Forensic psychologists are well compensated for their expertise in psycholegal matters. One of their most common roles is serving as expert witnesses. West Virginia was the historic site of the first published case in which a psychologist was an expert witness in a criminal case. In 1921, a trial court in the state qualified a psychologist as an expert on juvenile delinquency in the State v. Driver case. Unfortunately, the court subsequently rejected his testimony. Since then, forensic psychology has become a well-established field.
Unfortunately, as in the US as a whole, West Virginia has a critical shortage of beds at its state psychiatric hospitals. As funding for mental health has been cut, an increasing number of mentally ill individuals have ended up in jail. According to the Charleston Gazette, the number of mentally ill people in West Virginia’s regional jails almost doubled between 2000 and 2005.
West Virginia has fairly strict laws about psychologists performing forensic evaluations. It precludes a qualified forensic evaluator from evaluating an individual if the psychologist has treated the person within a year of the evaluation order.
As the field of forensic psychology grows, the West Virginia Department of Commerce expects an increase of 0.94% in the number of positions for forensic psychologists in the state between 2012 and 2022. This level of growth should result in an average of 32 jobs a year becoming available in this field.
Salaries for West Virginia’s Forensic Psychologists by Location
In 2015, the state of West Virginia paid salaries to its forensic psychologists that fell within these ranges:
- Level 2: $39,272 – $72,840
- Level 1: $35,028 – $64,812
Overall, the average salary for experienced forensic psychologists in West Virginia was $62,365 a year as of 2014 according to the state’s Department of Commerce. Professionals just starting out earned an average of $30,388, while the average salary for a forensic psychologist in West Virginia was $48,826.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a full analysis of salaries for forensic psychologists in West Virginia’s major cities and rural areas (2014):