Criminal justice is an umbrella that covers many viable career paths. If you’re here, let’s assume that you’ve got a keen interest in upholding the peace. You likely already know the obvious choices – the police officer and the lawyer. However, there are some obscure choices in the mix that you may not have thought of including prison wardens and financial examiners. Criminal justice is an extremely large field that won’t be everyone’s ideal career. The world of upholding peace isn’t the most lucrative sector either. However, there are a couple of cheeky six-figure jobs snuck in there. Either way, we will outline the career paths with the highest pay opportunities.
Getting Into Criminal Justice
Before we jump into the lucrative cash flow, let’s discuss how to get into a career in the criminal justice system.
The first thing you need to decide on is a career path and a sector – we’ve got you covered below. You will need to set manageable goals pertaining to particular training. Further, you should get yourself a bachelor degree in criminal justice from the Central Christian College of Kansas. A degree-level course in criminal justice will introduce you to the broad principles and theories that underpin the system. Throughout the degree, you will have the opportunity to specialize, which is why it’s important to decide on what you want to do.
Alongside your degree course, which you can easily do remotely whilst you build experience, you should begin to build your network. Get yourself on a platform like LinkedIn and start getting actively involved. Through building contacts, you will have access to a world of wealth and could wind up finding your dream job ahead of time.
Fire Investigators – $56,000 Avg
Our list starts in the fire department. In particular, specialists are responsible for investigating the cause of fires. Once the fire crew has finished saving lives and putting big wet on the flames, the investigator comes in with his magnifying glass and clipboard to determine foul play or not. The report generated by these investigators will be used to support police investigations as well as insurance companies.
This is an interesting career path that will give you the benefit of no two days being the same. Your degree in criminal justice would be a great starting point for you to pivot into further training and eventually into this role.
Prison Correctional Manager – $60,000 Avg
Once the criminal justice system has done its work and found people guilty of crimes, they need to send them somewhere, and someone has to be responsible for their rehabilitation. On the entry-level into prison work, you won’t be touching the pay mentioned above. However, once you have built your way into correctional management positions the pay becomes fairly lucrative.
Your role as a correctional manager will be to oversee the staff that carries out the bottom line jobs. In this role, you will be integral to the safety of the staff, the prison, and the inmates. You will need to be patient in this role and start at the bottom. For entry, you could become a prison guard and climb the ladder from there.
Police Officers – $65,000 Avg
If the prisons hold criminals after conviction, someone needs to be responsible for investigating crimes and bringing them in. Police offers are supposed to be a beacon of hope and act as the barrier between the general public and criminal activity. This job carries many risks, especially when you are expected to remain visible out on the streets.
This role is extremely stressful, and you will need to wear many masks. However, you can rest assured that no two days will be the same. Unfortunately, police officers don’t get paid anywhere near as much as they should. You can earn a greater salary sitting behind the confines of a desk.
Customs Personnel – $66,000 Avg
Someone needs to man the borders and ensure that nothing comes into the country that shouldn’t. As a customs official, you would be responsible for putting a stop to illegal immigration, the importation of illegal substances, human trafficking, and any other issues relevant to customs. There will constantly be criminals looking to exploit the border and make a profit on their illicit activities. Luckily for you, that means that there will always be a need for hard-working officers to man the many miles of the US border.
To get into this area of law enforcement, you will need to hold great deals of experience within the criminal justice field. For those of you looking into becoming a police officer, this can be a viable way of raking in an extra $1,000 a year and experiencing a different perspective of keeping the peace.
Professor – $72,000 Avg
They say that those that can’t – teach. Whether that’s true or not is a matter of perspective. However, someone needs to teach budding criminal justice enthusiasts. Being a professor is an excellent profession for those with a passion for passing on knowledge and playing an important part in other peoples’ lives.
The great benefit of being a professor in criminal justice is that you don’t need to pass the fitness tests, and you don’t need to go out and risk your life, but you get paid much more than police offers out there risking their lives. To break into this area, you will need to be educated to a master’s level in your specialism at least.
Criminologists – $74,000 Avg
The job of a criminologist is to study crimes and build criminal profiles that support law enforcement in their crime prevention. Through sociological data, they come up with evidence-driven methods of fighting crime. For example, criminologists may notice geographical trends that detail high levels of crime in a certain area. With this information, they can implement the installation of CCTV as a deterrent and method of identifying criminals. The job of a criminologist is imperative to the prevention of crime. They work alongside all levels of law enforcement including the FBI.
