If we’ve learned anything from watching Law & Order over the past 20 years is that people who choose to follow a career in criminal justice don’t just do it for the six-figure salary, but also because they truly believe that justice needs to be served.
Criminal justice majors have the unique ability to fight crime one step at a time. Whether it’s in a courtroom of law or out on the streets, any position in this field is bound to be rewarding.
If you know you want to fight crime but don’t know which route to take, our roundup of the 20 best criminal justice jobs will help you find your true calling.
20. Court Clerk
If you’re looking for an entry-level position after graduation, becoming a court clerk could be a step in the right direction. Clerks of the court are, essentially, in charge of maintaining court records and performing other administrative duties, including financial records and fiscal accounts.
Average salary: £35,930 (£27,200)
19. Correctional Officer
Correctional officers, like the ones we often see on TV and in film, are based in jails and prisons and are tasked with supervising and ensuring the security of those convicted of a crime. No previous experience is required, and you will receive all the necessary training and qualifications while on the job.
Average salary: $36,920 (£27,940)
18. Probation Officer
Probation or parole officers are tasked with rehabilitating offenders that have been convicted of a crime and are on probation awaiting sentencing. They also ensure former inmates are adjusting to life outside of bars again.
Average salary: $41,150 (£31,150)
If you’re intrigued by what drives people to commit a certain crime, criminology could be the ideal field for you. While criminologists are mainly tasked with identifying offending patterns, they also use this information to prevent any law-breaking by helping officials create law enforcement policies to reduce the current crime rate. To succeed in this position, you’ll need to have strong character and outstanding mathematical skills.
Average salary: $42,600 (£32,250)
16. Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators are the guys or girls who are the first to see criminal evidence, including murder scenes, burglary and domestic violence. They are often faced with gruesome surroundings that they need to analyse to find proof that supports a case or solves a crime. To get to this level in your career, you will usually need prior experience in the police force.
Average salary: $44,160 (£33,420)
If you’re fresh out of law school but haven’t managed to secure a training contract yet, working as a paralegal can help you get one step closer to your dream. You’ll support lawyers on a daily basis by maintaining and organising supporting documents, conducting research and drafting legal documents and contracts.
Average salary: $46,560 (£35,240)
14. Forensic Science Technician
Forensic science technicians are crucial to helping detectives solve their investigations. While part of their work involves collecting evidence from the crime scene, they spend most of their time performing technical and scientific analyses inside laboratories where they consult with other specialists and find links in other criminal activities.
Average salary: $48,570 (£36,760)
13. Police Officer
Police officers are often known as the peace-makers on the streets, patrolling and responding to incidents as needed. This job isn’t easy, though; you need to have stamina, mental and physical strength, as well as great initiative to act quickly in highly intense situations. It’s definitely a career where no two days are the same.
Average salary: $50,400 (£38,150)
12. Private Investigator
As a private investigator, you’re hired on a job-by-job basis to investigate specific scenarios, including performing background checks, finding missing people and solving crimes by gathering information on requested cases. Most private investigators do not need a bachelor’s degree, but they do require a licence and a decent amount of experience in a criminal justice career.
Average salary: $50,420 (£38,170)
11. Fire Investigator
As a fire investigator, you will work directly with your local fire department to investigate the cause of suspicious fires. You will report to the scene of the fire, prepare warrants, conduct reports and make arrests based on your findings.
Average salary: $57,750 (£43,720)
10. Fish and Game Warden
If you think only humans require justice, think again. Fish and game wardens, also known as wildlife officers, are responsible for protecting the rights of animals and making sure that all hunters follow proper conservational guidelines. They also investigate crimes involving wildlife, aid in boat operations and help organise water rescues.
Average salary: $58,570 (£44,340)
9. Fraud Investigator
Fraud investigators are hired to determine whether a claim is true or not after an insurance company has made the payment. They do so by conducting their own research, analysing evidence and interviewing all parties involved; they then present their findings to the person that hired them.
Average salary: $58,810 (£44,510)
8. Police Detective
Police detectives work with police officers and other law enforcers to help solve more serious crimes. They are usually officers that have been promoted within the force and have a depth of experience under their belt. Moreover, they can be called to work at any hour of the day or night and need to always be on call and ready for action.
Average salary: $59,730 (£45,210)
7. Homicide Detective
Unlike regular detectives, homicide detectives work on specific cases related to a murder. They must identify how a homicide was committed, when it was committed, what the motive was and who committed the crime. It must be said that it’s not an easy job and it’s one that requires a lot of patience as it could take years to solve a single case.
Average salary: $65,000 (£49,200)
Judges are the moral force behind any justice system and have the difficult task of handing out life-changing decisions. To do that, they must assess the evidence presented to them and hand out impartial judgements by following the rules of the law.
Average salary: $65,550 (£49,610)
5. Security Analyst
Due to the rise of terrorist attacks and data breaches across the world, the need for technical-savvy law enforcement has also increased. As a security analyst, you’ll be dedicated to scouring the internet and tracking data for any potential threats.
Average salary: $67,080 (£50,770)
4. Criminal Profiler
Also known as behavioural analysts, a criminal profiler’s main job is to guide law enforcement on the specific traits they should be looking for in a criminal. They do so by analysing the offenders’ behavioural and thought patterns and are then able to create profiles which are used in police investigations.
Average salary: $80,000 (£60,570)
3. Federal Marshal
Federal marshals are found in the US and are tasked with capturing fugitives, serving arrest warrants and transporting prisoners. They are not hired to solve crimes or responsible for telling whether a convict is guilty or not; their only duty is to capture them and transport them to jail. They are evidently among the highest-paid criminal justice professionals on the list as their jobs put them in constant high danger, due to dealing with some of the most dangerous criminals in the world.
Average salary: $81,340 (£61,580)
2. Criminal Defence Lawyer
At the heart of every criminal justice system are lawyers, the skilled professionals that defend and prove their clients’ innocence. While it isn’t as dangerous as some other criminal justice careers on this list, it’s one of the most important in the field, especially if a client has been accused of a crime that they aren’t guilty of.
Average salary: $81,450 (£61,640)
1. CIA Agent
CIA agents are often found on the frontline, collecting valuable data for the United States’ decision-makers and do so by risking their lives. They collaborate with other law enforcement agencies from across the world, bringing a more extensive skill set to the table when needed.
Average salary: $81,620 (£61,790)
Indeed, working for the criminal justice system is difficult and dangerous. It’s a calling that only a brave few will choose to answer, but it’s also a calling that comes with an immeasurable sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Do you want to be a crime fighter, too? Let us know which career fits you best in the comments section below.
Salary information is based on US jobs data compiled and published by Glassdoor and PayScale. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 20 September 2018.