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Careers in Criminal Justice

Whether you want to advance your criminal justice career or find a new job in the field, this page can help guide your research. It features educational requirements, salary information, job availability, an employment outlook table, and links to dozens of interviews, including exclusive videos with former King County Sheriff, Sue Rahr, and current Ada County Sheriff, Gary Raney.

Careers in criminal justice are found at the federal, state, county, and local levels, as well as in the private sector. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016, roughly three million workers were employed in the criminal justice field. This broader field includes subfields such as law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, homeland security, private security, academia, and legal services. Nearly 75 career profiles are featured in this guide that fall under the aforementioned broad categories.

Research Criminal Justice Careers

The following sortable table will help you compare education requirements, salary, and job availability for dozens of careers you can pursue in the criminal justice field. Click on the arrows on the top row to sort the careers in ascending or descending order.

Job Title Area Minimum Education Required* Typical Education Achieved* Number Employed in US (Higher = Better) Average Annual Openings Average Salary
Air Marshal Homeland Security Bachelor’s 1 Bachelor’s to Master’s 3500 2 N/A $50000 3
Bailiff Legal High School High School to Bachelor’s 17730 560 $44900
Blood Spatter Analyst Forensics High School High School to Bachelor’s See Forensic Science Technician See Forensic Science Technician $60090
Border Patrol Agent Homeland Security High School Bachelor’s to Master’s 20000 4 Varies $36972 5
CIA Analyst Homeland Security Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s Classified Classified $75000
CIA Officer Homeland Security Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s Classified Classified $105000
Computer Forensics Investigator Forensics Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s See Information Security Analyst See Information Security Analyst $93250
Conservation Officer Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s See Fish and Game Warden See Fish and Game Warden $49400
Correctional Officer Corrections High School High School to Bachelor’s 427790 14300 $45320
Correctional Treatment Specialist Corrections Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 87950 2130 $54080
Court Clerk Legal High School Associate’s 130190 1480 $38230
Court Reporter Legal Postsecondary non-degree Postsecondary non-degree 17670 490 $54720
Crime Lab Analyst Forensics High School High School to Bachelor’s See Forensic Technician See Forensic Technician $60090
Crime Scene Investigator Forensics/Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s See Criminal Investigator See Criminal Investigator $79620
Criminal Investigator Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 106580 2830 $79620
Criminal Law Paralegal Legal Associate’s Associate’s to Bachelor’s See Paralegal See Paralegal $52390
Customs and Border Protection Officer Homeland Security High School High School to Bachelor’s 20000 N/A $36972 6
DEA Agent Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 5000 7 N/A $54460 8
Deputy Sheriff Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s See Police Officer See Police Officer $61270 9
Emergency Management Director Homeland Security Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 9840 190 $73750
FBI Agent Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Bachelor’s 13913 10 N/A N/A
Fire Investigator Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 12290 430 $59800
First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 42520 1530 $62770
First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 100370 4300 $85810
Fish and Game Warden Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 6320 200 $49400
Forensic Accountant Forensics Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s N/A N/A $75280 11
Forensic Anthropologist Forensics Master’s Master’s N/A N/A $60230 12
Forensic Ballistics Expert Forensics High School High School to Bachelor’s See Forensic Science Technician See Forensic Science Technician $60090
Forensic Nurse Forensics Associate’s Associate’s to Bachelor’s N/A N/A $71000 13
Forensic Psychologist Forensics Master’s Doctorate N/A N/A $77950 14
Forensic Science Technician Forensics High School High School to Bachelor’s 14070 990 $60090
Fraud Investigator Private Sector High School High School to Bachelor’s See Private Investigator See Private Investigator $52840
Homicide Detective Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s See Criminal Investigator See Criminal Investigator $79620
ICE Agent Homeland Security Bachelor’s** Bachelor’s to Master’s N/A N/A $79620 15
Information Security Analyst Private Sector Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 88880 2550 $93250
Juvenile Probation Officer Corrections Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s See Probation Officer See Probation Officer $54080
Lawyer Legal Doctorate Doctorate 609930 15770 $136260
Narcotics Officer Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s See Police Officer See Police Officer $61270
Paralegal Legal Associate’s Associate’s to Bachelor’s 271930 8270 $52390
Parking Enforcement Worker Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 8710 280 $38280
Police Officer Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 653740 25840 $61270
Private Investigator Private Sector High School High School to Bachelor’s 30460 1100 $52840
Probation Officer Corrections Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 87950 2130 $54080
Secret Service Agent Homeland Security Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 3200 16 N/A $43075 17
Security Guard Private Sector High School High School to Some College 1097660 20960 $28460
Sheriff Law Enforcement High School Bachelor’s to Master’s 3080 18 Varies N/A
State Trooper Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 59390 19 See Police Officer $67190 20
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Corrections High School High School to Master’s 87090 4110 $42920
Transit and Railroad Police Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s 4060 130 $58200
Transportation Security Screener Homeland Security High School High School 41820 660 $40050
United States Park Police Law Enforcement High School High School to Bachelor’s See Police Officer See Police Officer $61270
US Marshal Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s 3846 21 N/A N/A
Victims Advocate Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Bachelor’s to Master’s N/A N/A $49670 22
Youth Correctional Counselor Corrections High School High School to Master’s See Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors See Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors $42920

