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6 Highest Paying Criminal Justice Careers in 2020

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The field of criminal justice is vast, with numerous employment opportunities. It offers several high paying career options to candidates with different educational backgrounds. As the need for maintaining security, deterring crime and rehabilitating offenders increases, people who understand the dynamics of criminal justice can establish long term, lucrative careers.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this fast-developing field, the following career paths could be your point of entry.

Note: The statistical data in the following list has been taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, there are several other high paying careers in criminal justice.


2018 Median Salary: $120,910 per year

Job Growth: 6%

Lawyers act as advisors or advocates offering legal solutions for different business-related or personal problems. Their advice is based on their knowledge of laws, judicial rulings and research. They may specialize in a particular field of law, such as bankruptcy, intellectual property, civil law, criminal law, insurance, public interest or probate laws.

To become a lawyer, candidates have to complete a 4 year-long undergraduate degree, followed by 3 years of law school. They also have to clear the subsequent bar and licensing exams to qualify for employment.

Judges and Hearing Officers

2018 Median Salary: $117,190 per year

Job Growth: 3%

Judges and hearing officers are responsible for overseeing the legal process in courts. They conduct hearings, facilitate negotiations, solve legal issues and take legal decisions on a variety of matters. Judges interpret law to determine how a trial should proceed. They also ensure that hearings and trials are conducted in a fair and legal manner and all the involved parties are protected.

To become a judge or a hearing officer, candidates will have to get a bachelor’s degree, followed by a law degree. Federal administrative law judges are also required to pass an exam from the US Office of Personnel Management. Elected or appointed judges have to complete some form of training before they can be hired, in any state. This can be done through the Federal Judicial Center, the American Bar Association, the National Judicial College or the National Center for State Courts.

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

2018 Median Salary: $62,270 per year

Job Growth: 8%

Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators facilitate dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflict, outside of the court system. These professionals aim to clarify issues, concerns and needs of all parties involved in the process. They set up appointments for the parties involved to meet and discuss the issues. Arbitrators also interview claimants or witnesses to obtain all the possible information about the issue at hand. After they have all the information they need, they prepare the settlement agreement with the proper application of the relevant laws.

To get into this field, a bachelor’s degree is typically enough. Many positions, however, will require candidates to have at least a law degree or a master’s in business administration. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, business professionals or retired judges, with several years of experience. For entry-level arbitrators, training requirements include having worked under the supervision of experienced professionals before working independently.

Forensic Science Technicians

2018 Median Salary: $58,230 per year

Job Growth: 14%

Forensic science technicians help criminal investigators by collecting and analyzing evidence. They typically work in labs or at crime scenes. Their typical tasks include analyzing crime scenes to look for evidence, taking photographs of the crime scene as needed, making sketches and drawings of the crime scene, recording their findings in a proper manner, cataloging and preserving evidence for transfers to crime labs and reconstructing crime scenes in order to understand the chain of events that must have taken place.

While in labs, forensic science technicians perform different kinds of chemical, biological and microscopic analyses on the evidence collected. To become a forensic science technician, candidates will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science, such as biology or chemistry. In addition to this, on-the-job training is also required by most employers. A list of schools that offer degrees in forensic science is available with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

2018 Median Salary: $50,940 per year

Job Growth: 12%

Paralegals and legal assistants are in-charge of a number of tasks that support lawyers. These include maintaining and organizing files, drafting documentation and conducting legal research activities. They are responsible for investigating and gathering the facts of a case and conducting research on relevant laws and legal articles. Paralegals and legal assistants also write reports to help lawyers prepare for trials, along with drafting correspondence documents such as contracts and mortgages.

These professionals use technology and various kinds of computer software for organizing documents and data collected during a case. For this purpose, it is important for paralegals to be aware of basic electronic systems and statistical software. To become a paralegal or a legal assistant, candidates will need an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree with a certificate in paralegal studies. The program chosen should be approved by the American Bar Association.

Private Detectives and Investigators

2018 Median Salary: $50,090

Job Growth: 8%

Private Detectives and investigators look for legal, personal and financial evidence to make a case. They offer different kinds of services, such as verifying backgrounds and statements, looking for missing persons and investigating computer crimes.

The typical job duties of a private detective or investigator include interviewing people to gather the required information, searching archives to uncover potential clues, conducting surveillance activities, collecting evidence data for clients and checking for civil judgments and criminal history.

Private investigators must be mindful of the laws while conducting their research. Since they do not have police authority, they must work with some legal authority. To become a private detective and investigator, candidates will need a high school diploma, along with several years of work experience. Most states require private detectives and investigators to be licensed.

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