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.
Top Careers in Criminal Justice
- CIA Officer
- Information Security Analyst
- First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Criminal Investigator
- Homicide Detective
- ICE Agent
- Forensic Psychologist
- Forensic Accountant
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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 you can pursue in the criminal justice field based on 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other trusted sources. 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)||Nat’l 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||N/A||N/A||$68666 26|
|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|
|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 and Police Dispatcher||Law Enforcement||High School||High School to Associate’s||98600||833||$38870|
|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|
|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 Officer||Law Enforcement||High School||High School to Bachelor’s||8710||280||$38280|
|Parole Officer||Corrections||Bachelor’s||Bachelor’s to Master’s||91300||692||$50160|
|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|
Criminal Justice Career InterviewsSee all Criminal Justice Interviews
Exclusive CJDS Interview: Sue Rahr
While jobs in the criminal justice and police fields have been historically reserved for men, women in law enforcement are becoming more and more common, as are females in the criminal justice field as a whole. In 2013, the FBI released data showing that nationwide, women represented about a quarter of all law enforcement employees and just over 10% of law enforcement officers.1 Not surprisingly, women represent more civilian roles in law enforcement, with the same data reporting that women occupy nearly 40% of civilian roles in law enforcement.1
Sue Rahr was the first woman sheriff of King County and served in this role for seven years, leading 1,000 employees and handling an operating budget of over $150 million. Since her success as sheriff, Rahr has transitioned into key training and thought leadership roles for the Department. 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.2,3,4,5 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
- Law Enforcement
- Computer Forensics
- Homeland Security
- Forensic Science
- Forensic Nursing
- Legal Nursing
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.
- homicide detective
- blood spatter analyst
- homeland security degree
- computer forensics degree
- how to become a fish and game warden
- 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 (May 2016)1||Overall Employment Outlook Grade||State Budget Management Rating2||Annual CJ Openings3||CJDS View of State Prospects for Public CJ Jobs*|
|Arizona||5.60%||Below Average||Below Average||2,260||Poor|
|Louisiana||6.30%||Poor||Below Average||1,490||Below Average|
|New Jersey||4.90%||Average||Poor||2,130||Below Average|
|New Mexico||6.20%||Below Average||Below Average||330||Poor|
|Pennsylvania||5.50%||Below Average||Below Average||2,760||Below Average|
|Rhode Island||5.40%||Below Average||Below Average||210||Below Average|
|South Carolina||5.60%||Below Average||Good||1,220||Average|
|Washington DC||5.80%||Below Average||N/A||730||Average|
|West Virginia||6.20%||Below Average||Below Average||340||Poor|
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/lau/
2. Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2016 Edition: https://www.mercatus.org/statefiscalrankings
3. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
*The Criminal Justice Degree Schools Criminal Justice Employment Outlook by State calculations weigh data from a multitude of sources and trends including state-level unemployment, state fiscal ratings, and annual public criminal justice openings compared to state population ratios to arrive at our view of prospects for public sector CJ jobs. Government budgets for operations and hiring and demographic-related factors drive hiring in criminal justice. There are many trends in play such as how the aging population will increase turnover in areas like law enforcement as baby boomers retire. Also, the stronger a state’s budget management, the more likely they can fund public programs. The overall outlook story varies dramatically state-by-state. We did not drill down into local areas and these can vary dramatically as well. The analysis is just one point of many anyone should consider in weighing an education or career decision.
- Best Advice from 36 Leaders in Law Enforcement
- 5 Criminal Justice Careers as Seen on Television
- American Criminal Justice Association
- American Society of Criminology
- See all Criminal Justice Resources
1. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Crime in the US 2013, Table 74: Full-Time Law Enforcement Employees: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/table-74
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forensic Science Technicians: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm
*”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
26. Computer Forensics Investigator: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Forensic_Computer_Analyst/Salary
CriminalJusticeDegreeSchools.com ranking lists can help you find the best program for you. Explore our methodology for ranking criminal justice programs.
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