>>See 26 More Careers and Degrees

Table Footnotes:
*”High school” refers to a high school diploma or GED
**Military experience considered as possible alternative to bachelor’s degree
1. Air Marshal: Chron, Federal Air Marshal
2. Air Marshal: Estimated from union pay case reported by CNN (data for air marshal not available)
3. Air Marshal: Salary estimated from various sources, including Glassdoor
4. Border Patrol Agent: Dept. of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection
5. Border Patrol Agent: US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), General Schedule Increase
6. Customs and Border Protection Officer: US Office of Personnel Management, Salary Table, 2015-GS (Estimated midpoint at GL-7 with 3 years of step up.)
7. DEA Agent: US Drug Enforcement Administration
8. DEA Agent: Salary for federal segmentation of Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers (data for DEA agent not available)
9. Deputy Sheriff: Salary for Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers (data for deputy sheriff not available)
10. FBI Agent: US Department of Justice, Today’s FBI: Facts and Figures, 2013-14
11. Forensic Accountant: Salary for Accountants and Auditors (salary data for forensic accountant not available)
12. Forensic Anthropologist: Salary for Anthropologists and Archeologists (salary data for forensic anthropologist not available)
13. Forensic Nurse: Salary for Registered Nurses (salary data for forensic nurse not available)
14. Forensic Psychology: Salary for Psychologists (salary data for forensic psychologist not available)
15. ICE Agent: Salary for Detectives and Criminal Investigators (salary data for ICE agent not available)
16. Secret Service Agent: United States Secret Service
17. Secret Service Agent: US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Law Enforcement Officers
18: Sheriff: National Sheriffs’ Association
19. State Trooper: Data for Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers (data for state trooper not available)
20. State Trooper: Data for state police segmentation of Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers (data for state trooper not available)
21. US Marshal: US Marshals: Facts and Figures (2015)
22. Victims Advocate: Salary for Social Workers (salary data for victims advocate not available)
23. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment by Detailed Occupation
24. Bureau of Labor Statistics: National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
25. US Department of Homeland Security

Criminal Justice Career Interviews


Gary Raney
Ada County Sheriff

Michael Welner, MD
Forensic Psychiatrist

Steve Boyer
Kitsap County Sheriff

Glenn Hoff
Retired Rochester Police Department Deputy Chief

>>See all Criminal Justice Interviews

Exclusive CJDS Interview

Below is our entire interview with Sue Rahr, former King County Sheriff. Enjoy!

Criminal Justice Careers Salary and Outlook

The criminal justice career sector is one of the fastest growing in the United States. Across the nation, there is a continued, heightened focus on law enforcement, immigration, public safety and security, which has created a high demand. This growth is continuing into the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimates that police and detective employment will grow 4% through 2024. The bottom line: entry-level and high-paying criminal justice jobs are available now and into the future.

