Highest Paying Jobs in Criminal Justice

handcuffs and cash

Criminal justice is a broad field with a wide variety of possible job opportunities, if you know where to look. Some of these jobs are common sense, like police officers and judges. Others might not be the first thing you expect, like game wardens. The fact is, criminology is a large field with opportunities for everyone. It might not be the best source of six figure jobs, but it has a few. Here are the highest paying jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree.



The Pay: up to $163,000
Lawyers are the prime example of criminal justice careers with a high salary. They span all levels of the justice system, from the smallest of small claims courts to the largest of national trials. The highest paid lawyers are those specialists who work in the private sector, charging any fee they can for their services as defense attorneys or prosecutors. Of course, law school is no joke. A simple bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is little more than a starting point for the schooling necessary to pass the Bar exam and become a certified law practitioner.

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FBI Agents

FBI Agent

The Pay: up to $114,000
FBI agents have dangerous investigative jobs. Only the best members of law enforcement make it to the level where the FBI recruits, and even then it’s not a guaranteed process. It may be one of the most high paying jobs available from a criminal justice degree, but it isn’t a fast process. You need law enforcement experience, criminal justice experience and the ability to pass the strict background checks and physical exams. All of that just admits you to the FBI academy.



The Pay: up to $104,000
Judges oversee trials and make sure that the lawyers involved adhere to due process and follow the strict regulations in their field. They make many decisions in the courtroom, including verdicts in many cases. They allow warrants and determine what is allowed as evidence in a given trial. Most judges were attorneys before they attained their positions. Becoming a judge is not easy, as it requires nomination and appointment.

Private Investigators

private investigator at work

The Pay: up to $93,000
The life of a private detective is far from the glamorous noir portrayals you see in film. They’re rarely six figure jobs, and most of their time is spent working with law enforcement. They learn law enforcement techniques to examine evidence, review records, interview suspects and track down criminals. In fact, most private investigators got their start as police officers, and they generally continue working closely with law enforcement as detective. The idea of a separate office with high profile clientele is an image conjured up by Hollywood.

Forensic Psychologists

forensic psychologist

The Pay: up to $84,000
Forensic psychologists are partially criminal justice specialists and partly clinical psychologists. In order to receive the highest pay grades, they often must have advanced degrees in psychology and various social sciences. The goal of a forensic psychologist is simple. They use what they know of human behavior to determine what type of person a suspect may be for a given crime. Some forensic psychologists also work in specialized fields of witness, victim and prisoner counseling. The best forensic psychologists specialize in one area of the system and attain advanced degrees to help them perform.

Intelligence Analysts

intelligence analyst

The Pay: up to $83,000
When most people think of criminal justice, they picture police officers and FBI agents raiding buildings to catch criminals. Hollywood’s portrayal of these careers, as well as those of television programs like CSI and NCIS, reflect only one aspect of the field. Intelligence analysts are typically desk jobs. They are akin to statisticians, gathering and analyzing data to determine where potential security risks exist and what techniques are most effective at solving them. Most intelligence analysts work for the FBI, preparing reports using the vast stores of information available to the FBI.

Financial Examiners

financial examiner

The Pay: up to $79,000
Financial examiners audit the finances of various entities, from individuals to corporations. These specialists are highly trained in financial mathematics as well as police techniques for identifying signs of monetary fraud. They may work with law enforcement to investigate specific entities, or they may work for a private firm specializing in such investigations. If a corporation is responsible for money laundering, embezzlement or financial fraud, a financial examiner will find out.



The Pay: up to $74,000
Criminologists are sociologists. Where forensic psychologists work to profile the individual, criminologists work to profile types of crimes and crime prevention. They gather sociological data and operate in think tanks to brainstorm ideas to help prevent crimes. When security cameras are installed in new locations to reduce crime, it’s the result of a criminologist’s work. Their work may be responsible for more prevented crimes than any other criminal justice worker, but it is impossible to collect statistics on crimes not committed. Still, it is one of the most important criminal justice careers available.

College Professor

college professor

The Pay: up to $72,000
The only college professors that need a criminal justice degree are those who teach criminal justice themselves. They do not need to pass the physical requirements set by most law enforcement. They also do not need advanced doctoral degrees to teach. For the most part, a college professor will only need a master’s degree in their field to teach at a typical university. It might not be the glamorous life of stopping crime that some people enter criminal justice to achieve, but it is a necessary role to fill for the next generation of criminal justice specialists.

Security Managers

security manager

The Pay: up to $69,000
Anywhere there is a building or property that needs to be secured, a security manager is at work. These may be the people who head up a security force for a private property. They may work for security companies that manage large networks of properties and security systems. Private security managers can work nearly everywhere. Every mall, every celebrity security detail and every large corporation has a security manager to run their safety personnel.

Customs Officials

customs official

The Pay: up to $66,000
Customs officers are the security forces working the borders of the United States. They operate in order to stop illegal immigration, drug trafficking, weapons importing and even human trafficking. Border patrol agents stop criminals every day from entering — or leaving — the country and profiting from their crimes. Enforcing immigration laws is a tough job that required plenty of experience in the criminal justice field. With so many miles of border to patrol, there is always room for another customs official in the ranks of criminal justice officers.

Police Officers

police officer

The Pay: up to $65,000
Police officers are the line that stands between the ordinary citizen and crime. They work on a daily basis to prevent crimes in progress, catch those responsible for past crimes and prevent future crimes from occurring. One of their most important — and most dangerous — duties is to remain visible on patrol to deter crime. While they may not be appreciated when they pull someone over for a speeding ticket, catching unsafe drivers, stopping domestic violence and investigating crimes are all part of a day’s work. It’s unfortunate that such important civil servants are so low on the list of high paying jobs.

Corrections Managers

corrections manager

The Pay: up to $60,000
With all of the law enforcement and judicial employees finding criminals guilty and sending them to prison, someone needs to handle the prisons. Corrections officers are lower on the pay scale, but the management can reach reasonable pay levels. Corrections managers work in jails and prisons, managing the officers who perform the day-to-day functions of the facility. They work to ensure the safety of the employees of the prison, as well as the inmates. Most corrections managers begin as lower-paid corrections officers, working their way up the ranks to the higher positions over the course of several years.

Fire Investigators

fire investigator at work

The Pay: up to $56,000
Firefighters are not necessarily criminal justice specialists. Their job is to put out a fire when it happens and secure the lives of the people a fire endangers. Once the fire is out, however, fire investigators take their place. These men and women investigate the scene of a fire and attempt to determine what caused it. In many cases, the result is a simple accident or fault in an electrical system or appliance. In others, however, the cause is deliberate arson and leads to criminal proceedings. Without the scientific investigation of a fire investigator, these crimes might never be solved.

With so many options for high paying careers in criminal justice, it’s an amazing degree to pursue. While many of these jobs require training and degrees beyond the simple criminal justice program, the program itself is an excellent leaping off point for further education and a very lucrative career. A criminal justice degree doesn’t guarantee six-figure jobs, but it can set you well on your way.