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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 Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2013, roughly 3 million workers were employed in the criminal justice field. This work can be categorized into 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.

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Research Criminal Justice Careers

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

Job TitleAreaMinimum Education Required*Typical Education Achieved*Number Employed in U.S. (Higher = Better)Average Annual OpeningsAverage Salary
BailiffLegalHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s16240540$39840
Blood Spatter AnalystForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Forensic Science TechnicianSee Forensic Science Technician$55730
Computer ForensicsForensicsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sSee Information Security AnalystSee Information Security Analyst$89290
Conservation OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Fish and Game WardenSee Fish and Game Warden$49400
Correctional OfficerCorrectionsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s43487014240$43550
Correctional Treatment SpecialistCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s867802360$52380
Court ClerkLegalHigh SchoolAssociate’s1227103380$36950
Court ReporterLegalPostsecondary non-degreePostsecondary non-degree18590550$53010
Crime Lab AnalystForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Forensic TechnicianSee Forensic Technician$55730
Crime Scene InvestigatorForensics/Law EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Criminal InvestigatorSee Criminal Investigator$77860
Criminal InvestigatorLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s1092302770$77860
Criminal Law ParalegalLegalAssociate’sAssociate’s to Bachelor’sSee ParalegalSee Paralegal$50220
Emergency Management DirectorHomeland SecurityBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s9550220$64730
FBI AgentLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’sN/AN/AN/A
Fire InvestigatorLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s11860440$57400
First-Line Supervisor of Correctional OfficersLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s448301800$60970
First-Line Supervisor of Police and DetectivesLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s998603570$82060
Fish and Game WardenLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s6320200$49400
Forensic AccountantForensicsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/A$71040 2
Forensic AnthropologistForensicsMaster’sMaster’sN/AN/A$60230 3
Forensic Ballistics ExpertForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Forensic Science TechnicianSee Forensic Science Technician$55730
Forensic NursingForensicsAssociate’sAssociate’s to Bachelor’sN/AN/A$67930 4
Forensic PsychologyForensicsMaster’sDoctorateN/AN/A$73740 1
Forensic Science TechnicianForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s12440580$55730
Fraud InvestigatorPrivate SectorHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Private InvestigatorSee Private Investigator$50780
Homicide DetectiveLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Criminal InvestigatorSee Criminal Investigator$77860
Information Security AnalystPrivate SectorBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s726703920$89290
Juvenile Probation OfficerCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sSee Probation OfficerSee Probation Officer$52380
Narcotics OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Police OfficerSee Police Officer$57770
ParalegalLegalAssociate’sAssociate’s to Bachelor’s2670309120$50220
Parking Enforcement WorkerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s9210280$36810
Police OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s63614024530$57770
Private InvestigatorPrivate SectorHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s233901180$50780
Probation OfficerCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s867802360$52380
Security GuardPrivate SectorHigh SchoolHigh School to Some College104642029630$27240
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorsCorrectionsHigh SchoolHigh School to Master’s801304720$40920
Transit and Railroad PoliceLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s4140140$57880
Transportation Security ScreenerHomeland SecurityHigh SchoolHigh School472001470$37130
United States Park PoliceLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Police OfficerSee Police Officer$57770
US MarshalLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/AN/A
Victims AdvocateLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/A$48370 5
Youth Correctional CounselorCorrectionsHigh SchoolHigh School to Master’sSee Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorsSee Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors$40920

>>See 37 More Careers

Table Footnotes
1. Salary for Psychologists (salary data for forensic psychologists not available)
2. Salary for Accountants and Auditors (salary data for forensic accountant not available)
3. Salary for Anthropologists and Archeologists (salary data for forensic anthropologist not available)
4. Salary for Registered Nurses (salary data for forensic nurse not available)
5. Salary for Social Workers (salary data for victims advocate not available)
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment by Detailed Occupation
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics: National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
8. * “High school” refers to a high school diploma or GED

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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 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 10 percent through 2018. The bottom line: high-paying criminal justice jobs are available now and into the future.

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 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 for the past 30 days. What does it 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

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Criminal Justice Career Centers

Visit our criminal justice career centers 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 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 is of interest to you and how you might best approach the position. Read our “Best Career Advice” article, which features QA from 35 respected law enforcement officials. We have 17+ law enforcement interviews, from Sheriffs to 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.

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 give 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 (Immigration Enforcement, US Customs, and Border Enforcement), degrees that could be helpful for those careers, and schools that offer said programs. The Career Center talks about salary and benefits, career outlook, as well as related articles and the Top Homeland Security Blogs. Visit the Homeland Security Career Center.

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, M.D., 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.

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 and A video clip with Sheriff Gary Raney. Visit the Corrections Degree and Career Center.

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Criminal Justice Employment Outlook By State 1,2

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

 StateState Unemployment
Rate (Sept 2014)
Overall Employment
Outlook Grade
State Budget
Management Rating
CJDS View of State Prospects
for Public CJ Jobs
US Total5.60%AverageAverageAverage
Alabama6.60%Below Average ExcellentGood
Alaska6.80%Below AverageExcellentGood
Arizona6.90%Below AverageAverageGood
California7.30%PoorPoorBelow Average
Connecticut6.40%AveragePoorBelow Average
Delaware6.50%Below AveragePoorBelow Average
D.C.7.70%PoorBelow AverageBelow Average
Florida6.10%AverageBelow AverageAverage
Georgia7.90%PoorBelow AverageBelow Average
Illinois6.60%Below AveragePoorBelow Average
Kentucky6.70%Below AveragePoorBelow Average
Louisiana6.00%AverageBelow AverageAverage
Maryland6.30%AveragePoorBelow Average
Massachusetts6.00%AveragePoorBelow Average
Michigan7.20%PoorAverageBelow Average
Mississippi7.70%PoorAverageBelow Average
Nevada7.30%PoorAverageBelow Average
New Hampshire4.30%ExcellentBelow AverageGood
New Jersey6.50%AveragePoorBelow Average
New Mexico6.60%Below AverageGoodAverage
New York6.20%AveragePoorBelow Average
North Carolina6.70%Below AverageAverageAverage
North Dakota2.80%ExcellentGoodExcellent
Ohio5.60%GoodBelow AverageBelow Average
Oregon7.10%PoorBelow AverageBelow Average
Pennsylvania5.70%GoodBelow AverageAverage
Rhode Island7.60%PoorPoorPoor
South Carolina6.60%Below AverageGoodAverage
South Dakota3.40%ExcellentExcellentExcellent
Vermont4.40%ExcellentBelow AverageGood
Washington5.70%GoodPoorBelow Average
West Virginia6.60%Below AverageAverageAverage
Wisconsin5.50%GoodBelow AverageAverage

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 a MBA from Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The analysis looked at multitude of sources, trends and factors 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 the advent of the pressure on state budgets and pressures on government unions via state legislations (consider Wisconsin and Ohio), the picture has since clouded. The aging population will ensure turnover especially in the rougher jobs. The story varies dramatically state-by-state and you should leverage our analysis to help you make the best decision — be that investing in criminal justice degree in your area or looking for an area to move where prospects are best. No matter the area, a criminal justice degree will provide an edge in a competitive labor market.

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

Additional Resources

Best Advice from 36 Leaders in Law Enforcement
Criminal Justice Careers for Women: 6 Great Opportunities
5 Criminal Justice Careers As Seen on Television
American Criminal Justice Association
American Society of Criminology