Criminal justice salaries vary widely based on the criminal justice career that you choose. In 2015, for example, police officers and detectives earned a median salary of $60,270, forensic science technicians made a median salary of $56,320 per year, paralegals and legal assistants earned a median of $48,810, and corrections officers and bailiffs made $40,580 as a median salary nationwide.1,2,3,4 Additional factors that will contribute to the salary of jobs in criminal justice include education level, experience, and location. Entry level criminal justice jobs will typically pay less than mid-level criminal justice careers.

Colleges and universities offer a number of criminal justice degrees and training programs, several of them designed specifically for working professionals. An education can conveniently be obtained through online programs, which provide specialized training and education at your fingertips – complete your classes online, at your own pace, and graduate with the knowledge you need to begin your criminal justice job search or advance your criminal justice career.

CJDS FACT: Cybersecurity is an in-demand position at the Homeland Security Department, which developed Cyber Storm, the Department of Homeland Security’s biennial exercise series. Cyber Storm provides the framework for the most extensive government-sponsored cybersecurity exercise of its kind and is designed to strengthen cyber preparedness in the public and private sectors.

Top Related Degrees for a Career in Criminal Justice

Top 6 Trending Career-Related Criminal Justice Search Phrases

The following career-related search phrases were our top six. What does this mean? It means that these six search phrases are hot right now for our users – individuals who are looking to start or advance their careers in criminal justice.

  1. homicide detective
  2. blood spatter analyst
  3. homeland security degree
  4. computer forensics degree
  5. how to become a fish and game warden
  6. law enforcement degree

Criminal Justice Career Centers

Visit our criminal justice career centers below to learn all about specific careers in criminal justice and access our free informational resource pages. The following career fields offer promising job prospects, competitive pay, and are popular areas of study for criminal justice college students.

Police Officer Career Center

Learn about the typical path to becoming a police officer as well as possible exceptions for previous experience. Research popular degrees that can help you get started in your law enforcement career. Visit law enforcement career pages from Homicide Detective to State Trooper to get an idea of what type of law enforcement career most interests you and how you might best approach the career. Read our Best Police Career Advice article, which features Q&A from 35 respected law enforcement officials. We have 17+ law enforcement interviews with sheriffs, FBI and forensics specialists, and gang investigators. This career center features police department requirements by popular metro areas, State Trooper requirements, the top police blogs and more. Visit the Police Officer Degree and Career Center if you think a career in law enforcement is up your alley.

Homeland Security Career Center

The Department of Homeland Security was created after 9/11 with the mission of protecting the country’s citizens from domestic and foreign attacks. The Homeland Security Career Center gives you more insight into this powerful government department and what career opportunities exist within. We specifically call out the divisions around the country that often lead to opportunities within the department (such as Immigration Enforcement, US Customs, and Border Enforcement), degrees that could be helpful for entrance into those careers, and schools that offer said programs. The Career Center discusses salary and benefits, career outlook, as well as related articles and the Top Homeland Security Blogs. Visit the Homeland Security Career Center to learn more.

Forensics Degree and Career Center

Learn about what it takes to start a career in Forensics. This career center has information on all the leading forensics career profiles like computer forensics, forensic accounting, forensic nursing, forensic psychology, and forensic science technician. Each career profile also features related degrees from top schools offering programs in that field. Want to know more about forensic psychology? Read our exclusive interview with forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, MD, our other forensics articles, or visit the some of the forensic blogs we’ve compiled in our Top Forensics Blogs list. Visit the Forensics Degree and Career Center for more information about a forensics career.

Corrections Career Center

Interested in a career or degree in the field of Corrections? Read about criminal justice careers that fall under the Corrections umbrella. Careers like prison warden, substance abuse counselor, and forensic psychologist are featured – as well as more obvious ones such as correctional case manager, youth correctional officer, and many more. There are links to more than a dozen corrections-related articles, an in-depth interview on the state of California’s prisons, and a Q&A video clip with Sheriff Gary Raney. Visit the Corrections Degree and Career Center for more.

