Criminal Justice Careers and Opportunities


Providing security and protection to the society and environment, and prevention and solving of crimes are just some of the crucial functions of criminal justice officials in the society. Through law enforcement officers, paralegal experts, and security officials, peoples safety are properly protected. In order to mitigate and effectively solve crimes, people aspiring to enter the criminal justice industry must undergo rigorous training and education to attain the skills and knowledge necessary for their jobs.

The criminal justice of the country is a complex and broad system, which includes a lot of sub fields and disciplines. If you are one of those millions of people planning to enter the field of criminal justice to uphold peace and protect people from criminals, one of the important things you should think about is the specific criminal justice career you want to pursue. There are hundreds of criminal justice careers available for people who obtained the right training and education in criminal justice.

Major Fields In Criminal Justice

Careers in criminal justice can be categorized into major fields based on their functions and responsibilities. These are:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Homeland Security
  • Forensics
  • Information Technology
  • Legal and Court System
  • Correctional System
  • Public Administration and Government
  • Academic and Research in Criminal Justice
  • Private Sector and Security

Criminal Justice Careers

CareersLaw enforcement careers can be considered as the main career options for people planning to enter the criminal justice system. Careers under this category include state and local law enforcement roles like police officers, sheriffs and police detectives, federal law enforcement roles such as special agents in FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, and the Emergency and Disaster Recovery. Coast guards, border patrol agents, customs agents, fire science experts, US Air Marshals, and even canine units or K9 are criminal justice careers under the law enforcement category.

Homeland security is another major field in the criminal justice system which has been established in response to the 9/11 attack in the US. Careers in this field work under the Department of Homeland Security in order to prepare and protect people from threats specifically from terrorism and disasters. Criminal justice careers you can pursue in the field of homeland security are counter terrorism agents, homeland security specialists, criminal intelligence analysts, CIA and ICE agents, and emergency management specialists.

Forensics and information technology fields are also crucial components of the criminal justice system. Under these fields, you can pursue a career as forensic specialist, computer forensic investigator, evidence technician, forensic psychologist, crime scene photographer, latent print examiner, information security official, and cyber security specialist.

Other available careers to pursue in other sub fields of the criminal justice system are probation and corrections officer, juvenile probation officer, paralegal, court clerk, compliance officer, criminology researcher, professor, private investigator, and lawyer. Given the numerous career options you can choose from, pursuing a career in the criminal justice field is definitely a good option especially if you are passionate about protecting people and the society from crimes, terrorism, and possible disasters.

Income Opportunities In The Criminal Justice System

Careers and OppurtunitiesSalary in the criminal justice careers varies due to several factors like the type of role or position, geographical location, education and training, and experience. However, the common trend that experts notice is that entry level or starting salary is usually higher in the urban or metropolitan areas. If you are interested in criminal justice career, here is the salary level in various careers based on the report of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010.

Law enforcement salary for police officers ranges from $30,000 to $80,000 every year. Police detectives have higher salary, which ranges from $46,000 up to $115,000 and more. According to the BLS, FBI agents receive national average income of $89,000 annually and can reach up to $130,000 depending on their positions. Careers in the Fish and Game Warden subfields receive annual salary ranging from $30,000 to $82,000.

For homeland security careers, salary offered for criminal justice officers working in the US Customs and Border Patrol ranges from $37,000 to $79,000. Air Marshal Officers usually receive annual income ranging from $42,000 to $80,000. Coast guards national average salary ranges from $48,000 to $88,000 based on the data from Pay scale website. Average salary of forensic specialists ranges from $53,000 to $81,000 nationally while salary of forensic psychologists is higher which can reach up to $102,000 every year.

Paralegal experts can earn as much as $75,000 to $92,000 every year while entry-level positions under the paralegal category receive starting salary of $30,000 to $36,000. Lawyers or attorneys may receive higher income especially those working for private companies and institutions. According to the BLS, the annual national average income of lawyers employed in the country is $113,000 with the highest earners receiving annual salary of $165,000 to $170,000.

Education, Career Path And Job Outlook

In order to obtain a job in the criminal justice, you need to obtain the degree necessary for the job. Most preferred degree program is a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, which can help land various great careers and job opportunities in the criminal justice. For entry-level jobs, minimum requirement is an associate degree in criminal justice, which takes 2 years to complete. People with this degree program can also proceed to a bachelor’s degree in case they want to further their education to obtain better career opportunities in the criminal justice field.

Master’s degree programs are also available which can open higher positions especially supervisory and administrative positions in the criminal justice, which offer higher salaries and better work environment. Online degree programs in criminal justice are also becoming popular today especially to those who want to make a career change and try a career in criminal justice.

According to the US BLS, job outlook for criminal justice experts and officials is expected to rise 7% from year 2010 to 2020. This rate is slower compared to the growth in other occupation. Although the job opportunity growth is slower, increasing population and demand for public protection and safety is expected to significantly rise in the coming years leading to greater demand for criminal justice officers especially in the state and federal law enforcement departments and homeland security services.

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