How to Become a Criminal Psychologist

Criminal Psychologist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $73,230
Avg. Pay / hour $35.21
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 14%

Criminal Psychologists are professionals who are specialized in the psychology of criminals.

These professionals are highly skilled in studying and observing criminal minds, thoughts and behavior.

They gather unbiased information regarding individuals to assist professionals involved in other inspective areas such as forensics and criminal investigators.

These professionals use a combination of psychiatry skills and their knowledge of the law in order to help judicial or law enforcement understand the mind of a convicted or alleged criminal.

Education Requirements to Become a Criminal Psychologist

Individuals who want to become a Criminal Psychologist will need to acquire a high level of education in order to pursue a career in this profession.

Individuals will need to graduate from high school, complete an undergraduate degree and finish a four year doctoral degree in order to become a Criminal Psychologist.

In addition, individuals will need to seek a certification and licensure in order to practice.

Individuals beginning their undergraduate degree in order to become a Criminal Psychologist will need to focus their track on Psychology or a closely related field such as Sociology.

When applying for a graduate school, individuals will need to seek a track that will earn them a distinction as a Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.).

Many graduate schools do not offer a specialized degree in Criminal Psychology, individuals will need to seek a program that does offer this specialized degree or enter a general program and seek a specialization in Criminal Psychology.

In addition, individuals can opt to seek a graduate degree in forensic psychology to enter this profession.

During their graduate degree, students who want to become a Criminal Psychologist will study a variety of areas in order to complete their degree and specialized track.

Common courses may include: adult psychopathology, mental health laws, forensic psychology, personality assessment and forensic psychology for children and families.

During this type of program, individuals will have the opportunity to gain hands on experience under the supervision of an experienced professional by completing an internship.

Internships may be completed in a variety of locations including, mental health centers, hospitals, prisons or state courts.

Aspiring Criminal Psychologists will also need to become certified in Forensic Psychology in order to showcase their background in the field.

The American Board of Professional Psychology is in charge of administering certification in 13 specializations, including Forensic Psychology.

Visit their website at ABPP to learn more information about the board and specific requirements for certification.

License requirements will depend on the state a Criminal Psychologists practices in..

In order to seek a license to become a Criminal Psychologist, individuals must have graduated from a doctoral program and have a minimum of one year of experience in the field.

Individuals must also complete an internship in order to seek a license.

Some states may require individuals to pass a comprehensive exam requiring essay and oral questions.

Aspiring professionals will need to contact individual states regarding specific requirements and testing centers.

Criminal Psychologist Job Description

Criminal Psychologists are responsible for gathering psychological data from observations they complete from a variety of subjects and clients.

They may also be aware of laws regarding criminal behavior and mental health initiatives in order to keep up to date with changes in legislation.

Criminal Psychologists often work independently and may be hired by a third party to assess a convicted or alleged criminal in order to gather impartial data about an individual.

After gathering this information, Criminal Psychologists will provide expert witness testimony, write psychological reports and confer with court officials.

They may also help a court determine whether an individuals is capable of standing trial and testify in court to give expert testimony and evidence.

Criminal Psychologist Salary and Career Path

In 2012, the median wage for Psychologists in various industries was approximately $69,280 per year.

Exact wages will depend on the industry an individual works.

For example, Psychologists working for clinical, counseling or schools earn a median annual income of approximately $67,750 while those working in the industrial-organizational industry earn approximately $83,580 per year.

The overall employment outlook for Psychologists is expected to grow by 12 percent through the year 2-2022.

This is considered an average growth when compared to other professions; the exact number of jobs created in this profession will depend on the specialization and the type of industry a professional works in.

Individuals who are interested in a career as a Criminal Psychologist will use their extensive background in Psychology and their specialization in Forensic Psychology to help other professionals in the judicial or law enforcement sectors understand specific alleged or convicted criminals.

Their work is important in assuring that individuals with possible mental health issues keep their rights during the judicial process.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$123,760
New Hampshire$85,020
New Jersey$104,670
New Mexico$75,250
New York$107,990
North Carolina$66,030
North Dakota$77,550
Rhode Island$87,610
South Carolina$66,830
South Dakota$76,410
West Virginia$87,390
Puerto Rico$83,580

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $126,810.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $126,810
District of Columbia - $123,760
Maryland - $115,660
Hawaii - $111,130
Washington - $108,550
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Detectives and Criminal Investigators, OCC Code 33-3021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Criminal Psychologist?

Criminal psychologists, sometimes also called forensic psychologists, combines their knowledge of criminal justice and psychology in order to study criminals and crimes.

They often play a key role in solving cases and punishing crimes.

Criminal psychologists analyze evidence collected by other professionals and make their own research.

In order to be a good forensic psychologist, you need strong communication and people skills along with problem-solving and research abilities.

How much does a Criminal Psychologist make?

The average hourly pay for forensic psychologists is around $30.

However, how much a criminal psychologist makes depends on his or her experience, the level of government spending in the region and the field of employment.

For instance, recent doctoral graduates who work for the FBI make, on average, around $62,000 per year.

How much does is cost to become a Criminal Psychologist?

In order to become a criminal psychologist, you must first get your bachelor’s degree in psychology or criminal justice.

Tuition costs vary depending on the educational institution you choose.

There are many colleges that offer psychology programs and costs can be anywhere between $7,000 and $40,000 per year.

Although it is not necessary, getting a master’s degree is usually the next step.

The median costs for master’s degree programs at private institutions are around $30,000 per year.

To work as a practicing psychologist you need to take your research-based Ph.D. or a PsyD.

Getting a doctoral degree at a private institution costs a median of $34,000 per year; the program lasts around 5 years.

What is the demand for Criminal Psychologists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for psychologists is expected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028.

However, employment varies depending on the field where you choose to practice psychology.

The competition will also vary depending on the field but in order to ensure that you get the best job prospects, you should choose to complete your education at reputable institutions.

Having a few years of experience can also be an additional advantage.

How long does it take to become a Criminal Psychologist?

If you want to become a criminal psychologist you should be ready to spend around 10-11 more years in school after finishing high school.

You must first get your bachelor’s degree in psychology or criminal justice.

Getting your bachelor’s degree can take up to four years.

Although it is not necessary, getting a master’s degree is usually the next step.

Master degree programs are usually completed in two years.

To work as a practicing psychologist you need to take your doctoral degree.

Getting a doctoral degree at a private institution can take you another 5 years.

After getting your Ph.D. or PsyD you need to get licensed in your state.

Getting board certified is another requirement because this indicates that a forensic psychologist has met the standards set by the American Board of Professional Psychology for the field and is ready to practice.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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