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successful therapists vs successful lawyer. Who makes the most money?

I really wanna become a criminal defence lawyer, but at the same time more I research about it the less i wanna become one. However, I do want to become a therapist as well because i will have more time on my hands, but afraid that i wont gain as much as I do if I become a lawyer. #lawyer


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DENNIS’s Answer

Hi Alexandra: That's a "depends" answer! Everything "depends" on what you do with your degree. A word of advice - your decision should not be based on who makes the most money! Your life choice should be based on what makes you happiest and makes you feel fulfilled. Money is just money. It's a tool for getting things. It does not make a person happy. Some of the richest guys I know are very unhappy. Next. therapist vary in kind. If you want to help people with emotional issues that is one type of therapist. If you want to help people with drug issues that's another type. Criminal lawyers are the same. There are blue collar crimes and white collar crimes. Federal crimes and State crimes. All "depends" on what you want to do. Prosecutors work for the State or Federal Government and get steady salaries and prosecute (go after) criminals. Defense Attorneys defend those accused of crimes and are paid by the (alleged)criminal. The money you make as a criminal defense attorney will depend on the practice you build!
PLEASE REMEMBER - money should not be the driving force of your decision. What makes YOU happy should be! Only YOU can answer that. One other thing - you can become an "Expert Witness" as a therapist working in criminal cases. Watch "Law and Order" to see what I mean!

Thanks for the brief answer mane S.

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Mary’s Answer

I agree with all of the advice so far. Either way, you will be investing a lot of time and money earning those degrees and acquiring the appropriate licensing to practice. Criminal defense lawyers are either public or private. As a Public Defender, you will be employed (or under contract with) the government or entity that employs you. If you are a private lawyer, you need to have the experience and knowledge to help those who wish to retain you, so you would need to work in a firm or as a prosecutor or public defender before opening your own practice to gain that experience. Very few attorneys make a lot of money in criminal defense practice, but many make enough to have a comfortable life. Check out salaries online for states and counties around the country for their salary and benefits packages.

Therapists also need to gain experience before they can build up a successful practice. Please don't rely on what you see on television regarding becoming a Forensic Psychologist. This requires a PhD (doctoral degree). They do not treat patients--they are retained on a case by case basis to render an expert opinion regarding the existence or nonexistence of a specific mental state or condition or disease and/or how it might have affected or will affect the person's behavior in the future. They will have some contact with the clients, but mostly they write reports, confer with attorneys, and sometimes testify in court.

Whether you are a treating therapist or a defense attorney, you will be taking on other people's worst problems and trying to help your patients/clients resolve them. This is a HUGE responsibility, and if you're not mentally invested in the work, neither party will benefit.

Therapists work one-on-one or in group therapy with patients. Lawyers need to work with judges, police officers, prosecutors, witnesses, investigators, and expert witnesses. They have to organize and prepare for weeks/months/years for trial. They need to know and understand the rules of court and evidence, and they need to have the ability to speak publicly with poise and confidence and think on their feet.

Good luck!


Mary recommends the following next steps:

Watch a trial at your local courthouse
Think about whether you want to deal with people's problems every day? If so, do you want to deal with mental/emotional issues, or legal ones?
Try to get an internship (but confidentiality rules may prevent you from much participation.)

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Jason’s Answer

The only thing I can add as a therapist is that there are certain crossovers of both fields. There are specializations in which therapists can complete a mediation certificate to assist in divorce situations that pay very well. You can also become an expert witness

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Brianne’s Answer

Alexandra, I would echo everything that Dennis has advised. Both careers require advanced degrees and are in fields that require a lot of dedication and service. My husband pursued law school and became a lawyer as a second career. Law school is HARD and you definitely need to have an interest and passion for it to succeed. Also, new lawyers work long and hard. It's possible to come out of law school with a big salary, but not always. I am not trying to sway you away from going into law, it's a great field and can be really rewarding. However, any route you choose should be based on your interests and what will make you happy long term.

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Jason’s Answer

The only thing I can add as a therapist is that there are certain crossovers of both fields. There are specializations in which therapists can complete a mediation certificate to assist in divorce situations that pay very well. You can also become an expert witness

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