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Forensic Psychology: Jobs, Salary and Where to Learn

Thinking about a forensic psychology job?

If you have an interest in criminal justice and psychology, then it makes sense to merge your passions in the pursuit of a career opportunity. You can do just that by pursuing a job in forensic psychology.

Although this career option was popularized on television and in movies, the specialization this field requires makes it extremely valuable to the modern legal processes of today’s judicial system.

Forensic Psychology Definition

Forensic psychology is the branch of psychology which relates to the law. It works with local, regional, and national criminal justice systems to provide information about suspects. The goal of this work is to determine through clinical assessment if an individual is capable of possessing a “guilty mind.”

Forensic Psychology Job Description

Forensic psychologists are primarily responsible for performing clinical assessments of suspects to determine the overall health status of their mental functioning. This process involves a complete evaluation of the individual, report writing, and ongoing communication with law enforcement officials.

Through these duties, a forensic psychologist will perform competency evaluations, threat assessments, and counseling services.

Forensic Psychology Books

If you are interested in a career in forensic psychology, then there are some excellent books that you will want to read to see if this field seems right for you. 

Please note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases found on this page. Thanks for your support!

You can also read various textbooks from college courses that can help you go through more of the specifics of what a forensic psychologist evaluates each day. Here is one of the top ranked forensic psychology textbooks in the field:

Forensic Psychology College Programs

If you wish to study forensic psychology, the top-ranked degree programs will help you to earn the appropriate degree for the job that you want. Most employers who hire forensic psychologists want a graduate degree at minimum, with some requiring a doctorate before offering consideration.

Consider applying to these schools if you wish to pursue this career option.

Forensic Psychology Salary

Forensic psychologists currently earn a salary that tops out around $100,000 for the average worker. Some make a wage that is below $40,000 per year, while the top 10% in the field can earn as much as $133,500 per year.

That places the average pay range for this career in the 75th percentile in the United States.

Forensic Psychology Online Courses

Although most forensic psychology programs require you to take in-person classes instead of online courses, there are some virtual classrooms available to those who already hold an undergraduate degree in a related field.

You will need to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or victim advocacy before applying to an online graduate program in forensic psychology.

The top 3 schools currently offering online degrees are:

For more forensic psychology jobs visit our Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science Jobs .

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Forensic psychology salary

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Careers in forensic psychology – salary, job descriptions, and outlook.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), forensic psychologists are typically licensed psychologists with a fundamental understanding of clinical, forensic, and legal systems.

They have a wealth of responsibilities, such as interviewing patients; conducting psychological evaluations; diagnosing mental illnesses; deciding whether juvenile defendants should be tried as adults; evaluating people’s competency to stand trial; creating criminal profiles to assist law enforcement; helping in jury selection; consulting legal or administrative professionals; offering sentencing recommendations; establishing whether a person should be committed to a mental hospital; compiling official reports or amicus briefs for court; liaising with various legal and medical personnel; and serving as expert witnesses in trials.

They generally work in courts, prisons, mental hospitals, and government agencies and may be involved in criminal or civil cases. In sum, the APA reports that forensic psychologists apply “the scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge of psychology to the law to assist in addressing legal, contractual, and administrative matters.” Also, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP)—the central certifying organization for forensic psychologists—details these professionals’ desired core competencies to achieve certification.

So why is the rigorous application of psychology to judicial matters important? First, the careful consideration of a forensic psychologist may be crucial in some legal cases, especially since the misuse of evidence, forced confessions, and corner-cutting measures to expedite trials or convict suspected criminals all still run rampant in the justice system.

For example, Aeon reports that some people get “framed by forensics,” such as Juan Rivera, who was imprisoned for 20 years after being wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Illinois. Rivera, a man with a low IQ and a history of emotional problems, was interrogated by police for several days and lied to about the results of his polygraph test.

