The 5 Most Popular Criminal Justice Professions

Hot Jobs in Criminology and Criminal Justice

New York City Police Academy cadets attend their graduation ceremony
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You've earned your degree in Criminology, or perhaps you're looking to make a jump into a more personally rewarding career. Maybe you are looking for more stability during uncertain economic times.

If you're not sure where to go or how to get there, take a look at the top 5 most popular criminal justice careers. See if one of these criminology jobs might be right for you:

  • Patrol Officer (Police / Sheriff's Deputy / State Trooper): According to a recent survey of college graduates by, the most popular career in the Criminology field was that of patrol officer. Always in demand, patrol officers are necessarily the most visible members of the criminal justice profession. Patrol officers issue traffic citations, investigate minor crimes and traffic crashes and assist members of the public while they patrol the streets and sidewalks of their communities. While the rank of patrol officer is the entry level for police professionals, extensive training and certification is required to wear the badge. Many departments will offer to sponsor well-qualified candidates to gain the necessary training through their state or local police academy.
    • The median national salary for patrol officers in 2010 was $58,000.
  • Paralegal / Legal Assistant: As the name implies, paralegals work directly alongside attorneys and assist them in preparing legal documents and readying for trials. The Federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics anticipates better than average growth in the paralegal profession over the next several years, according to their Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-2011. Paralegals provide research assistance, investigate claims, and help lawyers determine how to proceed in cases. In many cases, paralegals perform the same essential functions that attorneys serve, except that they are prohibited from arguing cases in a courtroom or practicing law on their own.On average, paralegals can expect to earn around $53,000. However, salaries may vary widely depending on whether you work for a government agency such as a prosecutor or public defender or for a private firm.
  • Probation / Community Control / Correctional Treatment Specialist: Although often mentioned as being the same occupation, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists actually serve separate but similar functions in the criminal justice system. Probation Officers provide supervision for individuals who have been arrested and are on parole or who have been convicted of a crime and are serving a probationary sentence after, or in lieu of, jail time.Correctional Treatment Specialists develop rehabilitation plans for people who have been released from their jail, prison or probationary sentence. The Federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects excellent employment opportunity in these occupations in the near future.
  • Detective / Criminal Investigator: A step up the ranks from patrol officer, Detectives, and Criminal Investigators typically specialize in a particular area, such as burglary, "persons" crime (crimes against people, i.e., robbery, battery, domestic violence), or homicide. It is perhaps the most glamorized career within the field of criminology. Detectives conduct in-depth investigations and interviews. More often than not, they wear "civilian" clothes and conduct surveillance.
    • According to, the median annual wage for Detectives and Criminal Investigators was $80,000.
  • Legal Secretary: Legal Secretaries provide clerical assistance to attorneys and paralegals. They prepare legal documents, as well as subpoenas, motions, and complaints. Legal Secretaries may also conduct research for attorneys. A person looking to enter this career should expect to earn, on average, around $50,000 annually, depending on employment (private vs. public) and location.

Options Abound

Of course, if none of these occupations get you excited about your career prospects, there's no need to fret. Many other areas within the Criminology umbrella offer both fulfilling rewards and exciting challenges. Honorable mentions include areas such as loss prevention and private security, as well as more academic pursuits like Criminologists and Forensic Psychologists. Criminology jobs are also among those occupations that are seeing the most demand in the current job market. With the right qualifications and the proper amount of dedication, you can expect to enjoy a great deal of success!