A criminal psychologist is responsible for determining the reasoning behind a defendant's or a criminal’s activities and behaviors. Sometimes referred to as a forensic psychologist, these professionals work with law enforcement and sometimes testify in court cases — either on the side of the defense or the prosecution — to explain their interpretation of the accused’s mindset. Salaries in this field of psychology are similar to the national average for the occupation as a whole.
In 2011, psychologists averaged $73, 090 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because high salaries of seasoned psychologists can skew this figure, the median wage is often a better indicator of earnings. About half of all psychologists earn at least $67, 880 a year or more. But both figures don’t reflect the psychologist's area of focus. A criminal psychologist is paid a different scale than, let’s say, a school psychologist.
A survey by the American Psychology Association in 2009 found that a psychologist in the criminal justice system earned a median wage of just over $80, 000 a year. The top 25 percent of criminal psychologists earned roughly $100, 000 a year or more, while the bottom 25 percent earned $65, 000 a year or less.
Related Reading: Is a Forensic Psychologist & a Criminal Profiler the Same Thing?
As with any job, education affects earnings, and a psychologist is no exception. Most psychologists in the criminal justice system need a Psy.D. degree, or a Doctor of Psychology, to practice. But wages increase with a clinical Ph.D. In fact, psychologists with a clinical Ph.D. earn roughly $9, 000 more a year than those with a Psy.D., according to the American Psychology Association.
From 2010 to 2020, psychologists are expected to experience an employment growth of 22 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. While not as fast of a job growth as those specializing in industrial-organizational psychology, which is essentially psychology of the workplace, it’s still much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations — 14 percent.
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