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Criminal Justice Careers

 
photo of a forensics officer at work

Career Opportunities

Depending on the levels of education and experience you achieve throughout your career, jobs in criminal justice that you could pursue, from local to state levels, might include:

  • Bailiff
  • Border patrol and police
  • Compliance officer
  • Corrections officer
  • Court reporter or clerk
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Criminal justice instructor
  • Criminologist
  • Detective, collecting evidence and gathering facts for criminal cases
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Paralegal
  • Police detective
  • Police officer
  • Probation officer
  • Private investigator
  • Sheriff or deputy sheriff
  • State police officer, trooper or highway patrol officer

Careers With Federal Government Agencies

Federal government agencies offer a wide variety of criminal justice-related career opportunities:

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents enforce and investigate violations of federal firearms and explosives laws, as well as federal alcohol and tobacco tax regulations.
  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers. Security-related positions include investigators and special agents, information system security officers, protective agents and technical security officers.
  • The Department of Homeland Security employs numerous law enforcement officers within several different agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • The Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) special agents are engaged in the battle against terrorism.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents enforce laws and regulations relating to illegal drugs. 
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) serves as principal investigator for the federal government, responsible for investigating violations of more than 200 categories of federal law and conducting sensitive national security investigations. The FBI investigates a wide range of criminal activity, including organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, bank robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, espionage, drug trafficking and cybercrime.
  • Fish and game wardens enforce fishing, hunting and boating laws. Officers patrol hunting and fishing areas, conduct search and operations, investigate complaints and accidents, and aid in prosecuting court cases. Jobs are available with the Forest Service and the National Park Service.
  • The Marshals Service employs U.S. marshals and deputy marshals who apprehend fugitives; protect federal judges, jurors and courts; transport prisoners and criminal aliens; protect witnesses in the Witness Security Program; and serve court documents. Federal air marshals provide air security by guarding against attacks targeting U.S. aircraft, passengers and crews.
  • The National Security Agency (NSA) employs investigators who help perform intelligence and carry out national security missions and police officers who help protect the facilities and personnel in the NSA, including counter-terrorism and force protection, emergency response, critical incident management and law and regulation enforcement. 
  • Secret Service special agents and uniformed officers protect the president, vice president, their immediate families and other public officials. Secret Service special agents also investigate counterfeiting, forgery of government checks or bonds, and fraudulent use of credit cards.
  • Other federal agencies employ police and special agents with sworn arrest powers and the authority to carry firearms. These agencies include the Postal Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Working Conditions

There is such a wide variety of jobs within the field of criminal justice that it's impossible to describe standard working conditions. However, at least at the beginning of your career, you will most likely work shifts on nights and weekends and may be called when off-duty.

The jobs of some federal agents, such as U.S. Secret Service and DEA special agents, require extensive travel, often on very short notice. Some special agents in agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol work outdoors in rugged terrain for long periods and in all kinds of weather, and all federal agents may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers.

Police and detective work can be dangerous and stressful. In addition to the obvious dangers of confrontations with criminals, police officers and detectives need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other threatening situations.

Uniformed officers, detectives, agents and inspectors are usually scheduled to work 40-hour weeks, but overtime pay is common. Shift work is necessary because protection must be provided around the clock, and junior officers frequently work weekends, holidays and nights. Officers in most jurisdictions, whether on or off duty, are expected to be armed and to exercise their authority when necessary.

Job Descriptions

America's Career Infonet gives detailed information about the skills, abilities, work activities and recommended education for jobs in criminal justice related fields, which may include:

Corporate protective services (high-end corporate bodyguards) is a fast-growing career path in the D/FW metroplex and Houston, paying an average of $60,000-$80,000 a year, according to Craigslist. Minimum requirements are usually five years' experience in executive protection.

Salaries and Potential Job Growth

America's Career Infonet lists average salaries and projected job growth in Texas for the following criminal justice-related jobs: Please note that continued education, job experience and location will significantly impact salary ranges.

Job Hourly Rate Annual Salary Projected Growth Through 2018
Compliance officers $23.24 $48,300 +37%
Correctional officers and jailers $15.98 $33,200 +16%
Criminal investigators and special agents $27.12 $56,400 +29%
Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, postsecondary N/A $48,700 +35%
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $27.12 $56,400 +29%
First-line supervisors and managers of correctional officers $18.51 $38,500 +14%
Gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators $11.84 $24,600 N/A
Immigration and customs inspectors $27.12 $56,400 +29%
Police and sheriff's patrol officers $23.91 $49,700 +19%
Probation officers and correction treatment specialists $18.00 $37,400 +29%
Security guards $10.56 $22,000 +23%

Learn More

Learn more about careers in criminal justice: