We have a little confession to make. Long before we conceived The High Court, we used to love Twin Peaks and The X-Files, as well as a bunch of procedural and legal drama TV series.

But you know what we love even more?

Criminal justice jobs 

That’s because employment in this sector can take you on many different paths. Depending on your interests and strong sides, you can choose to work in corrections, law enforcement, customs and border protection, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as various private agencies.

What’s more: 

The criminal justice careers in these areas range from forensics and investigations to psychology and social work. 

And if you have grown accustomed to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal justice journalism jobs might be just the thing for you. 

With that in mind, let’s see what’s on offer.

Popular Criminal Justice Jobs  in 2021

Among the various criminal justice jobs on offer, we will be taking a look at the occupations of criminal justice lawyers, legal nurses, criminal justice technicians, law enforcement, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism jobs.

Along with the requirements, skills, and experience needed, you will see what your salary expectations should be and what the job outlook for some positions is. Last but not least, you will find the answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

Let’s dive right in.

criminal justice jobs

Criminal Justice Lawyers 

Job Description

Criminal lawyers specialize in defending and representing clients in cases where they have been accused of committing a crime. They interpret laws and explain the legal options to their clients, and they research and present the case in court.

Criminal lawyers represent clients in state, federal, and appellate courts. The practice consists of bail bond hearings, plea bargain and punishment negotiations, trials, appeals, parole and probation hearings, and legal remedies after convictions.

Educational Background

The first step to a career as a criminal lawyer is getting a degree from a 4-year college or university in a subject that will be useful later in law schools such as history, political science, and sociology. After getting the undergraduate degree and a Juris Doctor, you’ll have to pass the final hurdle, the State Bar test.

Key Skills and Competencies 

Criminal lawyers need a specific set of skills and experience, including the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Juris Doctor from an American Bar Association accredited law school
  • Passed the State Bar exam
  • State license
  • Experience is preferred
  • Extensive knowledge of state, federal, and local laws
  • Familiarity with court procedures and evidentiary laws
  • Excellent written and verbal skills
  • Good research skills
  • Advanced critical thinking ability
  • Independent worker who is also able to fit in a team
  • Decisive
  • Good at problem-solving 
  • Ability to argue the case in front of a judge and jury
  • Highly developed creative thinking
  • Investigative, analytical, and research skills 
  • Strategic thinking
  • Great interpersonal skills
  • Ability to build a good rapport and trust with the clients 
  • High ethics and a sense of responsibility

Job Responsibilities

Criminal justice major jobs can be found in legislation. As a criminal justice lawyer, you will be:

  • Representing clients at hearings, arraignments, and in court
  • Conducting research and analyzing the case 
  • Investigating the case
  • Interviewing witnesses 
  • Predicting potential problems and outcomes
  • Coming up with defense strategies 
  • Explaining and interpreting the laws to clients so they understand their position and options
  • Presenting the case at court to the judge and jury
  • Presenting the evidence to the court
  • Writing legal documents, legal briefs, and appeals
  • Arguing appeals
  • Staying up to date with new laws and regulations or changes to old ones
  • Conducting negotiations to plea bargain and lesser charges
  • Negotiating punishments and settlements
  • Drafting, filing, and arguing motions to dismiss and motions to suppress
  • Traveling as the need arises

Salary & Job Outlook

Criminal lawyer salaries greatly depend on the size of the practice, the type of clients it takes on and, as always – location, location, location. That being said, salaries for public defenders and non-profit workers are the lowest in criminal law and range from $30,000 to $50,000.