Criminal Justice Employment Outlook By State

CJDS’ view on employment outlook is confident overall1,2 and consistent with the viewpoint of former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, who noted in our recent interview with her that now is the best time to pursue a career in criminal justice and law enforcement. The economy is improving and the baby boomer generation is aging. A mass of retirements is pending from the hiring binge in the early 80s. As those events come together, those pursuing degrees in the criminal justice field will now have ample opportunities upon graduation.

State State Unemployment Rate (Sept 2014) Overall Employment Outlook Grade State Budget Management Rating CJDS View of State Prospects for Public CJ Jobs
US Total 5.60% Average Average Average
Alabama 6.60% Below Average Excellent Good
Alaska 6.80% Below Average Excellent Good
Arizona 6.90% Below Average Average Good
Arkansas 6.20% Average Average Average
California 7.30% Poor Poor Below Average
Colorado 4.70% Good Good Good
Connecticut 6.40% Average Poor Below Average
Delaware 6.50% Below Average Poor Below Average
Florida 6.10% Average Below Average Average
Georgia 7.90% Poor Below Average Below Average
Hawaii 4.20% Excellent Poor Average
Idaho 4.50% Excellent Excellent Excellent
Illinois 6.60% Below Average Poor Below Average
Indiana 5.70% Average Excellent Good
Iowa 4.60% Excellent Good Excellent
Kansas 4.80% Good Good Good
Kentucky 6.70% Below Average Poor Below Average
Louisiana 6.00% Average Below Average Average
Maine 5.80% Average Good Good
Maryland 6.30% Average Poor Below Average
Massachusetts 6.00% Average Poor Below Average
Michigan 7.20% Poor Average Below Average
Minnesota 4.10% Excellent Average Good
Mississippi 7.70% Poor Average Below Average
Missouri 6.30% Average Good Good
Montana 4.60% Excellent Excellent Excellent
Nebraska 3.60% Excellent Excellent Excellent
Nevada 7.30% Poor Average Below Average
New Hampshire 4.30% Excellent Below Average Good
New Jersey 6.50% Average Poor Below Average
New Mexico 6.60% Below Average Good Average
New York 6.20% Average Poor Below Average
North Carolina 6.70% Below Average Average Average
North Dakota 2.80% Excellent Good Excellent
Ohio 5.60% Good Below Average Below Average
Oklahoma 4.70% Good Excellent Excellent
Oregon 7.10% Poor Below Average Below Average
Pennsylvania 5.70% Good Below Average Average
Rhode Island 7.60% Poor Poor Poor
South Carolina 6.60% Below Average Good Average
South Dakota 3.40% Excellent Excellent Excellent
Tennessee 7.30% Poor Excellent Average
Texas 5.20% Good Good Good
Utah 3.50% Excellent Good Excellent
Vermont 4.40% Excellent Below Average Good
Virginia 5.50% Good Average Average
Washington 5.70% Good Poor Below Average
Washington DC 7.70% Poor Below Average Below Average
West Virginia 6.60% Below Average Average Average
Wisconsin 5.50% Good Below Average Average
Wyoming 4.70% Good Excellent Excellent

Table Footnotes:
1. Mercatus Center State Fiscal Condition
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics
3. The CJDS career outlook was completed by a trained economist with an MBA from Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The analysis weighed data from a multitude of sources, and trends to compile its outlook for each state’s overall and criminal justice employment prospects outlook. We hope this effort helps you in your assessment. Government budgets for operations and hiring and demographic-related factors drive hiring in criminal justice. Early in the downturn, federal stimulus and the need to offset private sector job loss usually meant relatively better prospects for government-related hiring and stability. With increased pressure on state budgets and government unions via state-level legislation (consider Wisconsin and Ohio), the picture has since clouded. The aging population will ensure turnover, especially in the more challenging jobs. The story varies dramatically state-by-state, so you should leverage our analysis to help you make the best decision — be that investing in a criminal justice degree in your area or looking for an area to move where prospects are best. Wherever you end up, a criminal justice degree will provide an edge in a competitive labor market.

States with an Overall Employment Outlook Grade of “Good” or “Better”:

Additional Resources

References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm