The criminal justice system offers a number of high paying career options to candidates with diverse experience and educational background. As the U.S. government focuses upon increasing security, maintaining social control, deterring crime, rehabilitating offenders, and mitigating criminal penalties, individuals who complete studies within the field of criminal justice gain the skills and knowledge necessary to establish long term, lucrative careers.
Professionals who work in the criminal justice system utilize their knowledge of law, sociology, forensic science, political science, criminal justice and psychology to act as vital workers in a quickly evolving industry.
Ranking the Top 10 Highest Paying Criminal Justice Careers
We’ve selected the Top 10 Highest Paying Criminal Justice Careers based upon the latest information available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) and other sources.
Lawyers (or attorneys) represent parties in civil and criminal trials advising clients regarding their legal rights and obligations. Lawyers act as advisors or advocates offering clients sound business or personal courses of action based upon knowledge of laws, judicial decisions, and research. Lawyers may specialize in one particular field of law, including bankruptcy, international, intellectual property, criminal law, civil law, public interest, insurance, environmental, elder, or probate laws. Lawyers are required to complete a 4 year undergraduate degree, 3 years of law school to advance to bar examinations and licensing programs necessary to qualify for employment. Lawyers earn $74,980 to $163,320 annually.
2. Private Investigators and Detectives
Private Investigators and Detectives provide specialized law enforcement techniques to maintain laws, collect evidence, apprehend criminals, solve crimes, and examine records. Private investigators gather facts through interviews, observation, and researching records to assist in arrests or raids. Detectives may be licensed or unlicensed depending upon their organization of employment. Most work for police agencies, interagency task forces, private firms, or individuals and frequently specialize in fields like homicide, forensics, fraud, or even SWAT teams.
Many detectives begin as police officers after successfully completing physical fitness, written examinations, and psychological testing. Law enforcement professionals then advance gradually upon earning experience and additional training within law enforcement, criminal justice, or even political science programs. Most detectives earn $59,320 to $92,700 yearly upon securing adequate education and experience.
3. Police Officers
Police Officers maintain public order, collect evidence, pursue and apprehend individuals who commit crimes, testify in court, and prevent, investigate, and report suspicious activities. Police offers also respond to calls from individuals in need of their assistance, make arrests, and detain individuals for limited amounts of time. Police officers may work for local, State or Federal agencies following a strict code of conduct regarding their duties while enforcing laws and maintaining the integrity of their police powers.
Training to qualify as a police officer requires completion of a number of medical, written, and physical fitness tests as well as psychological evaluations to demonstrate their physical, intellectual, and emotional capabilities to qualify for employment. Individuals who pass all required tests advance to police academy training programs offering classroom instruction, practical training, and means of improving or maintaining physical fitness. Many agencies prefer candidates who have completed studies within an associate or bachelor degree program in law enforcement or administration of justice often earn higher salaries than candidates with less education. Earnings for police officers range from $38,850 to $64,940 annually.
4. Federal Marshals
Federal Marshals are important members of the executive branch of the U.S. government. These agents responsible for securing federal courts, protecting court officers and structures, and ensuring the effective operation of the judicial system by maintaining security, serving arrest warrants, transporting prisoners, and determining the location of fugitives. U.S. Marshals must obtain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, possess three years of work experience, have a clear background, and successfully complete physical, written, and psychological assessments to gain admittance into the U.S. Marshals Service Training Academy in Glynco, Georgia. The Academy involves 17 ½ weeks of basic training complete with course studies and practical experiences. Individuals who gain employment as a U.S. Marshal have earnings of $38,511 to $48,708 yearly.
5. Forensics Analysts
Forensics Analysts are important workers within the criminal justice system who collect, classify, analyze, and identify physical evidence related to law enforcement investigations. Forensic analysts are employed city, county, or state crime labs, offices, morgues, and at crime scenes and work closely with medical examiners, police departments, toxicology lab technicians, hospital staff, and even researchers at colleges and universities.
Many forensic analysts specialize within fields like ballistics, handwriting, fingerprinting, and biochemistry and frequently testify in court as expert witnesses reporting laboratory findings. Forensic analysts are required to complete studies within a four year bachelor degree program in criminal justice with a forensic science specialization though many law enforcement agencies prefer candidates with a graduate level educational background. Generally forensic analysts have salaries of $37,520 to $58,510 annually.
Paralegals work within law firms, law offices, organizations, corporations, license service companies, bankruptcy firms, arbitration services, public notaries, or as independent consultants performing a number of tasks. Paralegals research, analyze, organize, and collect information used for hearings, trials, meetings, and other proceedings.
Paralegals also assist in the preparation of tax returns, estate planning and creating trust funds for clients. Many also coordinate the responsibilities and schedules of other law office staff as well as maintain financial records for their organizations of employment. Training to qualify for employment as a paralegal requires a minimum of a two year associate degree within a paralegal program though those who complete advanced degrees are more highly compensated. Paralegals may earn from $36,080 to $58,540 yearly.
7. Probation Officers
Probation Officers supervise, rehabilitate, and reform offenders who have been convicted of crimes, are on probation, awaiting sentencing, and are not incarcerated. They also assist offenders released from incarceration and oversee their activities following incarceration. Probation officers investigate offenders’ backgrounds, history, and environment and report findings to court officials to recommend social resources and rehabilitation assistance, recommend and review sentences, assist with modifications of court orders, and refer offenders to casework counseling, career training, or community service programs. Probation officers must pass oral, written, and psychological tests and earn a minimum of an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, social work, law enforcement, or a related discipline to gain employment earning salaries of $35,990 to $60,430 annually.
8. Corrections Officers
Corrections Officers oversee incarcerated offenders within prisons, jails and other detention centers maintaining security, upholding institutional regulations and polices, minimizing disturbances, preventing escapes, and controlling prison populations. Corrections officers also transport inmates, complete reports regarding inmate behavior, and activities and inspect facilities for infractions of regarding sanitation, safety, or hazards regulations.
Training to qualify for positions as corrections officers requires a high school diploma and completion of training offered by the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association. Recent trends have also required candidates to complete a bachelor degree in a criminal justice field combined with 3 years of work experience. Corrections officers generally earn $29,660 to $51,000 yearly.
9. Victim Advocates
Victim Advocates frequently work within district attorney’s offices, hospitals, jails, or within non-profit organizations assisting clients who have been traumatized by domestic abuse, violence, rape, and other crimes. Victim advocates help clients work through the recovery and legal process by directing clients to available resources, offering support, and minimizing the physical and emotional consequences of the crime. Victim advocates accompany clients to court hearings and assist with securing court injunctions when required.
Victim advocates also investigate complaints, offer administrative support with statistical record keeping, and devise means of improving client support services. Victim advocates generally must possess a bachelor degree with work experience or a master’s degree within psychology, social work, or criminal justice disciples. Earnings for victim advocates are $25,636 to $31,616 annually.
10. Court Clerks
Court Clerks offer clerical support within court systems, municipalities, and federal licensing agencies and bureaus. Court clerks perform a number of administrative duties including: researching and retrieving information for judges, preparing dockets for court cases, maintaining financial records and fiscal accounts, collecting fees, issuing licenses and permits, and drafting bylaws for town or city councils. Court clerks are required to complete technical programs offered by vocational schools or a two year associate degree to qualify for employment. Earnings for court clerks earn $23,430 to $77,770 yearly.