People who aim for law firms can expect the highest annual pay, especially those in high profile firms with extremely affluent clients. Those salaries often go well into the six-figure range. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the following:

  • The median annual salary (for all lawyers, including criminal justice lawyers) is $120,910, which means $58.13 an hour
  • The top 10% earners make over $208,000, equal to $100 an hour
  • The bottom 10% earn less than $58,220 or $27.99 an hour
  • Judges and hearing officers earn $117,190 on average
  • Paralegals and legal assistants make around $50,940
  • Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators earn $62,270 a year on average

Related Jobs 

  • Associate Attorney
  • Lawyer
  • Defense Attorney
  • Trial Lawyer
  • Legal Secretary
  • Judge
  • Hearing Officer
  • Paralegal
  • Legal Assistant
  • Arbitrator
  • Mediator
  • Conciliator
  • Law Professor
  • Law Firm Administrator
  • Chief Legal Officer

Criminology (Law Enforcement) Jobs

Job Description

Police officers and criminal Investigators are some of the typical jobs in law enforcement. They investigate criminal activities, respond to emergency calls, and gather evidence. They also build cases in the broadest sense, from homicide and any type of violence and organized crime to theft and fraud. 

The job description includes surveillance, arrests, collecting and analyzing evidence, interviewing witnesses and suspects, testifying in court, and various other administrative and field activities. Career paths may include positions such as police officer, corporate security specialist, DEA agent, INS agent, ATF agent, homeland security agent, CIA agent, victim advocate.

Over the years, your career path in law enforcement can change course several times as you gain expertise and experience.

Educational Background

For a career in law enforcement, you can choose from two very similar degrees depending on your interests and future occupation – criminology and criminal justice. Those who choose criminal justice will study law enforcement and its workings. On the other hand, criminologists will look at the nature of crime and the reasons why crime happens, how to stop it, and what drives individuals to criminal behavior. 

From that, it’s clear criminal justice students will go into law enforcement, while criminologists might take a more analytic investigative path.

Key Skills and Competencies 

For a law enforcement officer, you will need the following skills and experience:

  • High school diploma, GED
  • Graduating from the Police Training Academy
  • A criminology degree is preferred and considered an advantage
  • Active knowledge of local, state, and federal laws
  • Ability to stay calm under stress
  • Ability to critically assess the situation
  • Good self-control
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Initiative and leadership skills
  • Good health and physical condition

Job Responsibilities

Some of the main tasks and responsibilities of people in law enforcement include:

  • Enforcing local, state, and federal laws
  • Responding to emergency and non-emergency calls and situations
  • Patrolling their assigned areas
  • Protecting life and property
  • Conducting interviews with victims 
  • Gathering testimonies from witnesses
  • Apprehending suspects
  • Transporting suspects
  • Gathering and logging evidence along with the crime scene technicians
  • Writing citations
  • Delivering warrants 
  • Writing citations, delivering warrants, and testifying in court
  • Preparing reports on incidents and activities
  • Carrying out emergency duties during cases of extreme weather conditions
  • Testifying in court
  • Operating the assigned vehicle in all weather conditions
  • Preventing and investigating illegal activities, domestic disturbances, and accidents
  • Conducting criminal and traffic investigations
  • Exercising judgment on the use of force and the appropriate degree of it
  • Understanding of legal documents in the follow-up process and investigation

Salary & Job Outlook

The Average salaries for law enforcement workers are very different, depending on the role and the employer. Here are some of the figures popular criminal justice jobs in law enforcement bring per year :

  • Correctional Officer – Jailer $44,357
  • Senior Corrections Officer $47,440
  • First-Line Supervisor – Manager of Corrections Officers $46,157
  • Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officer $53,426
  • U.S. Marshal $62,400
  • Police Detective $63,225
  • FBI Agent $65,513
  • Prison Warden $83,291

Related Jobs 

Some of the related jobs you can find on our law enforcement criminal justice jobs list are:

  • Homicide Detective
  • Criminal Investigator
  • FBI Agent
  • Police Officer
  • Corporate security specialist
  • DEA agent
  • INS agent
  • ATF agent
  • Homeland Security agent
  • CIA agent
  • Victim advocate
  • Correctional Officer

Criminal Justice Technology Jobs 

Job Description

In criminal justice careers, forensics occupations are among the ones growing in demand.

That’s because technicians’ role is crucial in evidence gathering, preserving, and later analyzing. 

