Criminal Justice Careers Outlook

Safety and security still a top priority

Graduates of criminal justice schools have good job prospects over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, some criminal justice grads will fare better than others. Since many students will have received comprehensive training, they'll have good chances for employment in more than one of these fields.

Law enforcement

Good pay and benefits, early retirement, excellent pension plans and other desirable aspects serve to attract more applicants than there are positions available in law enforcement, particularly with state and federal agencies.

Growth will be average across the board, with the best opportunities in local and special police departments, where crime rates are high or where pay is comparatively lower.

Police and sheriff's patrol officers

  • Median annual wages - $45,210
  • Middle 50 percent - $34,410 to $56,360
  • Top 10 percent - over $68,880
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $26,910

Earnings by employer

  • Federal government - $44,750
  • State government - $48,980
  • Local government - $45,010

FBI Agents, Detectives and criminal investigator wages

  • Median annual wages - $53,990
  • Middle 50 percent - $40,690 to $72,280
  • Top 10 percent - over $86,010
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $32,180

Earnings by employer

  • Federal (incl. FBI) - $75,700
  • State - $46,670
  • Local - $49,650

Private law enforcement

Private detective wages

Faster than average growth in private investigation will be met with a large number of qualified applicants that include new law enforcement hopefuls, criminal justice school graduates and military retirees.

Entry-level positions in detective agencies or jobs like part-time store detectives will provide the best opportunities. Online crime (such as identity theft and illegal downloading and spamming) is one reason demand for these professionals will increase. Another is the need to control losses and spying in the financial industry.

Wages for these law enforcement professionals can vary by employer, specialty and location.

  • Median annual wages - $32,110
  • Middle 50 percent - $24,080 to $43,260
  • Top 10 percent - over $58,470
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $19,260

Security guards

Professionals leaving guarding and gaming surveillance occupations and an increased need for security (due to concerns about crime and terrorism) make for average job growth. However, there will be competition in the highest paying specialties.

The flexibility of many of these positions makes them a great opportunity for professionals seeking part-time employment or a second job.

Earnings for security guards top out in schools, hospitals and local government. Traveler accommodation and investigation and security services jobs pay the least.

  • Median annual wages - $20,320
  • Middle 50 percent - $16,640 to $25,510
  • Top 10 percent - over $33,270
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $14,390

Gaming surveillance officers & ATF Agents

  • Median annual wages - $25,840
  • Middle 50 percent - $20,430 to $33,790
  • Top 10 percent - over $42,420
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $17,710

Corrections

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

Job growth for probation officers will be average due to a large amount of retirements, with higher paying jobs found in larger urban centers. It's a high stress job that pays on the lower end of the scale in relation to how much responsibility officers are given.

A greater emphasis on rehabilitation of offenders may cause even more growth for parole and probation workers in the future. On the other hand if the trend to imprison criminals continues there could be fewer new job openings.

  • Median annual wages - $39,600

  • Middle 50 percent - $31,500 to $52,100
  • Top 10 percent - over $66,660
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $26,310

Earnings by employer

  • State government - $39,810
  • Local government - $40,560

Correctional officer and jailer wages

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts slower than average growth in corrections will be due to an increased focus on rehabilitation rather than imprisonment. Still, an increasing numbers of jailed offenders ensures that the layoff of correctional officers will be rare.

  • Median annual wages - $33,600
  • Middle 50 percent - $26,560 to $44,200
  • Top 10 percent - over $54,820
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $22,630

Earnings by employer

  • Federal - $44,700
  • State - $33,750
  • Local - $33,080

Bailiff wages

  • Median annual wages - $33,870
  • Middle 50 percent - $24,710 to $44,240
  • Top 10 percent - over $54,770
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $17,930

All told, criminal justice schools will be turning out grads with many good opportunities in a wide variety of domestic law enforcement and peace keeping opportunities.