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 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 TitleAreaMinimum Education Required*Typical Education Achieved*Number Employed in US (Higher = Better)Nat’l Average Annual OpeningsAverage Salary
Air MarshalHomeland SecurityBachelor’s 1Bachelor’s to Master’s3500 2N/A$50000 3
BailiffLegalHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s17730560$44900
Blood Spatter AnalystForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Forensic Science TechnicianSee Forensic Science Technician$60090
Border Patrol AgentHomeland SecurityHigh SchoolBachelor’s to Master’s20000 4Varies$36972 5
CIA AnalystHomeland SecurityBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sClassifiedClassified$75000
CIA OfficerHomeland SecurityBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sClassifiedClassified$105000
Computer Forensics InvestigatorForensicsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/A$68666 26
Conservation OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Fish and Game WardenSee Fish and Game Warden$49400
Correctional OfficerCorrectionsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s42779014300$45320
Correctional Treatment SpecialistCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s879502130$54080
Court ClerkLegalHigh SchoolAssociate’s1301901480$38230
Crime Lab AnalystForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Forensic TechnicianSee Forensic Technician$60090
Crime Scene InvestigatorForensics/Law EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Criminal InvestigatorSee Criminal Investigator$79620
Criminal InvestigatorLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s1065802830$79620
Criminal Law ParalegalLegalAssociate’sAssociate’s to Bachelor’sSee ParalegalSee Paralegal$52390
Customs and Border Protection OfficerHomeland SecurityHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s20000N/A$36972 6
DEA AgentLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s5000 7N/A$54460 8
Deputy SheriffLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Police OfficerSee Police Officer$61270 9
Emergency Management DirectorHomeland SecurityBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s9840190$73750
FBI AgentLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’s13913 10N/AN/A
Fire and Police DispatcherLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Associate’s98600833$38870
Fire InvestigatorLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s12290430$59800
First-Line Supervisor of Correctional OfficersLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s425201530$62770
First-Line Supervisor of Police and DetectivesLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s1003704300$85810
Fish and Game WardenLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s6320200$49400
Forensic AccountantForensicsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/A$75280 11
Forensic AnthropologistForensicsMaster’sMaster’sN/AN/A$60230 12
Forensic Ballistics ExpertForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Forensic Science TechnicianSee Forensic Science Technician$60090
Forensic NurseForensicsAssociate’sAssociate’s to Bachelor’sN/AN/A$71000 13
Forensic PsychologistForensicsMaster’sDoctorateN/AN/A$77950 14
Forensic Science TechnicianForensicsHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s14070990$60090
Fraud InvestigatorPrivate SectorHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Private InvestigatorSee Private Investigator$52840
Homicide DetectiveLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Criminal InvestigatorSee Criminal Investigator$79620
ICE AgentHomeland SecurityBachelor’s**Bachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/A$79620 15
Information Security AnalystPrivate SectorBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s888802550$93250
Juvenile Probation OfficerCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sSee Probation OfficerSee Probation Officer$54080
Narcotics OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Police OfficerSee Police Officer$61270
ParalegalLegalAssociate’sAssociate’s to Bachelor’s2719308270$52390
Parking Enforcement OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s8710280$38280
Parole OfficerCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s91300692$50160
Police OfficerLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s65374025840$61270
Private InvestigatorPrivate SectorHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s304601100$52840
Probation OfficerCorrectionsBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s879502130$54080
Secret Service AgentHomeland SecurityBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s3200 16N/A$43075 17
Security GuardPrivate SectorHigh SchoolHigh School to Some College109766020960$28460
SheriffLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolBachelor’s to Master’s3080 18VariesN/A
State TrooperLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s59390 19See Police Officer$67190 20
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorCorrectionsHigh SchoolHigh School to Master’s870904110$42920
Transit and Railroad PoliceLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’s4060130$58200
Transportation Security ScreenerHomeland SecurityHigh SchoolHigh School41820660$40050
United States Park PoliceLaw EnforcementHigh SchoolHigh School to Bachelor’sSee Police OfficerSee Police Officer$61270
US MarshalLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’s3846 21N/AN/A
Victims AdvocateLaw EnforcementBachelor’sBachelor’s to Master’sN/AN/A$49670 22
Youth Correctional CounselorCorrectionsHigh SchoolHigh School to Master’sSee Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorsSee Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors$42920

Table Footnotes

>>See 25 More Careers and Degrees

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: 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

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.

StateState Unemployment Rate (May 2016)1Overall Employment Outlook GradeState Budget Management Rating2Annual CJ Openings3CJDS View of State Prospects for Public CJ Jobs*
US Total4.70%AverageAverage72,200Average
Alabama6.10%Below AverageGood1,010Average
Arizona5.60%Below AverageBelow Average2,260Poor
California5.20%AveragePoor9,790Below Average
Colorado3.40%GoodAverage1,720Below Average
Connecticut5.70%Below AveragePoor670Poor
Delaware4.10%GoodBelow Average231Average
Georgia5.30%Below AverageGood2,650Average
Indiana5.00%AverageGood1,330Below Average
Kentucky5.10%AveragePoor1,050Below Average
Louisiana6.30%PoorBelow Average1,490Below Average
Maine3.50%GoodPoor220Below Average
Massachusetts4.20%AveragePoor1,370Below Average
Michigan4.70%AverageBelow Average1,580Poor
Mississippi5.80%Below AverageAverage980Average
Missouri4.30%AverageGood1,310Below Average
Nevada6.10%Below AverageGood1,370Good
New Hampshire2.70%ExcellentGood250Good
New Jersey4.90%AveragePoor2,130Below Average
New Mexico6.20%Below AverageBelow Average330Poor
New York4.70%AveragePoor7,690Average
North Carolina4.70%AverageAverage2,380Average
North Dakota3.20%GoodExcellent160Good
Oregon4.50%AverageBelow Average560Poor
Pennsylvania5.50%Below AverageBelow Average2,760Below Average
Rhode Island5.40%Below AverageBelow Average210Below Average
South Carolina5.60%Below AverageGood1,220Average
South Dakota2.50%ExcellentExcellent170Excellent
Vermont3.10%ExcellentBelow Average120Average
Washington5.80%Below AverageAverage1,850Average
Washington DC5.80%Below AverageN/A730Average
West Virginia6.20%Below AverageBelow Average340Poor
Wyoming5.60%Below AverageExcellent110Average

Table Footnotes:
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.

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

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Additional 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

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
26. Computer Forensics Investigator: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Forensic_Computer_Analyst/Salary