Not for the fainthearted, investigating a crime scene can be gruesome and daunting but also very intellectually stimulating. As a criminal justice technician, you can expect to collect, process, preserve and later analyze fingerprints, bodily fluids, fibers, weapons, and every other kind of physical evidence.

Crime scene technicians usually work for crime labs, police departments, and government organizations, as well as coroner’s offices and morgues. 

Educational Background

Crime technicians need to obtain at least a  high school degree or GED equivalent. However, a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, forensic science, or crime scene investigation will put you ahead of other candidates. An associate degree in relevant subjects and a crime scene technician certificate are also options that will improve your chances of getting hired.

Those applying for criminal justice technology jobs should: 

Obtain the degree, certification, and some experience

Pass background checks

Pass a polygraph exam

Pass a physical exam

Undergo psychological evaluation

Go through on-the-job training when hired, sometimes under the supervision

Key Skills and Experience 

Skills and experience necessary for criminal justice technology roles include:

  • Knowledge of federal, state, and local laws 
  • Familiarity with legal procedures
  • Military or law enforcement experience is an advantage
  • Proficiency in scientific software 
  • Use of design and photo imaging software 
  • Active listening skills 
  • Good written skills 
  • Highly developed critical thinking

Job Responsibilities

Crime scene technicians gather and save physical evidence from crime scenes. This includes:

  • Collecting, processing, and analyzing fingerprints
  • Collecting DNA samples
  • Choosing which evidence to collect
  • Gathering and preserving physical evidence 
  • Handling bodily fluids and weapons
  • Taking photographs
  • Creating crime scene sketches
  • Listing evidence
  • Transporting evidence
  • Running background checks on individuals 
  • Gathering data on vehicles 

Salary & Job Outlook

The need for forensics and crime scene technicians is constantly growing. So, those with the proper education and experience have room for advancement.

Salaries in this field vary depending on the employer, agency or department, education, experience, and location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for the role of forensic science technician is $58,230 per year. Employment is projected to be higher than in other occupations and will grow by 17% from 2016 to 2026.

Related Jobs 

  • Forensic Science Examiner
  • Criminal Information Systems Technician
  • Crime Scene Analyst
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Crime Scene Technician
  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Private Detective
  • Computer Forensics Investigator
  • Blood Spatter Analyst
  • Evidence Technician
  • Forensic Ballistics Expert
  • Forensic Science Technician

Cybersecurity Jobs 

Job Description

Global cybercrime is constantly on the rise, and cybersecurity experts are in extremely high demand especially looking at high-level positions. Every database, institution, and computer is at risk, and governments and companies need plenty of highly skilled workers if they mean to stay ahead.

Further reading: 

The most common employers of cybersecurity specialists that also might offer online criminal justice jobs are the government and its agencies, banks, airlines, organizations with large databases, and security consultancy firms.

Educational Background

Getting the right mix of education, experience, and certifications is the key to having a career in cybersecurity. There is an enormous need for experts and new cybersecurity professionals, with a shortage of the available workforce at the higher levels of expertise.

This means you need to go for your Bachelors and Masters degrees, certificates, and internships. If you add time and a lifelong learner attitude, you are all set for an exciting career.

Degree Programs
  • MS in Computer Science
  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • MS in Information Technology
  • MS in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership
  • MS in Cybersecurity Engineering
  • MS in Information Assurance
  • Specialty MBA 

On their own, certificates are not enough. But getting the right one to spice up your resume might just get you a promotion or increase your entry-level job chances. Here are some of the most important certifications you need to get if you want to start or improve your cybersecurity career: 

CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional. It’s one of the most valued certifications for those aiming to get to higher lever cybersecurity positions. Especially for people looking to work at the Department of Defense, this certificate goes a long way.

CISM – Certified Information Security Manager. It covers governance, risk management, and compliance.

CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor. It covers auditing, controlling, monitoring, and assessing information systems.

GIAC – Global Information Assurance Certification. Specific technical capabilities, intrusion detection, forensics.

CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker. One of the certificates that will make your way into entry-level jobs easier.

