Earning a degree in criminal justice will give you the law enforcement and criminal justice skills to succeed in a variety of public and private service careers with steady job demand and salaries.
But if you are going to spend the time and money to obtain a criminal justice degree, it is important to know what your possible salary will be. A career in criminal justice can have different salaries based upon these factors:
- Whether you earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice
- The type of criminal justice career you choose
- How many years of criminal justice work experience you have
- Geographic location
Level of Criminal Justice Degree
It is widely understood in America today that you can often get a higher salary in your career if you have a master’s degree in addition to a bachelor’s degree. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that on average, workers in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree earned $56,000 per year. Meanwhile, workers with a master’s degree earned $68,000. This is $12,000 more and can make a major difference over your career in terms of earnings.
But what about in the criminal justice field specifically? According to Payscale.com, these are some of the salaries that you can earn with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice:
- Paralegal: $46,100
- HR manager: $61,300
- Account manager: $52,900
- Police officer: $49,900
- Operations manager: $59,600
- Case manager: $32,400
- Property manager: $67,200
Payscale.com reports these salaries with a Master of Science in Criminal Justice:
- Police officer: $59,400
- Security manager: $91,000
- Senior data quality analyst: $58,200
- Merchandise planner: $61,300
- Victim advocate: $34,700
- Probation officer: $68,700
- Campus security officer: $57,300
Generally, you can earn a higher salary with a master’s degree in criminal justice, and you also will see better opportunities for advancement in law enforcement with this degree. Most upper level managers in the law enforcement community do have a graduate degree and it is a common requirement in many local law enforcement agencies.
Type of Criminal Justice Career
There are many exciting criminal justice careers you can choose from, and some have higher salaries than others. Below are the most common occupations chosen by people with a criminal justice degree:
Police and Detectives
Many people with a criminal justice degree become a police officer or detective. Some of the common types of police and detectives are:
- Detectives and criminal investigators: Uniformed or plainclothes investigators who collect facts and evidence for various criminal cases. They do interviews, examine records and observe activities of suspects.
- Fish and game wardens: Enforce laws related to fishing, hunting and boating. They also patrol fishing and hunting areas, do search and rescues, and investigate complaints and accidents.
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers: These are the most common types of police and detectives and have many general law enforcement duties
- Transit and road police: They are responsible for patrolling railroad yards and transit stations, as well as protecting property and employees in these facilities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for all police and detectives in 2017 was $62,900, with the top 10% earning more than $105,000 per year. Median wages for different types of police were:
- Detectives and criminal investigators: $79,900
- Transit and railroad police: $70,200
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers: $61,000
- Fish and game wardens: $56,500
Wages in different parts of the government were as follows:
- Federal government: $84,600
- State government: $65,800
- Local government: $61,300
- Educational services: $52,000
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs
A correctional officer is responsible for the oversight of individuals who were arrested and are waiting for trial, or have been sentenced and are going to serve time in prison. Bailiffs may also be known as court officers and are law enforcement officers who keep order and safety in courtrooms. Their duties include the enforcement of courtroom rules, helping judges, guarding juries and delivering court documents.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median wage for bailiffs in 2017 was $42,900 with the top 10% earning more than $74,000 per year. The median wage for correctional officers and jailers was $43,400 with the top 10% earning more than $74,900.
Emergency Management Directors
An emergency management director is responsible for prepping the plans and procedures to respond to natural disasters and various other emergencies. They also help to lead the official response during and after an emergency. They usually work in close coordination with public safety officers, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
Directors need to fully analyze the resources, equipment and staff that is available to respond to different emergencies. If the equipment or resources are insufficient, then directors must revise plans and get needed resources from another community or state.
The median salary for emergency management directors in 2017 was $72,700, with the top 10% earning more than $141,000 per year. Salaries in different industries were as follows:
- Professional, scientific and technical services: $95,800
- Colleges and universities: $88,800
- Hospitals: $81,700
- Local government: $65,900
- State government: $60,000
A probation officer or correctional treatment specialist provides social services to help law offenders to rehabilitate when they are in custody or on parole or probation. Probation officers may be referred to as community supervision officers. They supervise those who have been put on probation instead of sent to prison.
Parole officers work with those who have been released from prison and are on parole to help them to get back into regular society. Parole officers must monitor parolees and offer them information on vital resources, including substance abuse counseling or job training to help their rehabilitation.
A correctional treatment specialist provides advice to probationers and parolees to develop rehabilitation plans for them to follow.
BLS reports that the median salary in this field was $51,400 in 2017, with the top 10% earning more than $90,800.
Criminal Justice Work Experience
Just as with almost any field, the number of years that you work in criminal justice will affect what your salary is. For example, a police officer will earn more money the longer he works in the field, according to Payscale.com:
- Less than five years of experience: $44,000
- Five to 10 years of experience: $50,000
- 10 to 20 years of experience: $55,000
- More than 20 years of experience: $64,000
There is a tremendous variation in salary for careers such as police officer depending upon where you live in the US. Payscale.com states the median salary in the field is $49,900 across the US. But this salary can change a lot depending upon where you live:
- Chicago: +53%
- Los Angeles: +44%
- Phoenix: +40%
- Boston: +22%
- Washington: +19%
- Dallas: -1%
- Houston: -2%
- Louis: -10%
- San Antonio: -12%
- Atlanta: -17%
With a criminal justice degree, you will have the ability to work in many different public service and law enforcement related careers. Now that you have a better idea of the salary you can earn, you just need to decide which is the best career option and degree for you.
- What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.snhu.edu/about-us/news-and-events/2016/04/what-can-you-do-with-a-masters-in-criminal-justice
- Should I Get a Master’s Degree? (2015). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm