The Highest-Paying Criminal
Justice Careers of 2021

Being part of the justice system is a great responsibility. All of the best criminal justice careers have excellent reputations and incredible benefits for workers. If you want to belong to this industry, this article is for you.

Read below to learn more about the highest-paid jobs in criminal justice, average salaries, responsibilities, and educational requirements for each title.

What Is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is a process in which people involved in crimes are tried and punished. This system also allows people accused of committing a crime to defend themselves through legal procedures. Criminal justice careers are a fundamental part of the rule of law in any country or municipality.

Why You Should Pursue a Career in Criminal Justice

There are many reasons why a career in criminal justice is a good option for your future. This career demands a high level of commitment and responsibility, but it can also be rewarding.

After graduation, you have many options to choose from due to the high demand for these services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most criminal justice jobs are growing at a rate of at least four percent.

Top 10 Criminal Justice Careers at a Glance

You can find many jobs in criminal justice depending on your preferences. Some jobs require more qualifications, experience, and certifications than others.

In the table below, you will see data and projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, and ZipRecruiter. Pay attention to job outlook, average salaries, and requirements to start each career path. The job growth percentage listed for each career is based on data from BLS and refers to the period between 2019 and 2029.

Job Title Education Requirement Projected Job Growth Median Pay
Criminal Justice Teacher Master’s Degree 7% $80,790
Police Officer Associate Degree 5%* $67,290
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Bachelor’s Degree 5%* $65,732
Narcotics Officer Associate Degree 5%* $65,719
Criminal Profiler Bachelor’s Degree 8%** $62,056
Private Investigator Associate Degree 8%** $57,346
State Trooper Associate Degree 5%* $56,154
Homicide Detective Associate Degree 8%** $53,320
Customs Inspector Bachelor’s Degree 5%* $46,711
Parole Officer Bachelor’s Degree 5%* $43,174

*Projected job growth is based on BLS data for Police and Detectives
**Projected job growth is based on BLS data for Private Detectives and Investigators

The Best Criminal Justice Careers in 2021

The Best Criminal Justice Careers in 2021

Now that you know what criminal justice jobs are, you should learn the steps to access each position. Read below to learn more about the academic requirements, workplace, training programs, and responsibilities for each option.

Criminal Justice Teacher

Criminal justice instructors are in charge of teaching programs related to criminal justice, police administration, and corrections. For this job, you need a Master’s Degree in Criminology or a similar topic. This is a career that you can enter after years in the field. It is a good option if you enjoy teaching and working with others.

Criminal Justice Teacher Responsibilities

  • Teaches criminal justice-related courses
  • Prepares study plans, presentations, and assessments for students
  • Conducts individual career research
  • Participates in or leads safety conferences at schools

Police Officer

A police officer works in public safety departments in states and cities. Their job is to protect the lives of citizens and investigate crimes. This is the most common criminal justice job in the United States. According to BLS, there are around 813,000 active police officers in the country. This career can be demanding but rewarding.

Police Officer Responsibilities

  • Answers emergency calls
  • Arrests suspects
  • Makes judgments during criminal situations
  • Monitors different areas for criminal activities

Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) Agent

An FBI agent works in government offices to protect the United States from espionage, terrorism, organized crime, cyber attacks, and other disasters. You will have a rigorous and unusual schedule that includes trips, secret conferences, and personal research. It is considered one of the most dangerous jobs related to police departments.

The FBI requires extensive training. Also, this institution has rigorous personal requirements. Applicants must present a clean criminal record, have experience in a police department, and have a bachelor’s degree. Some positions even require a master’s degree or doctoral degree.

Federal Bureau Investigation Agent Responsibilities

  • Investigates confidential cases
  • Gathers evidence and information for cases
  • Monitors crime scenes
  • Travels to different locations to help investigate crimes

Narcotics Officer

A narcotics officer works to monitor and stop drug trafficking. Usually, these officers cooperate with other law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking groups in cities. This job requires long hours and constant exposure to danger. Some narcotics officers go undercover during their investigations.