Exhausted and under duress to sign a confession, he did so, and his fate was sealed. After 13 years, he was finally exonerated by DNA evidence. A forensic psychologist would have pointed out that such a man was highly suggestible and not in any condition to make a reliable confession after being questioned for more than 24 hours at the hands of nine officers. In cases like these, forensic psychologists can safeguard the fairness of the legal system and the administration of justice.

Read on to discover the bright career outlook and salary prospects in forensic psychology, and learn how to get started in the field.

Career Outlook for Forensic Psychology

According to the APA , forensic psychology is a growing field with opportunities in courtrooms and through police departments, hospitals, military bases, and universities. Furthermore, these professionals may be very well-compensated. For example, Mary Connell, EdD, a private practitioner from Fort Worth, estimated that forensic psychologists make between $200,000 and $400,000 annually.

It is important to note that while this is enticing, it’s difficult to substantiate those figures officially. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not differentiate between types of psychologists. Therefore, the following data for all psychologists is used as a proxy for the forensic subfield.

The BLS (2022) reports that psychology is a growing career and expects that job openings will increase by 6 percent between 2021 and 2031. This projected growth is the same as the average anticipated for all occupations during that decade, creating 11,300 new positions. Although the future looks bright for this profession, working as a forensic psychologist can be stressful, requiring long hours and emotional fortitude. Those who decide to pursue this occupation should ensure that they have a robust support system in place.

Forensic Psychologist Salary

The salary ranges for forensic psychologists can vary widely. For instance, Indeed (2023) estimates that forensic psychologists make an annual average salary of $94,1434.

However, PayScale (2023), an aggregator of self-reported salary data, found a variety of salaries in this field among its 100 reporting forensic psychologists, ranging from $52,000 to $93,000. In more granular terms, Payscale reported the following salary percentiles:

Not surprisingly, PayScale (2023) also found that one of the most impactful factors on salary was experience. Here are the median annual salaries among different experience brackets of forensic psychologists:

Unfortunately, Payscale does not currently have data for late-career forensic psychologists. The BLS offers data on clinical, counseling, and school psychologists for comparative purposes. As mentioned above, this general category of psychologists will be used as a proxy for forensic psychologists since reliably differentiated data is unavailable.

Interestingly, salary percentiles among psychologists as a whole were similar to those found among Payscale’s reporting forensic psychologists ( BLS May 2021):

The BLS found that the top-paying industries for psychologists nationwide were:

Notably, two of the top-paying industries, the Federal Executive Branch, and Offices of Other Health Practitioners, were also top-employer of psychologists across the country:

As mentioned above, the salaries for psychologists also tended to vary widely based on region. According to the BLS, the top-paying states in this field were scattered all over the country:

Interestingly, the top employers in this profession were located in other areas of the United States in states with large populations:

In a stroke of good fortune for the Golden State, three of the top ten highest-paying metropolitan areas for psychologists were located in California:

Finally, it’s no surprise that the top-employing metropolitan areas for psychologists tended to fall in the country’s large cities:

How to Become a Forensic Psychologist

Step 1: Graduate from high school (four years). High school students aspiring to be forensic psychologists are advised to keep their grades high to gain admission into a reputable four-year bachelor’s degree program. In addition, taking as many courses as possible in math, sciences, and social science is recommended to prepare for undergraduate coursework.

Step 2: Enroll in an undergraduate program (four years). Before getting a graduate education, aspiring forensic psychologists are encouraged to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology, forensics, or another relevant field.

Step 3: Attend an accredited graduate program in forensic, legal, or clinical psychology (four to five years). To qualify for professional licensure through the ABPP, candidates must have a doctoral degree. To this end, various PhD and doctor of psychology (PsyD) programs are available. Aspiring forensic psychologists will complete coursework and clinical practicums as part of these programs. In addition, programs typically include an internship or residency component as part of their degree plan.

The American Psychological Association , the leading accreditation body for graduate psychology programs, provides a list of approved forensic and legal psychology programs, including master’s, PsyD, PhD, and joint program options.

