Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

5 Top Criminal Justice Careers and Salaries

Criminal justice careers have grown to be increasingly broad over the years, spanning from local to federal positions in the legislature or judicial system around the nation.  As a result, the top criminal justice careers are often changing, but many of the highest ranked have managed to stay the same over the years.

Police Officer: $30,000 – $80,000 (depending on experience)
Becoming a police officer is indeed the stereotypical outcome of a criminal justice degree, but there are now so many different departments in law enforcement that you have a wide variety of careers to choose from.  Depending on whether you want to be a local police officer, detective, or work in a specific department (like narcotics or homicide), your experiences in the force can be different and you may have different salaries as well.

Forensics Analyst: $47,000 – $56,000
One of the newer realms of criminal justice is that of forensics.  This realm in criminal justice has led to the release of many innocent people, as well as the apprehension of the guilty ones.  Forensics has become an integral part of many high profile cases, and technology has allowed this to become better suited to discovering the true nature of the crime.  Forensics can now tell us intimate information about the criminals’ DNA and body type, factors that were not in existence only a few years ago.  

Border Patrol Agent: $55,000 (average)
Border patrol agents have become increasingly important in our modern, globalized world, as they protect our nation’s borders against illegal drugs and contraband from entering the country.  While the vast majority of their time is taken up looking for illegal immigrants around the US-Mexican border, border agents also play a large role in customs at the border and in border towns at various “checkpoints” that exist an hour from the border.  Their line of duty has many dangerous aspects and they have become a major part of protecting our country’s borders. 

Defense Attorney: Varies
Defense attorneys make up a large part of the criminal justice system, as they typically represent many of the criminals who find their way into court.  Their salaries range in amount based on a number of factors, including their firm, their clients, and their experience in the courtroom.  Defense attorneys are a pivotal force in the criminal justice system and represent a number of clients whose cases make drastic changes in the court system.  While this career involves more education than other criminal justice degrees, it is well worth it in the end.

Private Investigator: $40,000 (average)
Finally, the career of private investigator may seem outdated in a world that is connected via the internet, but has proven to continue to be needed despite technological advances.  Private investigators are called for a number of reasons, many of which involve family disagreements or disputes, but regardless of their reason, they remain a major role in the criminal justice system and continue to be needed. 


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