Key Skills and Competencies 

When it comes to cybersecurity, internships are everything. The chances of landing a job without experience in this field are slim to none. Even those aiming for entry-level positions need to have some experience, so it would be wise to find an internship while getting your degree.

Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in computer science or a STEM subject are the most common for those who want to work in cybersecurity. Skills in this sector are not something you can gain all at once. Constant learning and keeping up to date with cybercrime innovations is crucial to staying relevant and advancing your career in these often remote criminal justice jobs

Job Responsibilities

Typical tasks and responsibilities of cybersecurity workers include:

  • Securing the IT infrastructure of the agency or company
  • Searching for vulnerabilities in hardware and software
  • Assessing risks 
  • Looking out for attacks
  • Preventing intrusions
  • Identifying the source of the attack and liaising with the police and other agencies
  • Building firewalls 

Salary & Job Outlook

Cybersecurity jobs come with annual salaries of $90,000 to $160,000, but some senior-level roles can go up to $300,000. Cybersecurity Analysts earn between $90,000 and $160,000 a year. 


An Information Security Analyst is the fourth-best technology job, with a medium salary of $98,350, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lead software engineers earn anywhere from $127,958 to $146,883.

The highest-paid are the senior level Chief Information Security Officers (CISO). Salaries are as high as $420,000 for the highest earners, while the median salary for these roles ranges from $140,000 to $300,000.

Finally, Penetration and Vulnerability Testers earn from $102,000 to $130,000, while Cybersecurity Forensics Analysts and similar roles earn $75,000 – $110,000 per year.

Related Jobs 

  • Information Security Officer
  • Penetration tester/ethical hacker
  • Security architect
  • Security analyst
  • Cybersecurity Forensics Analyst
  • Cybersecurity Incident Responder
  • Cyber Forensics Analyst
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Lead Software Security Engineer
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert
  • Security Consultant
  • Cryptographer
  • Security Engineer
  • Technical Author
  • Data Scientist
  • Information Scientist
  • Database Administrator
  • Systems Analyst

Counter-Terrorism Jobs 

Job Description

Counter-terrorism professionals work to identify threats, predict possible attacks, disrupt terrorist groups and networks, and ultimately defeat them. Aside from that, counter-terrorism analysts and agents assess the risk, identify which targets are at the highest risk, how to protect them, and be ready in case of an attack with evacuation and response plans.

Educational Background

Counter-terrorism analysts and agents who want to be employed by the CIA need a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in one of the following areas – international affairs, homeland security, national security studies, or a related field. Applicants also need a 3.0 GPA or higher and must be US citizens. Similar roles could ask for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in criminal justice or analytics.

The following steps will be required on your path to becoming a counter-terrorism agent:

Attending a degree program

Gaining the experience required 

Applying for an open counter-terrorism position 

Undergoing medical and psychological examinations

Passing a drug test

Passing a polygraph interview

Agreeing to extensive background checks

Going through on-the-job training once hired

Key Skills and Competencies

Jobs in counter-terrorism require different sets of skills, some of which are:

  • Good data analytics skills
  • Understanding and use of data for validating threats 
  • Understanding of crime and demographics
  • Good data visualization
  • Ability to convey sophisticated data quickly and concisely so that reaction can be swift
  • Great communication skills
  • Ability to work with various agencies which are not always in agreement with each other,  such as the state or local police, governor’s office, the military, and other federal agencies
  • Excellent critical thinking 
  • Highly developed creative thinking

Job Responsibilities

Counter-terrorism analysts are responsible for:

  • Analyzing the intentions of potential terrorist groups
  • Researching and uncovering the motives of terrorist groups
  • Predicting threats
  • Preventing attacks and disrupting terrorist groups plans
  • Disrupting and disbanding terrorist networks 
  • Studying the activities of terrorist groups
  • Reporting findings to intelligence agencies, the government, and law enforcement agencies
  • Assessing the group leadership
  • Estimating groups capabilities
  • Predicting the intentions of foreign and domestic terrorist groups 

Salary & Job Outlook

Salaries in counter-terrorism jobs go from $50,000 to over $100,000, depending on the job title, experience, and (you guessed it) location.

