Forensic psychology is an intriguing field of work and study but two of the most important questions to ask before deciding to pursue any field of work or study is whether there will be employment opportunities available when you complete the requisite educational requirements and whether the expected salary is enough for you to live. This article describes the current state of employment and salary prospects for forensic psychologists for 2012 and beyond.
Employment Prospects for Forensic Psychologists:
In a nutshell, employment prospects for them are great. The United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that career employment for forensic psychologists is expected to grow by about 15% through 2016. Not only is this a faster growth rate than average but it is also one of the fastest growing fields within the broader domain of psychology.
Those who currently work in the field know that there is a dearth of forensic psychologists in the correctional system and that it would take hiring thousands of them to make up for the shortfall in this area. Thus, the correctional system throughout the United States will likely be one of the largest employers of new psychologists over the next decade.
Academic institutions, research institutions, and think tanks are also expected to hire a number of forensic psychologists over the next decade. As more and more national attention is directed towards the successful reintegration of offenders back into the community, additional resources, including the retention of forensic psychologists in both practice and research settings, are expected to be directed towards this goal.
Although a doctoral-level degree is the requirement to practice as an independent psychologist is most every state, certain states, such as New York, are revising their licensing laws to allow masters-level individuals to become licensed as counselors thereby increasing the employment opportunities for those who do not hold doctoral-level degrees. These changes are a result of the strong need for psychological service providers in these states. Thus, employment prospects tend to be good for both doctoral and masters-level practitioners.
Salary Prospects for Forensic Psychologists:
The salary that one earns as a forensic psychologist is typically dependent upon the level of education (typically doctoral vs. master's level), the type of setting in which one is employed (e.g., correctional institution, academic institution, community mental health center, forensic hospital, private practice), and the number of years of experience in the field. Other factors may include geographic location, with higher salaries typically associated with larger cities and more densely populated areas.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the mean annual salary for forensic psychologists is $86,510, with a range from $41,200 to $119,940. These are aggregated data that do not take into consideration the number of years of experience of the individual.
The American Psychological Association's Practice Organization, which includes individuals who are licensed as psychologists and who are actively engaged in the practice of psychology, surveyed their members as to their annual gross income from work as a psychologist and found the following:
Salary Range Percentage of Respondents:
Less than $30,000 4.9%
$30,000 - $59,999 12.8%
$60,000 - $99,999 36.7%
$100,000 - $150,000 28.5%
More than $150,000 11.8%
This represents the salary earned across all subtypes of psychology; however, forensic psychologists typically make more than most other types of psychologists so it is probably safe to assume that these numbers are a bit on the conservative side for the subspecialty of forensic psychology.
For those who are interested in some state-specific information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the salaries of forensic psychologists, please see this article on the typical forensic psychology salary.
For those who are interested in some setting-specific information on the salaries of forensic psychologists, including academic and research settings, clinical settings, legal settings, correctional settings, and private practice, please see this article.
All things considered, the time is right for forensic psychologists. This is an interesting field with a lot of upside for employment and salary, not to mention rewarding work that is often intellectually stimulating and intriguing.