The Average Salary in Criminal Psychology

Criminal psychologists often earn higher salaries in cities with high crime rates.
Criminal psychologists often earn higher salaries in cities with high crime rates. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

People often confuse criminal psychology and forensic psychology. considers criminal psychology to be a subsection of forensic psychology. Criminal psychology is the practice of using psychology to understand and deal with crime. Forensic psychology includes anything psychological related to criminals, victims and crime.

Education Required

To work as a criminal psychologist requires education at a master's or doctoral level, often five to seven years of study. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with an associate or bachelor's degree might expect to find jobs only as assistants. Additionally, there is not a specific criminal psychology degree that one can attain. Those who wish to become criminal psychologists will need to take advantage of a specialization within a clinical psychology major. The Bureau of Labor Statistics makes it clear that prospective students should gain admission into the best university they can, as this impacts the job outlook in the field.

Other Qualifications

A state license is required for any psychologist who engages in patient care. Licensing laws vary by state, and interested parties should do their due diligence. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards has a list of links for each state. (See link in Resources.) The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that psychologists, as a general rule, should be mature, well balanced, responsible and be able to speak and listen well.

Regional Differences offers the average salary range for criminal psychologists, which varies widely by metro area. Among 10 of the larger metro areas in the United States, the lowest average salary reported was Charlotte, North Carolina, at $51,362 per year. Among these same 10 metropolitan areas, the highest average salary was found in Chicago, Illinois, which had an average of $67,275. As with most similar jobs, applicants need to be where the action is for that industry. Cities with high crime rates and high populations will have more opportunities than sparsely populated or low-crime areas.


According to, there were a total of 170,200 psychologists in the United States in 2008. Job growth for psychologists in general is expected to grow 12 percent from 2008 through 2018. For psychology jobs not including clinical psychologists and industrial-organizational psychologists, the growth rate for the same time period is 14 percent. These growth rates are about average among all industries. Those with doctoral degrees from top universities will fare better than those who do not meet those standards.

Average Salaries

Data that specifically focuses on criminal psychology salary levels is sparse, but the median salary for psychologists at large, according to, was $64,140 as of 2008. The middle 50 percent of all psychologists earned from $48,700 to $82,800. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,900 and the top 10 percent earned over $106,840.

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