Financial Examiners – $79,000 Avg
As mentioned previously, the more your job entails sitting behind a computer in the safety of an office, the more you get paid for your work. However, that’s a topic worthy of an article itself – so we’ll carry on.
Financial examiners are responsible for completing audits on everyone including businesses and individuals. Often, they will work with law enforcement agencies and be highly trained in the recognition of fraudulent behavior. Financial experts will either work alongside an agency or with law enforcement on specific case investigations. As well as necessary knowledge of monetary crimes, you need to be a highly skilled mathematician.
Intel Analyst – $83,000 Avg
You’ve likely seen them on TV, sat behind desks, and staring at a computer whilst urgency breaks out around them. These are intelligence analysts, and their job is to analyze data. In particular, they work tirelessly to spot trends and anomalies in data. Then, these are used to inform potential security threats. For the most part, analysts work alongside the FBI and are responsible for generating reports and making information readable.
Forensic Psychologists – $84,000 Avg
This is one for the people that love fighting crime and getting inside the fascinating minds of the perpetrator. Reaching the highest rates of pay will take hard work and dedication. Specifically, you will need to obtain an advanced degree in psychology, as well as other sociological fields.
Your job will be to evaluate the mental state of criminals by using your knowledge of the human psyche. Through analyzing criminals, you will be able to draw out trends that help to inform profiles and protect the public. Further, you will play a part in dictating whether or not someone was of sound mind when a crime was committed.
To get ahead in this field, you need to specialize in one area of forensic psychology. Becoming a sought-after expert in your field is the best way to earn the big bucks.
Private Investigators – $93,000 Avg
Noir films portray private investigators as leading a life of excitement and luxury. However, the reality of the career is far from true. However, the pay is more upscale than your average police officer. For the most part, private investigators work alongside law enforcement agencies – this is where they learn their skills. Becoming a police officer is an excellent way to springboard onto the path of the PI.
As a private investigator, you will work on a contract basis and most commonly still alongside law enforcement. The best way to look at this career path is to empty your mind of the vision portrayed in Hollywood. You won’t be working with a stream of lucrative clients looking for clues their partner cheated. Instead, you will carry out the work of a regular detective – but on a freelance basis.
Judge – $104,000
The caretakers of the courtroom, the judge is responsible for overseeing the fair trial of criminals. They ensure that lawyers follow the guidelines laid out by the courts. A judge will decide whether a warrant is justifiable, as well as making crucial decisions in the courtroom. Typically, the task of passing a fair sentence is left to the judge.
To become a judge, you will need to be an attorney first. Further, you will need to have a proven track record of acting in line with the code of ethics. Judges are put into position through nominations. To this end, it’s within your interest to create strong connections and become a pillar of your community.
Although we’ve hit six figures here, the judge doesn’t sit on top of the cash pile.
Federal Bureau of Investigation – $114,000 Avg
FBI agents are made up of the best names in law enforcement and take on extremely dangerous tasks. The FBI recruits brilliance from the ranks of law enforcement. However, becoming a detective and holding down the job for a long time won’t guarantee you entry.
This is one of the most lucrative roles within criminal justice. However, it’s an arduous process to get there. For you to reach the academy, you need extensive criminal justice expertise, deep law enforcement knowledge, and the ability to pass strenuous physical tasks. Further, you will need to gain security clearance that involves passing tough background checks. Once in the academy, your journey begins.
Lawyers – $163,000 Avg
Sitting on top of our cash pile and winning the highest-paid criminal justice career is the lawyer. Not all lawyers will earn six figures, and work covers the small claims court right up to high profile cases. Typically, lawyers who work privately will have the capacity to earn six figures and will specialize in difficult cases to win.
Although this pays extremely well at the top end, it’s not the easiest of careers to chase down. Law school will be grueling – and that’s after you’ve finished your bachelor’s degree. You need to learn about legislation, ethical procedures, and cast previous cases into your mind. To pass the Bar exam you will need to put in enormous amounts of work. Once you’ve become a lawyer, the fun doesn’t stop there. You will need to prove your worth in the courtroom and demonstrate your ability to win.
Criminal justice encompasses a large number of careers. Completing a degree in the field is a great starting point to leap into further training. You will not have an easy life and sometimes the work you do will not feel worth the money you are paid for it. Therefore, before you travel down this road on a whim, ensure it’s something that you want to do long-term. Once you’ve made the decision, you need to create clear goals that you can put time limits on. Although it’s sad to say, even with all of the training possible, you may not be cut out for a role in criminal justice. With that in mind, put a time limit on when to walk away from the profession.