Salaries for Forensic Psychologists

Whether working directly for the state or as hired guns called in to consult on cases and provide services on a contract basis, forensic psychologists are the trusted professionals the courts, law firms, police departments, schools, correctional and rehabilitation centers rely on for a better understanding and perspective on the criminal mind.

On any given day, forensic psychologists are performing mental health evaluations for the courts or correctional system…assisting attorneys in jury selection…providing dispute resolution and competency assessment services for the courts…performing background investigations for law enforcement agencies…and assessing and evaluating both offenders and victims of crime for civil and criminal cases. It’s a specialized profession that calls for specialized credentials (all must have a PhD or PsyD from an American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited doctoral program, two years of post-doctoral experience, and state licensure as a clinical psychologist), but in this field, the rewards make it well worth it.

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Grand Canyon University
Online B.S. or M.S. in Forensic Psychology
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Southern New Hampshire University
Online BS and MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology


Forensic Psychology Salary Information by State

What Exactly is Behind the Record High Salaries in Forensic Psychology

A Closer Look at Where Forensic Psychologists Are Earning the Most

A State-by-State Guide to Salaries in Forensic Psychology



What Exactly is Behind the Record High Salaries in Forensic Psychology

So, how is it that specializing in forensics offers psychologists a chance to earn far more than they could in just about any other area of clinical and applied psychology?

In a word: demand.

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

Ever since 2001 when the APA approved forensic psychology as a specialty, interest has surged in the field, and today, nearly every part of the legal system relies on their expertise.

Working as an independent consultant is an attractive option, providing total control over the kinds of clients they work with and how they bill for their services.

Unlike most clinical psychologists, forensic psychologists aren’t reliant on insurance reimbursement to make their money, and they aren’t subject to the same kind of standard rate billing. They may very well bill their services on an hourly basis or accept retainers for taking cases, but those rates aren’t ever going to be processed for approval by an insurance company. And so their services go to the highest bidder, and in a high-demand field without a lot of other options to choose from when a law firm or law enforcement agency needs a forensic psychologist, those bids can go pretty high.

They also have the opportunity specialize and diversify their practice according to where demand in the field takes them.

Not only is earning a salary in the six figures possible in forensic psychology, but it’s also more common than you may think. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic psychologists (categorized by the BLS as Psychologists, All Others) earned a median salary of $101,790 as of May 2019. The top 10% of earners in this field – likely those with extensive experience and specialized experience in specific areas of the legal system – earned more than $129,530 during this time.

Based on BLS stats, some of the highest paid forensic psychologists were among those who worked as consultants, earning an annual average of $115,360.

Forensic psychologists working for state government earned an average of $104,280, while those working for the federal government earned just $94,670, about $10,000 less by comparison.

A Closer Look at Where Forensic Psychologists Are Earning the Most

ZipRecruiter, a leading online employment marketplace, provides a clear picture of what forensic psychologists today are earning, and where. Using current salaries gathered from the more than seven million jobs posted daily on the site, they are able to provide accurate average salaries for forensic psychologists.

As of September 2020, ZipRecruiter revealed that the highest average salaries for forensic psychologists were in the following states:

  • New York: $115,299
  • Massachusetts: $114,208
  • Washington: $113,411
  • New Hampshire: $111,152
  • Hawaii: $109,689
  • Maryland: $105,844
  • Connecticut: $105,810

In general, top salaries for forensic psychologists are largely in line with those states that have a higher cost of living.

A State-by-State Guide to Salaries in Forensic Psychology

Average annual salaries for forensic psychologists exceed $100,000 in about half the states, with the remaining states (with the exception of Florida and North Carolina) revealing average salaries that topped $90,000:

  • Alabama: $92,015
  • Alaska: $104,814
  • Arizona: $97,668
  • Arkansas: $92,632
  • California: $103,340
  • Colorado: $98,755
  • Connecticut: $105,810
  • Delaware: $98,888
  • Florida: $88,804
  • Georgia: $94,220
  • Hawaii: $109,689
  • Idaho: $96,614
  • Illinois: $92,128
  • Indiana: $97,042
  • Iowa: $95,159
  • Kansas: $97,247
  • Kentucky: $100,810
  • Louisiana: $96,149
  • Maine: $96,542
  • Maryland: $105,844
  • Massachusetts: $114,208
  • Michigan: $92,700
  • Minnesota: $99,141
  • Mississippi: $91,084
  • Missouri: $90,870
  • Montana: $98,683
  • Nebraska: $104,247
  • Nevada: $103,992
  • New Hampshire: $111,152
  • New Jersey: $100,355
  • New Mexico: $92,936
  • New York: $115,299
  • North Carolina: $84,560
  • North Dakota: $103,598
  • Ohio: $98,105
  • Oklahoma: $96,888
  • Oregon: $98,901
  • Pennsylvania: $99,748
  • Rhode Island: $104,950
  • South Carolina: $99,232
  • South Dakota: $100,573
  • Tennessee $98,818
  • Texas: $93,138
  • Utah: $97,203
  • Vermont: $104,379
  • Virginia: $102,881
  • Washington: $113,411
  • West Virginia: $100,233
  • Wisconsin: $97,872
  • Wyoming: $103,508

Land a job as a forensic psychologist in a large metro area and you’ll likely earn even more. For example, forensic psychologists earn an average salary of $103,340 in California, but in San Francisco, they earn, on average, $123,058.

Similarly, forensic psychologists earn an average salary of $98,755 in Colorado, but those working in Denver earn even more, at $105,907, while forensic psychologists earn an average salary of $104,859 in Philadelphia – much higher than the Pennsylvania state average of $99,748.

 

Salary and employment data compiled by ZipRecruiter in September 2020. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which forensic psychologists work. ZipRecruiter salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which psychologists, all others work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

All salary and employment data accessed September 2020.

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