For example, Palo Alto University in California offers a PhD in clinical psychology with a forensic emphasis. In addition to clinical psychology coursework and practicum requirements, students take courses such as psychopathology and psychodiagnosis, ethics in clinical psychology, forensic psychology, and professional standards. In addition, forensic psychology internships are available to gain practical experience.

A second doctoral option is Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which offers a 119-credit PhD in clinical psychology with an emphasis on clinical forensic psychology. In addition to clinical psychology coursework and practicum requirements, students take courses such as forensic pathology; family law; special forensic psychology issues; supervision; and consultation, ethics, and controversial issues. In addition, students in this program must complete a one-year forensic psychology internship to gain practical experience.

Step 4: Get field experience, preferably forensics (timeline varies). After graduation, some candidates still won’t have enough professional hours to qualify for licensure and will have to get additional supervised experience. Many students need at least 2,000 internship hours (often as part of a doctoral program) and an extra 2,000 postdoctoral hours to qualify for licensure. The amount of required postdoctoral experience, specific coursework, and practicum requirements may vary by jurisdiction.

Students are encouraged to reach out to their local licensing board, a list of which is provided by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). At this stage, aspiring forensic psychologists are also urged to “bank their credentials” (i.e., gather all signatures, hour logs, and other materials) online through a service such as the National Psychologist Trainee Register .

Step 5: Get licensed as a clinical psychologist (timeline varies). State requirements for licensure vary but typically involve having a doctorate degree (including evidence of specific coursework); completing one to two years of postdoctoral professional experience; paying an application fee; and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The EPPP is a 225-question multiple-choice exam. Passing scores vary by state, but it’s typically 70 percent.

Again, since requirements vary by jurisdiction, the ASPPB provides a list of contacts for each state’s professional board. Please note that psychologists must maintain these licenses after completing continuing education (CE) hours.

Step 6: Apply for certification through the American Board for Professional Psychology (ABPP) . Please reference the “Certification” section below for more information on this step.

Forensic Psychologist Tasks And Responsibilities

In most jobs related to the criminal justice system, it is difficult to define a typical day. However, there are specific tasks and responsibilities that forensic psychologists will likely have to complete regularly, depending on their position. Some of these tasks include:

Specialty Fields Related to Forensic Psychology

In addition to becoming a certified forensic psychologist, there are various related careers to consider at the intersection of psychology and the law.

A forensic psychology researcher, for instance, typically has an advanced degree in psychology (e.g., PhD) and researches mental health law, public policies, legal proceedings, and niche fields such as the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

Trained forensic psychologists may also consider a career as a consultant, working with police departments to create criminal profiles, deal with crises, provide officers with sensitivity training, and assist with effective management techniques. In a courtroom setting, a consultant may be considered an evaluator or a person specializing in applying mental health analyses to a person’s fitness for trial, likeliness to commit future crimes, and other factors.

Another option is to become a correctional psychologist, a clinical specialist in diagnosing and treating prisoners. Still, others may want to consider becoming a criminal profiler or criminal psychologist, an exciting subfield of investigative psychology that delves into the actions, motivations, and complex histories of criminal minds. These are just a few of the specialized possibilities available to those trained in forensic psychology.

Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree

Pursuing a doctoral-level degree may only be possible for some interested in this career. Bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology are rare but available. Those who can earn an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology may work in the field. They will not be able to become a licensed psychologist.

The following careers are available to those with an undergraduate degree, although further training may still be required:

Graduates with a Master’s Degree

With a master of science (MS) or master of arts (MA) in forensic psychology, careers more focused on psychology become available. While a doctoral degree is necessary for board certification as a forensic psychologist, a master’s degree and proper licensure allow graduates to work in psychology in some capacities.

For instance, MS holders can consider jobs like:

Committing to any level of education is a big step, so one must consider one’s ultimate career goals and which degree will lead there before taking the next step.

