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Criminal Psychologist Salary

Indrajit Deshmukh
Criminal psychologists have been glorified by Hollywood movies and prime time television, showcasing them as crime solvers with uncanny abilities. In reality, the job isn't so much about solving crime, but is to counsel the accused and victim.
They are mostly hired by correctional facilities, mental health institutions, and local and federal law enforcement agencies. Those armed with a PhD, also work in educational institutions as professors in the psychology department.
They play an important support function in the criminal justice system, and are regarded as the torch bearers of change. This mantle falls up on them because they try to understand 'Why' behind the crime, and not the 'Who' did the crime. They are compensated fairly for undertaking this herculean task of effecting change in human behavior.

Average Salary

Becoming a psychologist isn't easy, as you have to undergo some intense training during your undergraduate study, and then study some more to gain specialization in criminal psychology. Upon completion of education, you will have to acquire licensure in order to practice.
Most criminal psychologists are hired by the court systems, and have to conduct psychological evaluation of criminals before the trial. The location of the job and the type of employer also affects the pay structure to a degree.
Cities like New York, where the cost of living is high, offer higher salaries as compared to rural settings, where the cost of living is considerably lower. Different government agencies offer different pay packets too, depending on their budget and requirements.
The top paying states for this occupation are:
  • California - USD 79,248
  • New Jersey - USD 76,959
  • Massachusetts - USD 87,081
  • New York - USD 88,418
  • Alaska - USD 78,229
These numbers are just estimated figures, which can be greatly influenced by other factors, like education, licensure, and specialization. For example, criminal psychologists who specialize in adolescents or child psychology can expect to earn a little more than their counterparts who are without any specialization.


Aspirants will have to first complete a bachelor's degree in psychology. This may take 4 - 5 years to complete, and students who wish to go for higher education will have to maintain a high GPA. Upon completion of the bachelor's degree, candidates can enroll for a PhD or PsyD program, and earn a specialization in criminal psychology.
Course work during the PhD program will involve cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology, etc. Candidates will then have to submit a publishable dissertation to successfully complete the program.
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers certification exams which students need to take after competing their education. All states require licensure for practicing psychologists, which can be obtained by taking examinations through the state psychologist licensing board.

Job Description

They have to evaluate criminals in the court system and submit reports on their psychological condition, which plays an important role during the trial.
They will have to schedule one-on-one interviews with the accused, and assess their state of mind and behavioral pattern. Some of them are also requisitioned for selecting the jury required for criminal proceedings. At times, they also have to testify in court and give their expert opinion regarding the mental state of the accused.
Criminal psychologists also work with victims and counsel them on matters like post traumatic syndrome and other psychological barriers to recover from the crime. They work with rape and abuse victims, helping them to better cope with life. A select few participate in research programs on things like social environment and its effect on behavioral patterns.
Individuals with good communication skills and willingness to work with people caught on the other side of the law will excel in this profession. The job can be very exciting at times, with a lot of interaction with law enforcement officials and criminals.