Workers in the criminal justice field are responsible for preventing crime, punishing those convicted of crimes, and rehabilitating offenders. There are a variety of positions available, but obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree is one of the best ways to qualify for a higher starting salary. People with degrees earn the highest criminal justice salaries, making higher education very valuable. Workers can also increase their criminal justice salaries by completing on-the-job training or earning certifications related to the field. Learn more about the criminal justice careers and salaries available to determine which positions have the best earning potential.
Corrections officers work in prisons, jails, and detention centers. They are responsible for overseeing inmates who have been convicted of crimes and supervising people who are awaiting trial on criminal charges. One of the most important responsibilities of a corrections officer is preventing disturbances in the facility. Other responsibilities include overseeing the work of inmates, searching inmate cells for contraband, disciplining inmates, and enforcing the rules of a corrections facility. Corrections officers earn attractive criminal justice salaries, with a mean annual salary of $42,780 in the United States as of May 2010. The median hourly wage for a corrections officer is $20.57 per hour.
Criminologists study criminals, the conditions that lead people to commit crimes, and the most effective methods of rehabilitating convicted criminals. These professionals also study statistics related to arrests and criminal convictions, which helps them determine some of the social and psychological factors that lead to criminal behavior. This position requires an advanced degree, with many criminologists earning doctoral degrees in abnormal psychology, juvenile delinquency, and other related fields. The criminal justice salary for this position ranges from $28,000 to $50,000 per year. Criminologists may advance to administrative roles in law enforcement, making it possible to earn much more than this starting salary.
When researching criminal justice careers and salaries, a police officer is one of the most popular positions. Police officers deter people from committing crimes, arrest people accused of crimes, investigate criminal activity, collect evidence, assist citizens with emergencies, and testify during criminal trials. The educational requirements for this career vary based on geographic location and other factors. Police departments in large cities may require officers to have undergraduate degrees in criminal justice. Other police departments require only on-the-job training or an associate’s degree. The median criminal justice salary for this position is around $51,410 as of May 2008.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators collect and package evidence, evaluate crime scenes, use specialized equipment to analyze evidence, prepare written reports related to evidence, and testify during criminal trials. Investigators should expect to respond to emergency calls in addition to their scheduled work hours. Approximately 70 percent of a crime scene investigator’s time is spent at crime scenes or working with law enforcement officers. The remaining work time is spent maintaining equipment, preparing reports, completing additional training, testifying in court, and teaching classes. Many employers require crime scene investigators to have bachelor’s degrees in forensic science or related fields, making it possible to earn a good starting criminal justice degree salary. It is also possible to earn a higher criminal justice salary by obtaining a master’s degree in forensic science, criminal justice, or criminology. The criminal justice degree salary for this position depends on the job description, geographic location, and other factors. Crime scene technicians earn $51,204 to $63,444 per year.
The career of a probation officer is another popular topic for those researching criminal justice careers and salaries. Probation officers work with offenders who have been sentenced to probation. They supervise these offenders by conducting home visits, administering drug and alcohol tests, and performing other duties. If someone on probation commits another offense, a probation officer may have to take that person into custody. Another major responsibility of probation officers is conducting presentencing investigation reports. Probation officers interview people accused of crimes and help determine if they should be sentenced to probation or given jail time for their offenses. Probation is only recommended if a probation officer feels that the accused is not likely to commit another crime. This position requires good oral and written communication skills, the ability to resolve conflict, and the ability to handle a caseload of 20 to 100 offenders at a time. The median criminal justice degree salary for a probation officer in the United States is $45,910 per year, but this depends on education, experience, location, and job duties.