Find out What Criminology Jobs Pay
If you ask most people who work in criminal justice and criminology careers why they do what they do, they'll probably tell you that they want to help people and make their communities safer. They wanted to serve their society. They want to make a difference.
These are all laudable goals, but there are even more reasons to become a police officer or work in another criminology career. Altruism certainly plays a role, but earning a decent living doesn't hurt either. If you're like most people, the prospect of making good money influences your career choice as much as anything else.
Here's a list of some jobs in criminology and criminal justice and what they pay. These are median or average salaries based on national averages as of 2017, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available. They can vary by geographic location, and you can usually earn more – sometimes significantly more – after you've developed more experience and expertise.
Corrections officers work in jails and prisons to ensure the safety of personnel, visitors and the inmates they supervise. They regularly inspect the cells or living quarters of inmates, and they keep the peace among them – often a divergent cross-section of individuals with different backgrounds, needs, and idiosyncrasies.
Fish and Game Wardens - About $58,500
Fish and game wardens are conservation officers. Their primary focus is enforcing laws that relate to conservation and environmental protection. Fish and game wardens perform the combined functions of marine patrol officers and wildlife officers. They deal with hunters, boaters, fishers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and they work to make sure that wildlife and woodlands are safe for all to enjoy.
Forensic science technicians work in laboratories and at crime scenes. They assist police officers, detectives and special agents with the collection and analysis of evidence. Forensic scientists are often non-sworn technicians who serve vital functions in the crime-solving process. The job classification includes specializations such as bloodstain pattern analysts and forensic ballistic experts.
Police officers are on the front lines of crime-fighting strategy. Along with sheriffs' deputies, they patrol the streets of their communities and respond to calls for service. A day in the life of a police officer can include assisting in the investigation of minor crimes, traffic crash investigations, traffic stops and responding to fights and instances of domestic violence. Officers typically perform shift work and are called to perform a large and diverse variety of job functions.
Fire investigators work for local fire and sheriffs' departments and fire marshals' offices. They look into suspicious fires and conduct arson investigations. Fire investigators are specially-trained agents and have investigative and law enforcement powers. They respond to fire scenes, prepare warrants, write reports and can make arrests based on their findings.
Forensic accountants are financial experts with an eye for detail. They investigate financial crimes such as tax evasion, money laundering, embezzlement and fraud. Forensic accountants are certified public accountants who provide their services in furtherance of enforcing the law. They may work for public law enforcement agencies or private investigative firms, providing information and advice to courts regarding both criminal investigations and financial analysis for civil damages and liability cases. Forensic accountants in the public sector typically average around $65,000 a year, but those who work in the private sector, such as by providing services to attorneys, can earn considerably more.
Criminologists work in a variety of settings, including public and private think tanks, universities, local governments and state legislatures. Criminologists study the effects, causes, and consequences of criminal activity and deviant behavior. They advise police departments and governments on best practices relating to criminology and crime prevention. Salaries can begin as low as $30,000 but usually, increase to a respectable average of about $70,000 or more within a few years. Tenured professors can expect to earn six figures.
Police detectives work with patrol officers and other law enforcement personnel to solve more serious or complicated crimes and strings of cases. Detectives start out as police officers and either promote or transfer into the investigative division or bureau. Detectives usually work during normal business hours, but they may be called out at any hour of the day or night.
Immigrations and Customs Inspectors - About $70,000
Customs inspectors and immigrations officers include members of the United States Border Patrol and officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They work to enforce laws regarding entry into the U.S. and to keep potentially dangerous individuals, materials, weapons and drugs from entering the country. These jobs start at around $31,500 but can reach around $70,000 after 5-10 years.
Police Identification and Records Officers - About $43,500
Sworn police officers often serve as crime scene technicians, doing double duty as lab techs and crime scene investigators. Police identification and records officers respond to crime scenes, identify and collect evidence such as fingerprints, and perform necessary analyses. They work closely with police detectives to solve crimes and ensure convictions.
College Professor - About $75,000
College professors in criminal justice, criminology and sociology provide instruction for students looking to earn 2- or 4-year degrees. They most often work in classrooms, but they may also find themselves working out of an office as the popularity of distance learning programs increases. College professors must typically have at least a master's degree in criminology or criminal justice to find long-term employment in this field. Establishing tenure can increase a professor's salary considerably. Depending on the type of university or college, starting salaries can range from $50,000 to $100,000. Tenured professors can expect to earn six figures.
Federal Special Agents - About $131,500
Special agents most often work for investigative agencies and include jobs such as FBI agents, NCIS agents, DEA agents, ICE agents and Secret Service agents. Although some agents may work for state agencies, special agent jobs are typically found in federal law enforcement careers. Agents are specially-trained investigators and specialize in the detection and investigation of a variety of crimes.
Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge of human behavior to legal services and law enforcement functions. The field of forensic psychology has a number of diverse specializations and includes jobs such as jury consultants, victim and prisoner counseling, suspect and defendant evaluations and criminal profiling, so the pay scale can cover a wide range. Forensic psychologists must typically hold advanced degrees in psychology and other social sciences to find well-paying work. Recent graduates earn less, while those with significant experience and those who work in the private sector rather than for the government can easily earn up to an average of about $123,000 annually.
Criminal Lawyers - About $105,000
This is one of those careers where the pay can vary considerably depending on what area of law you specialize in and particularly who you work for. Lawyers and attorneys work in a variety of specializations and sectors.
Within the criminal justice and criminology fields, they most often serve as prosecutors and defense attorneys, but they might also work for legal aid societies and as public defenders. Lawyers present cases against suspects when they work for the state, or they may defend clients against charges leveled against them. The highest paying jobs are found in private firms as defense attorneys. The top 10 percent of lawyers earn an average of about $187,000, according to the American Bar Association, while those employed by state governments conceivably earn about $83,000, but those who work for legal aid, helping the indigent with their legal problems, can earn even less.
Judges and magistrates are responsible for ensuring due process in the courtroom and beyond. They preside over trials and hearings and render decisions and judgments that have far-reaching effects across the entire criminal justice system. They oversee sentences for convicted criminals and determine if probable cause exists to issue warrants, to hold prisoners or to allow evidence to be heard in court. Although it's not technically a requirement in most jurisdictions, judges often begin their careers as attorneys. They may be appointed or elected to their positions depending on state and local law.
Earn a Living, Build a Lifestyle
Public service careers, especially those found in criminal justice and criminology, are rewarding and even exciting just by virtue of the nature of the work. It doesn't hurt to earn a little money while you're doing the job, however.