Forensic Psychology Certification

Finally, those seeking to become forensic psychologists should seriously consider becoming certified by the American Board for Professional Psychology . Certification can prove one’s competence and enhance a person’s salary prospects and candidacy for employment.

To become a certified forensic psychology specialist, candidates must first undergo a credential review. In addition, they must have a doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited program. Acceptable accreditation entities include the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). Additionally, candidates must have completed an APA-approved internship (or the equivalent); show proof of current employment in the forensics specialty; send logs of relevant postdoctoral continuing education (CE); and submit a copy of their psychologist license.

As part of the educational requirement, candidates must have at least 100 hours of formal education, supervision, or CE in forensic psychology and 1,000 hours of experience in this subfield for at least five years. Additional education (e.g., JD) or postdoctoral training may be substituted instead of this five-year requirement.

Finally, candidates must successfully pass two exams: written and oral. The written exam comprises 208 multiple-choice questions across seven categories of forensic psychology, including child forensic matters, landmark legal cases, and criminal legal issues, and must be completed in 3.5 hours. The three-hour oral examination is offered after submitting two acceptable practice samples.


Jocelyn Blore

Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.

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Forensic Psychology Salary for Masters in Psychology Grads

Sponsored school(s).

One of the most frequently dramatized types of psychologists in courtroom television programs, forensic psychology is a field that fascinates many people. This has increased the popularity of forensic psychology programs, which are available at the Master’s degree level . Along with other types of psychology, the demand for forensic psychologists has been steadily growing. This cross-section of law and psychology is an interesting subject that can also be quite lucrative.

About Forensic Psychology

The field of forensic psychology  combines aspects of law enforcement along with elements of human behavior and psychology. Students who attend this type of degree program will learn more about how to assess, diagnose, and detect mental illnesses. They will also learn about patterns of human behavior, particularly criminal behavior. Forensic psychologists also learn more about collecting evidence for use in a court of law, including how to examine, interpret, and present this information. With the ability to analyze human behavior and legal evidence, forensic psychologists can be quite useful members of a legal team. A forensic psychologist will perform a variety of duties as part of their job. This could include the following:

What Jobs Does This Lead To?

With a degree in forensic psychology , graduates could go on to a wide range of different types of positions. This includes jobs in the law enforcement, government, academic, and social work sectors. The following are a few examples of job titles for graduates from this discipline:

Graduates could choose to work within the family courts, the criminal courts, or in a private law firm. They may also find work as private consultants in their own practice.

Salary Prospects

Because there are so many different types of positions that are available within this field, the corresponding salary prospects could also vary quite a bit. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a forensic psychologist  at an entry level is $53,500 per year. Forensic psychologists who have over 20 years of experience and are seasoned professionals, on the other hand, can earn upwards of $86,000, by contrast. This will depend on whether or not the psychologist works on a full-time or part-time basis, as well as the field they find work in. According to place of employment, the average salaries for forensic psychologists are:

Recent job surveys have shown that the salaries of forensic psychologists have gone up in the past decade in the United States at a steady rate. This rate of salary growth is expected to continue at a rate of 15% until the year 2015.

Job Outlook

Along with most other healthcare professionals, the need for forensic psychologists is expected to keep growing in the years to come. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment levels for forensic psychologists will grow at a rate of up to 19% per year up until the year 2018. This, combined with the corresponding increase in salary, will keep demand high for qualified forensic psychology graduates. Approximately one-third of these positions will be available through the federal government, while another third will be self-employed. The field remains competitive, however, which is why a graduate degree is usually required.


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Pacific Forensic Psychology Associates Inc Salaries

Pacific Forensic Psychology Associates Inc pays an average salary of $460,403 and salaries range from a low of $403,512 to a high of $527,513. Individual salaries will, of course, vary depending on the job, department, location, as well as the individual skills and education of each employee.

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