples include:

  • Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma at Alliant International University, San Diego, CA: $30,000-$34,000
  • Larned State Hospital, Larned KS: $48,000
  • Liberty Healthcare Corporation at Illinois Department of Human Services, Rushville, IL: $40,000
  • Lubbock Regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Services, Lubbock, TX: $36,000
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston: $35,000
  • Minnesota State Operated Forensic Services, St. Peter, MN: $57,000

Forensic Psychology Professor Salaries

It is common for experienced forensic psychologists to either fully transition to academia or lend their expertise as part-time professors. A 2012-2013 Faculty Salary Survey by the APA Center for Workforce Studies revealed the following salaries for forensic psychology professors in doctoral departments:

  • Full professor: $118,985
  • Associate professor: $77,935
  • Assistant professor: $67,655
  • Lecturer/instructor: $50,832

Clinically Licensed Forensic Psychologist Salaries

According to the APA 2009-2010 salary survey (the most recent salary information available from the APA), clinically licensed psychologists providing direct human services earned a median, annual salary of $85,000.

The salary survey respondents—5 percent of whom were forensic psychologists—were doctorate-prepared state licensed psychologists providing health/mental health services to client populations.

Nearly 40 percent of the clinically licensed psychologists in the APA salary survey were employed in the following practice settings:

  • 26 percent, private practice
  • 11 percent, group psychological practices
  • 2 primary group practices

Another 16 percent were employed in hospitals, 14 percent were employed in educational settings, and 6 percent were employed in government agencies.

Forensic Psychology Researcher Salaries

The 2009 APA salary survey revealed that psychologists in research positions earned a median, annual salary of $80,500. Psychologists in this area worked full-time in research positions, providing basic or applied research.

The largest proportion of respondents—13 percent—worked in university research centers or institutes, followed by 12 percent in private research organizations or labs, and 9 percent (each) in medical school psychiatry departments and government research organizations/labs.

Bureau of Labor Salary Statistics for Clinical Forensic Psychologists

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically gather salary statistics on forensic psychologists, it does provide occupational employment and salary information for clinical psychologists. As of May 2014, the BLS reported that clinical psychologists earned an average salary of $74,030, with the top 10 percent earning more than $113,640.

Some of the highest reported salaries in this field were in specialty hospitals and scientific research and development services—$90,050 and $87,430, respectively.

The top-paying states for clinical psychologists were:

  • Rhode Island: $94,590
  • Hawaii: $87,620
  • Connecticut: $86,120
  • New Jersey: $85,670
  • Alabama: $85,440

According to the BLS, the top-paying metropolitan areas for clinical psychologists were:

  • Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA: $116,470
  • Hartford-Corcoran, CA: $109,900
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA: $105,780
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $102,960
  • Salinas, CA: $100,610

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