Counter-Terrorism Analysts earn an average salary of $54,308 to $80,505, while Information Security Analysts bring home $70,680 a year on average. Intelligence Analysts have a higher salary at $91,015, and for those working as U.S. Department of Defense Analysts, the annual salary is $90,802.

Related Jobs 

  • Counterterrorism Specialists
  • CIA Analyst
  • CIA Officer
  • Counterterrorism Analyst
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Forensic Accountants
  • Computer Forensics Investigators
  • Transportation Security Administration Program Analyst
  • U.S. Department of Defense Analyst
  • Secret Service Agents
  • FBI Agent
  • NSA Officers
  • Emergency Management Director.
  • Fusion Center Analyst.
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Border Patrol Agents
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • TSA Screeners

Legal Nursing Jobs 

Job Description

One of the attractive criminal justice administration career options is becoming a legal nurse. 

Legal nurses work in law firms, insurance companies, various corporations’ legal departments, healthcare facilities, or independent consultants hired by law firms or other institutions. 

Legal nurses research, review, and summarize medical records and standards of care, offer medical counsel in cases, testify as experts, assess care costs, review bills, and offer medical information to attorneys and staff. 

Educational Background

Legal nurses need to have nursing degrees and get an RN license and AALNC certification. They do not need legal education; however, added legal coursework that can be obtained at some colleges would provide certificates. You also need a nursing license in your state.

Those who have ADNs and follow AALNC’s recommendation of getting five years of RN experience can become legal nurse consultants within seven years. The legal experience needed can be gained by completing paralegal or consulting courses or working with lawyers. 

Legal nurses who want to upgrade their education level can do that by getting an LNCC and obtaining a BSN or MSN. This leads to more job opportunities.

Attending law school in addition to nursing school can make you a nurse attorney. This means that you will not provide counsel; rather, you will be an attorney yourself. Aside from the law degree, this position also requires admission to a State bar association. 

Key Skills and Competencies 

Legal nurses should:

  • Have the required level of education
  • Be certified as a registered nurse in your state
  • In some cases, have an American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board certification (LNCC)
  • Pass background checks and drug tests
  • Have a required level of medical knowledge
  • Have high attention to detail
  • Be good at research
  • Have highly developed critical thinking in order to review medical records
  • Be familiar with legal terminology and practice
  • Have good reading, understanding, and reporting skills
  • Read, research, and report relevant case information
  • Undergo job training
  • Be highly organized
  • Have good communication skills

Job Responsibilities

The responsibilities and tasks of legal nurses may vary depending on the employer or your practice and often include: 

  • Testifying in court as an expert witness
  • Estimating care costs 
  • Participating in reviews and independent medical exams
  • Assembling evidence for the court cases
  • Interviewing clients
  • Drafting documents in medical cases with an attorney
  • Reviewing medical aspects of the cases and finding strong and weak points
  • Educating attorneys and paralegals about medical issues and healthcare in cases
  • Preparing medical chronologies and timelines 
  • Working with expert witnesses
  • Staying up to date with professional literature
  • Conducting research
  • Reviewing medical documents and records

Salary & Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have any specific data on legal nurses’ salaries. That being said, registered nurses had a median annual salary of $71,730 in 2018. This number is projected to grow by another 15% by 2026.

Many of those choosing the occupation of legal nurse have their own practice and provide hourly services to law firms. The amount of money a legal nurse can make varies based on location, experience, expertise, and the number of hours.

The job profile is in high demand, and an increase of 7% is projected from 2019 and 2029, which is 4% higher than the national average for all other jobs. Legal nurses with over 3 years of experience can expect a salary of over $80,000, with the numbers climbing after 10 years of experience. Regionally, the highest-paid legal nurses are based in New York, St. Louis, and Atlanta.

