In Service to Society: Criminal Justice Careers in Law Enforcement

On any given day, criminal justice and law enforcement professionals are in the local and national news. They are our heroes and protectors. They might be cops on horseback in New York City, DEA and ATF agents working in tandem to make an arrest in an urban hotspot, or your local deputy sheriff on patrol. No matter where we find these professionals in our world, there are many others working behind the scenes in computer forensics, psychological profiling, crime scene investigation, and other less visible roles.

law enforcement career

Growth in Criminal Justice Careers

Criminal justice careers within law enforcement are expected to grow at least 10% by 2018, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The diversity of opportunities is immense. It’s an exciting time for anyone who is interested in this field, particularly those studying for advanced degrees in the criminal justice discipline.

Top Cops and Other Occupations

We don’t often think of law enforcement-related professions as paying six-figure salaries. But the more education and experience you gain, the greater your salary can be.

Here are some of the best-paying positions available today:

Sheriff – up to $110,000+

The sheriff is the top cop in any given locality that is not covered by a municipal police force. Responsibilities run the gamut and can include responding to emergency calls, serving summons and subpoenas, conducting investigations, and transporting prisoners. A sheriff’s role is equivalent to that of a city police chief. An advanced degree is often preferred.

Prison Warden – up to $100,000+

While compensation will vary based on the prosperity of any given locality, the prison warden role can be both financially and personally rewarding. The work is challenging and multi-faceted. Becoming a prison warden requires the ability to handle budgets, manage employees, and hold press conferences as well as contain, control, and ideally, rehabilitate the inmate population. Corrections management experience is required, as is a degree in criminal justice or other relevant field.

Criminalist – up to $95,000

Criminalists collect, analyze and test physical evidence using scientific procedures to determine DNA makeup, ballistic characteristics, chemical properties, and more. These men and women work to provide the most valuable evidence for investigators and attorneys, helping to draw conclusions and provide expert testimony as required. Criminal justice training and education provide a strong foundation for careers in this area.

Police Detective – up to $94,000

The plainclothes detective has been romanticized in television and movies for decades. Today’s detectives are so much more than their stereotyped characters. They are technology-savvy communicators and expert investigators that participate on inter-agency cases, often within a specialized area such as homicide or fraud. Higher education is preferred for these roles.

Demand for Public Safety

Our society is experiencing significant challenges when it comes to keeping the peace, whether in our biggest cities or smallest towns. Americans are demanding increased security for themselves and their families. There is a mandate to the local and federal government to do whatever it takes to hire the best and brightest people to protect the citizenry from untoward acts by perpetrators of all kinds. It really is an exciting time to explore education and training for criminal justice careers.

Opportunities are wide open for people interested in serving the public at a local or national level. Employers include the ATF, CIA, DEA, FBI, and TSA. There are literally dozens of career paths to follow, whether you want to be out in the field or in a laboratory, protecting our skies or our borders, riding on horseback or going on K-9 patrol. It’s your choice as to how you want to contribute your experience and education to creating a safer society for us all.

About the Author: Laura Mingo writes in the field of higher education. This article aims to offer career advice for university students in relation to criminal justice and promotes the benefits of advanced study regarding an online master’s degree in criminal justice.