Narcotics Officer Responsibilities

  • Investigates drug trafficking cases
  • Fights drug trafficking groups
  • Interviews witnesses
  • Arrests suspects

Criminal Profiler

A criminal profiler works at crime scenes alongside investigators and scientists on the case. The mission of this job is to create an image of the suspect so they are easier to bring to justice. After analyzing the case and samples, the expert creates a rough profile of the perpetrator. For this career, you need to get a degree in psychology or criminology.

Criminal Profiler Responsibilities

  • Oversees the analysis of crime scene samples
  • Reviews similar cases for relevant clues and data
  • Utilizes storage platforms for witness statements, crime scene photos, evidence, and more
  • Analyzes the psychological profiles of suspects

Private Investigator

Private investigators are in charge of following cases to find information and clues. These detectives can work in police departments, federal organizations, banks, insurance companies, and law firms. Some private investigators also do freelance work after getting experience at an institution.

Private Investigator Responsibilities

  • Collects information from suspects
  • Monitors the activities of suspects
  • Interviews witnesses
  • Creates reports to solve a case

State Trooper

A state trooper is a police officer who monitors and investigates crime in a state. The functions in this job are similar to other positions, and the difference is the scale of coverage. Most of the work consists of patrolling interstate highways and state lines. For this position, you need an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in a criminal justice topic.

State Trooper Responsibilities

  • Monitors state highways
  • Helps people in car accidents or other emergencies
  • Issues citations and traffic fines
  • Chases and arrests suspects on the highways

Homicide Detective

The work of a homicide detective is one of the most important. These experts use suspect search and investigation tools to solve murders. Most detectives work with current cases, while police departments assign special agents to work on older ones. The work includes constant visits to crime scenes and cooperation with other investigative departments.

Homicide Detective Responsibilities

  • Collects samples and evidence from the crime scene
  • Interviews witnesses and suspects
  • Arrests suspects
  • Prepares and presents evidence during court trials

Customs Inspector

Customs inspectors are in charge of verifying that people who enter the United States comply with the law. These officials work at borders or in airports. This position requires a bachelor’s degree in a criminal justice topic. You must have experience with weapons handling, personal defense, drug detection, and more.

Customs Inspector Responsibilities

  • Monitors national borders
  • Checks the luggage and belongings of people who cross the border
  • Creates case reports
  • Assists drug and weapons inspections

Parole Officer

Parole officers are responsible for monitoring the behavior of parolees. This position requires special training, drug testing, and criminal background checks. Probation officers also conduct driving tests and enforce other benchmarks set by federal organizations. In addition, they must have a bachelor’s degree in disciplines such as criminal justice or social work.

Parole Officer Responsibilities

  • Supervises people on probation
  • Prepares reports of conduct and presents them to courts
  • Interviews parolees
  • Detains people who violate their probation
What Education Is Required for a Career in Criminal Justice?

What Education Is Required for a Career in Criminal Justice?

The level of education needed for a career in criminal justice depends on the job. You can get an entry-level job with a high school diploma and some training. However, some departments require degrees such as bachelor’s degrees and even master’s degrees.

Theoretical and practical education is essential for a job with this level of responsibility. Laws and civil liberties are elements of the social contract that all officers and members of criminal justice careers must observe during their daily activities.

Can I Study Criminal Justice Online?

Yes. Many online colleges offer degrees for students. Some schools, such as the University of Central Florida, Crown College, University of North Alabama, and Pennsylvania State University, offer online Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice. If you enroll in one of these programs, you can earn a degree while working or attending to other commitments.

Personality Traits Necessary for a Criminal Justice Career

Each type of job demands a specific level of knowledge and skills. Remember that these careers also include administrative jobs. You can work in a police department on a computer.

Most jobs require soft skills such as public speaking, written communication, critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. As for physical activities, you may need skills such as weapons handling, self-defense tactics, driving, and more.

Is a Criminal Justice Job Good for Me?

A criminal justice job is good for you if you want a career with a stable salary and a decent job outlook. People who choose this path can enter the industry in only a few years. One of the advantages is that you can access high-quality education from home with an online program. You should start your criminal justice career in 2021.

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