Related Jobs 

  • Correctional Nurse
  • Forensic Nurse
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Legal Nurse assistant
  • Nurse Attorney
  • Paralegal
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Child Protective Services Worker
  • Parole Officer
  • Nonprofit Organization Advocate

Criminal Justice System Areas 

The three pillars of the criminal justice system are law enforcement, courts, and corrections.

Law Enforcement

In the law enforcement field, you can find some freelance criminal justice jobs, such as private detective or criminal investigator in some private agencies. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of law enforcement is the police.

Police officers, sheriffs and their deputies, and fish and game wardens are all responsible for upholding the law, offering protection and service to the public, and apprehending criminals.

The most popular roles in this domain are:

  • Police Officer
  • Homicide Detective
  • Criminal Investigator
  • FBI Agent
  • Transit Police

Courts, Prosecution, and Defense Lawyers

The highest paying criminal justice jobs can be found in the judiciary system. It takes over almost eight years of studying to start practicing criminal law and presenting cases in court. It represents the part of the system where justice has its say and where the facts of the alleged crime are brought in front of a judge and jury. This is why prosecution and defense lawyers are often seen as being at the top of the legislative system.

Most criminal justice jobs require working outside your house. However, if you are still looking at work from home criminal justice careers, journalist, courts reporter, or profiler might be your ideal vocation.

The most popular roles in this field are:

  • Defense Attorney
  • Trial Lawyer
  • Legal Secretary
  • Judge
  • Hearing Officer
  • Paralegal

Prisons and Probation Agencies

The corrections system takes in those sentenced for a crime or put on probation. They will be monitored by agencies or separated from the rest of society for the duration of their prison sentence. You can find easily part time criminal justice jobs in corrections, as prisons need a lot of workers for various profiles. Rehabilitation is the primary goal of corrections. So, psychologists, profilers, and social workers should not shy away from the least glamorous criminal justice branch.

Some of the most popular roles in this domain are:

  • Correctional Officer – Jailer
  • Senior Corrections Officer 
  • First-Line Supervisor – Manager of Corrections Officers 
  • Prison Warden 
  • Parole Officer

Criminal Justice Careers Benefits 

What’s great about getting a job in this field is that criminal justice careers benefits are among the best. And for a lot of people, this is the most important thing. 

Having job stability and excellent retirement and health benefits while working in an intellectually stimulating or never boring workplace ticks all the boxes when you are about to pick a career. Helping others might not be the first thing that pops into mind. But inside the criminal justice system, there are plenty of occupations where you can make a difference.

Job stability is more or less guaranteed in this field, as crime is ever-present. As a result, the system always needs workers. Moreover, you are not in the private sector that the turbulent markets can influence easily. Public servants such as police officers and other criminal justice workers have some of the best health insurance benefits out there. The possibility of early retirement after just 20 years makes these professions very appealing to some. 

And that’s not all: 

Other benefits include life insurance, training and tuition assistance, paid holidays, and sick leave. Federal employees have even better health insurance and access to the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program. Another benefit is that you will rarely be bored working in the criminal justice sector. There is quite a number of occupations that will stimulate your intellect to the maximum.

Last but not least:

As a public servant, you will get a chance to influence society and make a positive difference. Helping others has proven to be one of the critical factors for people when assessing their happiness levels.

How to Start a Career in Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice seems to have hundreds of jobs to choose from. 

The $64,000 question is:

How to get started? 

There are many paths, but each occupation will require either a certificate or a degree.

Here’s the scoop:

Criminal justice certificates are quicker and cheaper than a degree if you want to join the workforce fast. You can get them in two and four-year colleges. Usually, you have 4 or 5 core courses and get 12 to 15 credits. Since these courses last a few months, you can get an entry-level job fairly quickly and then continue to study while working. With a certificate, you can work as corrections officers, jailers, or bailiffs.

Higher education in criminal justice includes acquiring Juris Doctor or a Master’s degree in criminal justice, corrections, criminology, or a related degree. Many positions require a couple of years of experience in the criminal law sector. You should check if your college helps its students with networking and look for mentorships. It’s also a good idea to search out internships with the Police Department, FBI, CIA, or Social Work institutions and ACLU.

