Criminal Justice in Illinois

Police offers are the most popular career for criminal justice students, but there are a lot of career options with this degree in Illinois. These jobs involve law enforcement, and there is a related field of criminology with a lot of overlap in the two. 

What Kinds of Careers are in Criminal Justice?

With a criminal justice degree, you can of course become a police officer or detective. You could also become a social worker, crime analyst, security officer, game warden, or many other things in this area. Paralegals and Lawyers often start with a criminal justice degree. There are also security officers, which often do not require a degree, but it is a good place to get experience. A security officer jobs are good for entry-level criminal justice jobs in Illinois.

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A four-year degree results in a BA or a BS and with the further study you could get a master’s. Entry-level jobs in criminal justice in Illinois often do not require a degree, but it is often required as you move up the ladder. Some schools offer various focuses for different areas. Some also offer an internship, which can provide valuable experience for a criminal justice career.

Where are the Best Criminal Justice Jobs in Illinois?

Chicago is the easy answer for where are the most and best criminal justice jobs in Illinois. As one of the biggest cities in the nation, it will have a lot of jobs in many fields.  There are more than nine million people in the Chicago metropolitan area and 13 million in the entire state. Even so, the rural areas often need police officers and other law enforcement employees.

The state capital of Springfield is in the middle of the state, and while not the biggest city, it does have many state agencies that need criminal justice people. State capitals often have plenty of jobs in criminal justice in Illinois. Some state agencies have law enforcement divisions, such as the game and fish commission, and that can be a good place to start looking for a job.

What are the Different Levels of Careers?

Security guards are at the lower end of the spectrum, but the job does offer an experience which is more valuable than education at times. Police officers and detectives of all kinds are the next highest. Officers for various state agencies are also in this area. There are law enforcement jobs at all levels of government. Criminal justice careers in Illinois start with lower-level jobs, but there can be rapid advancement.

There are county officers called deputies, and state agencies have their personnel as well. Guards are needed at jails and at state prisons.

Paralegals and support personnel are also part of the criminal justice system, as well as social workers. Many attorneys start their education with a criminal justice degree.

How is the Job Market for Criminal Justice in Illinois?

Overall, the criminal justice job market in Illinois is expected to increase about five percent per year, which is a little above the national average for all careers.  Increasing population will mean a need for more security and law enforcement, so that should create more police-type jobs.

In 2019 there were 813,000 police officers and detectives in the state of Illinois. That number is expected to increase steadily through at least 2029. Including retirement, there should be about 59,000 jobs available for police and detectives each year through the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The biggest gains are expected in the area of patrol officers.

How Much Do Criminal Justice Jobs Pay in Illinois? 

Beginning security guard jobs, which is a starting point for many in this business, make about $13 per hour which is 5-10 percent below the national average. Other criminal justice jobs in Illinois pay better than the national average.  Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies average $66,000, and the national average is $55,000. Private investigators average $46,000 which is in line with the national average. Administrative and clerk jobs in criminal justice in Illinois are below the national average at $73,000. The national average is $87,000.

Police officer salary tends to grow as you gain experience, starting at an average of $45,000 per year, and growing to $75,000 in 10 years. Criminal justice salary in Illinois is highest in Chicago and DeKalb County. Rural areas pay less than they do nationally. The national average for police in Illinois is $74,000 while the national average is $87,000.  

Interestingly enough, detectives and criminal investigators’ criminal justice salary in Illinois is higher than the national average. Investigators in Illinois average $77,000 and the national average is $65,000. 

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