Top 10 Criminal Justice Careers

criminal-justiceWith the ongoing innovations in technology and science, along with rates of population growth, the field of criminal justice is more diverse than ever. Criminal justice offers vast opportunities for people with a variety of different professional interests.

Whether you like working with computers, prefer to work as a forensic scientist, or want to help keep the streets safe as a police officer, the field of criminal justice can be a rewarding fit for your career aspirations.

If you have been thinking about working in law enforcement, or another segment of criminology, use this list of top 10 criminal justice career paths to learn more about your best options.

Police Officers and Detectives. We put police officers and detectives at the top of our list because they are on the front lines of law enforcement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that individuals in these roles earned an average wage of $60,270 per year in 2015. These careers can offer great long-term job security, and a ladder to other areas of employment in the field.

Forensic Science Technicians. You don’t have to watch the TV shows about crime to know technology is taking over crime analysis. With advances in forensic science, you can pursue a career as a lab tech in a crime lab, performing analysis on evidence that could solve crimes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states forensic lab technicians earn an average wage of $56,320 per year, according to 2015 data. What’s stunning though, is the 27% anticipated growth in this field by 2024. Not bad odds for graduates with forensic science related degrees.

Cyber Security and Computer Forensics Technicians. Computers can offer investigators a world of insight into criminal activity. If you have a love for working with computers and solving problems, you could be a good candidate for a computer forensic science technician role. The benefit of earning your computer forensics degree is that you can work as a security expert or criminal analyst in many types of work environments. You can work for law enforcement agencies, or seek work for private companies, helping keep their computer networks safe from criminal activity.

Criminal Lawyers. Job growth for lawyers is on par with the national average, and the pay for 2015 averaged $115,820, according to BLS statistics. Since there are so many focus areas within the study of law, you can become specialized in defending particular types of clients. You could also work as a prosecuting attorney for the state in criminal cases. You’ll need to complete four years of undergrad courses and about three years of law school first. If you love being a student and want to find a long lasting and rewarding career, becoming an attorney may be a great route to take.

Corrections Officers. Working in corrections is a common path for criminal justice degree holders. This can be a good starting point into the field, with opportunities to advance into management or branch out into other aspects of law enforcement. If you work at the management level in correction facilities, you can expect to earn an average wage of $40,580 per year (2015 data). The BLS says local and state agencies offer the most opportunity due to retirement and turnover.

Judge. If you want to move through the rank of attorney and become a judge, this can be a solid career path for those who have a passion for the details of our nation’s laws. As a judge, you can earn around $109,000 per year, if the current average holds steady. Plus, there are paths to becoming a judge that do not require 3 years of law school. The BLS states that hearing officers and magistrate positions, which only require a bachelor’s degree, can also lead to positions in the judiciary.

Forensic Psychologist. Psychology is a broad field that also plays an important role within the realm of criminal justice. Forensic psychologists possess specialized training, insight and experience that help courts navigate and process criminal cases more accurately. Psychologists earn an average salary of $72,580 per year, with job growth projected at 19% through 2024 – much faster than the national average.

Department of Homeland Security. This law enforcement agency is its own web of criminal justice career opportunities that seems to be growing every year, as threats to our nation’s security grow graver and more complicated. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encompasses many areas of law enforcement and government agencies, including: Citizenship and Immigration Services; Customs and Border Protection; US Coast Guard; US Secret Service; Transportation and Security Administration; Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate; Federal Emergency Management Agency; and others. Criminal justice careers within the DHS are vast and can fit a variety of interests and education levels.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists. With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, you can earn an average wage of $49,360 per year in this role. As a probation officer, you can work to help reduce recidivism and repeat offenses. This is an important job that also helps people integrate back into society and return to their lives and family relations. Correctional treatment specialists also help develop specific plans for people who have many types of challenges, such as substance and alcohol abuse.

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers. Teaching can be a great option for professionals who have experience in criminal justice that they want to share with the next generation of professionals. Teaching law enforcement classes pays a median annual wage of $58,770 per year, according to 2015 salary data. The top 10% earned an annual medial wage of $103,260. Colleges, universities and professional schools offered the most opportunities for graduates.

Of course, these are just some of the top criminal justice careers available for people who are interested in the field. If you are thinking about pursuing a degree program in this field, you should speak with several schools in your area before making a decision. One of the easiest ways to learn about educational options is to visit The site offers information on careers and education options from entry level positions to advanced careers in criminal justice.

You can also gain a lot of insight by speaking with professionals in the line of work you’re interested in. With a seemingly endless variety of careers for people with all ranges of interest, criminal justice is a good career choice for professionals who want job security while helping keep our nation and its people safe and secure, while protecting our freedoms we hold dear.

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