Finally, create a CV with keywords for your selected field in mind. If you meet the requirements, apply for a job even the ad doesn’t resonate with you. 


What’s most appealing when it comes to the criminal justice field? 

There’s no single answer to this question. The thing is:

For some, it’s the security of working in the public sector. For others, it’s early retirement after 20 years of service. 

Of course, there’s always that thrill that comes from solving cases and working on high-profile investigations with federal agencies. 

After all, who did not want to be Special Agent Dale Cooper or Agent Dana Scully when they were growing up? 

If you’re already hearing the Twin Peaks or X-Files opening themes in your mind, check out some of the most frequently asked questions about criminal justice jobs below and go for it.


Q: What jobs can you have with a criminal justice degree?

There are many jobs with a criminal justice degree waiting for you. It all depends on your field of interest. The most common career paths for those with criminal justice majors are police officer, corrections officer, parole officer, court reporter, forensic technician, private investigator, or psychological profiler.

For those with a Master’s in Criminology or Biology, there are careers in forensics, such as

ballistics specialist, blood spatter analyst, crime scene investigator, criminologist, DNA analyst, fiber technologist, forensic odontologist, or homicide detective. There are also criminal justice degree jobs at the entry-level, such as paralegal, child protective services worker, or nonprofit organization advocate.

Q: What are some entry level criminal justice jobs?

Criminal justice system careers have a lot of available entry-level jobs in almost every criminal justice occupation. Entry-level police officer positions are extremely common, as are parole officers, probation officers, addiction counselors, technician trainees, corrections officers. You can also start as a paralegal, bailiff, firefighter, security guard, gaming surveillance officer, or private detective. However, it is more common for former police officers to go into careers as private investigators.

As a  criminal justice major, you can also start with an internship, such as a police department internship, social work internship, or an ACLU internship, or you can aim higher with CIA and FBI internships.

Q: What can you do with an AS degree in criminal justice?

An associate of criminal justice requires spending two years in full-time attendance. And while you might graduate faster in some programs or go slower if you are taking courses part-time, two years is what you can reasonably expect to reach the degree. From here on, many will go for a Bachelor’s degree in the chosen field. Still, if you go for preliminary or on-the-job training, you can get entry-level roles in law enforcement, information security, emergency services, and criminal justice.

When it comes to criminal justice careers cost, the U.S. Department of Education estimates the average annual cost of an associate degree to be $21,141. Given that those are two-year programs, the total cost of an AS degree comes up to $42,282.

Some criminal justice career options at entry-level for those with an AS degree are:

  • Paralegal
  • Correctional Officer
  • Bailiff
  • Firefighter
  • Security Guard
  • Gaming Surveillance Officer
  • Police officer
  • Private Detective
  • Private Investigator
  • Case manager
  • Security Supervisor

Q: How much does it cost to get a degree in criminal justice?

The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that the average annual tuition at a four-year postsecondary institution cost about $16,320 in 2018-19. At public schools, the cost was $9,210, going up to $32,000 in private schools.

Q: What are the highest paying criminal justice jobs?

The top careers criminal justice salaries can be found in the following occupations:

  • Lawyer – $122,960
  • Homeland Security –  $77,000
  • Homicide Detective – $74,380
  • Forensic Accountant – $71,560
  • Forensic Psychologist – $69,510
  • Criminal Investigator – $67,170
  • DEA Agent – $66,450
  • Secret Service Agent – $65,000
  • FBI Agent – $64,060
  • Forensic Science Technician – $59,150

What you think the best criminal justice careers are will largely depend on your interests and how you want to spend your days. If you crave the excitement and mystery of the detective, after much hard work, a job with good benefits and a solid salary and a possible early retirement is waiting down the line.

If you prefer peace and quiet, among the many criminal justice jobs, the forensics lab or a position of a profiler or psychologist offers both mental stimulation and a good salary. The best career is often not the one that pays the most, as many people do not enjoy court dynamics, even if criminal justice lawyers’ salaries are tempting. 

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