The Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science Salaries (2021-22): By Location, Field, Experience

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Forensics is the use of techniques or scientific tests in order to detect crime. This broad field encompasses professionals from lab technicians to IT professionals to doctors and even police officers. Work can be performed in a lab, out in the field, in an office, or one-on-one with clients or victims. Given the wide variety of jobs in forensics, salaries vary widely.

Aspiring forensic professionals are typically curious and detail-oriented. While they may choose to enter this career because they are interested in solving crimes, salary is also a consideration.

The primary variation for wages is in the role held. For example, forensic science technicians and arson investigators earn on the lower end for forensic professionals, while pathologists, pathologists’ assistants, and information security analysts earn the most. However, all forensics jobs listed in this guide pay more than the average annual salary for all professions, as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Other variations in pay for forensics scientists come from the level of education completed. Within a specific role, such as a forensic science technician, professionals can hold anywhere from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate. The level of education required will depend on the responsibilities required from a given employer and the type of investigation completed. Forensics professionals with advanced degrees typically earn more than their counterparts who have an undergrad.

Location can also factor into how much a forensic science professional gets paid. For the jobs covered in this guide, California and Alaska typically were among the top-paying states. In fact, California is listed in seven out of the eight jobs as the highest-paying state. Generally speaking, jobs in metropolitan areas will earn more than those in rural communities.

Most of the jobs in forensic science are growing faster than the national average of 4 percent between 2019 and 2029. Some jobs are just above average, such as detectives which sit at 5 percent, and others are growing at more than three times the national average, such as forensic science technicians, who are projected to grow 14 percent during that decade.

Continue reading to learn specifics about the salaries for different jobs in forensic science.

Please note that all data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020)—the most current national data available as of July 2021.

How Much Do Forensic Science Technicians Make?

Including crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, criminalists, forensic chemists, and forensic entomologists

Number of forensic science technicians: 16,640

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $64,890
  • 10th percentile: $36,630
  • 25th percentile:$46,460
  • 50th percentile (median): $60,590
  • 75th percentile: $79,330
  • 90th percentile: $100,910

Top-Paying States:

  • California $88,090 average
  • Illinois $85,690
  • Massachusetts $79,200
  • Oregon $76,970
  • Alaska $74,100

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Federal Executive Branch $120,790 average
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $75,720
  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services $66,040
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals $65,840
  • State Government, excluding schools and hospitals $64,770

How Much Do Detectives Make?

Number of detectives: 105,980

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $89,300
  • 10th percentile: $46,020
  • 25th percentile: $59,620
  • 50th percentile (median): $86,940
  • 75th percentile: $111,900
  • 90th percentile: $146,000

Top-Paying States:

  • Alaska $126,340 average
  • Maryland $113,500
  • Hawaii $113,150
  • California $111,480
  • New Jersey $106,120

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Federal Executive Branch $111,880 average
  • Postal Service (federal government) $104,300
  • Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals $81,770
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals $77,120
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $72,410

How Much Do Police Officers Make?

Number of police officers: 654,900

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $70,000
  • 10th percentile: $38,420
  • 25th percentile: $48,950
  • 50th percentile (median): $65,540
  • 75th percentile: $86,880
  • 90th percentile: $109,040

Top-Paying States:

  • California $107,440 average
  • New Jersey $90,700
  • Alaska $88,120
  • Washington $82,740
  • Hawaii $81,460

Top-Paying Industries:

  • State Government, excluding schools and hospitals $77,230 average
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals $69,940
  • Federal Executive Branch $62,050
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $59,790
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $59,700

How Much Do Information Security (Cybersecurity) Analysts Make?

Number of information security analysts: 138,000

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $107,580
  • 10th percentile: $60,060
  • 25th percentile: $78,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $103,590
  • 75th percentile: $132,890
  • 90th percentile: $163,300

Top-Paying States:

  • California $125,990 average
  • New York $125,920
  • New Jersey $123,280
  • District of Columbia $119,460
  • Virginia $116,920

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses $132,150 average
  • Other Information Services $131,050
  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing $128,330
  • Automotive Repair and Maintenance $127,150
  • Legal Services $125,980

How Much Do Pathologists’ Assistants Make?

Number of physicians’ assistants (BLS classification for pathologists’ assistants): 125,280

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $116,080
  • 10th percentile: $76,700
  • 25th percentile: $95,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $115,390
  • 75th percentile: $135,220
  • 90th percentile: $162,470

Top-Paying States:

  • Alaska $150,430 average
  • Connecticut $146,110
  • Rhode Island $135,800
  • California $135,180
  • Nevada $134,710

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Personal Care Services $144,260 average
  • Outpatient Care Centers $128,820
  • Scientific Research and Development Services $124,400
  • Employment Services $120,400
  • Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities $119,970

How Much Do Pathologists or Medical Examiners Make?

Number of physicians (BLS classification for pathologists or medical examiners): 375,390

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $218,850
  • 10th percentile: $61,380
  • 25th percentile: $126,470
  • 50th percentile (median): >$208,000 per year
  • 75th percentile: >$208,000 per year
  • 90th percentile: >$208,000 per year

Please note that the BLS does not give specific figures for ranges in excess of $208,000.

Top-Paying States:

  • Maine $279,700 average
  • Montana $271,560
  • South Dakota $269,100
  • Alaska $266,200
  • Wyoming $263,540

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services >$208,000 average
  • Health and Personal Care Stores $274,930
  • Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities $267,430
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services $259,320
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories $258,490

How Much Do Arson Investigators Make?

Number of arson investigators (fire inspectors and investigators): 14,010

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $67,680
  • 10th percentile: $39,860
  • 25th percentile: $50,230
  • 50th percentile (median): $64,610
  • 75th percentile: $81,800
  • 90th percentile: $100,780

Top-Paying States:

  • California $109,850 average
  • Idaho $103,310
  • Oregon $99,630
  • Washington $96,660
  • Nevada $90,550

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services $101,000 average
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing $76,360
  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services $71,970
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals $69,010
  • Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities $68,580

How Much Do Forensic Nurse Examiners Make?

Number of registered nurses (BLS classification for forensic nurse examiners): 2,986,500

Salary:

  • Average (mean): $80,010
  • 10th percentile: $53,410
  • 25th percentile: $61,630
  • 50th percentile (median): $75,330
  • 75th percentile: $93,590
  • 90th percentile: $116,230

Top-Paying States:

  • California $120,560 average
  • Hawaii $104,830
  • Massachusetts $96,250
  • Oregon $96,230
  • Alaska $95,270

Top-Paying Industries:

  • Business Support Services $106,670 average
  • Federal Executive Branch $96,230
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing $92,110
  • Other Investment Pools and Funds $91,990
  • Office Administrative Services $89,490
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Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.