The Highest Paying Jobs in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Explore the Best-Paying Criminal Justice and Criminology Careers

Ask most people who work in criminal justice and criminology careers why they do what they do, and they'll probably tell you that they wanted to help people, they wanted to serve their community, or they wanted to make a difference.

These are laudable goals, and it speaks a lot about a person when he is willing to make sacrifices so that he can help make the world around them a better place.  Don't fool yourself, though.  More often than not, there are plenty of other reasons to be a police officer or work in other criminology careers.

Certainly altruism plays a role in their decision, but let's be honest here.  Earning a decent living doesn't hurt, either.  If you're like most people, the prospect of making money influences your career choices as much as anything else.  To help make that decision a little easier, here's a list of the highest paying jobs in criminology and criminal justice.  Salaries are based on national averages, and can vary from department and geographic location.

Fish and Game Warden - $54,950

A lawyer questioning a suspect
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Fish and game wardens are conservation officers.  Their primary purpose is to enforce laws pertaining to conservation and environmental protection.  Fish and game wardens perform the combined functions of marine patrol officers and wildlife officers.  They deal with hunters, boaters, fishers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts and work to make sure  that wildlife and woodlands are safe and available for all to enjoy.

Forensic Science Technicians - $55,070

Fingerprint kit
Tim Roufa

Forensic science technicians work in laboratories and at crime scenes.  They assist police officers, detectives and special agents with the collection and analysis of evidence.  Forensic scientists are often non-sworn technicians who serve vital functions in the crime-solving process.  The job classification includes specializations such as bloodstain pattern analysts and forensic ballistic experts.


Police Officers and Deputy Sheriffs - $55,180

Police badges
Tim Roufa

Patrol officers are on the front lines of any crime fighting strategy.  Police officers and sheriffs' deputies patrol the streets of their communities and respond to calls for service.    A day in the life of a police officer can include investigations of minor crimes, traffic crash investigations, traffic stops and responding to fights and instances of domestic violence.  Officers typically perform shift work and are called to perform a large and diverse variety of job functions.


Fire Investigators - $56,310

Building on fire
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Fire investigators work for local fire and sheriffs' departments and fire marshals' offices. They look into suspicious fires and conduct arson investigations. Fire investigators are specially trained agents and have investigative and law enforcement powers. They respond to fire scenes, prepare warrants, write reports and make arrests based on their findings. More

Corrections Officer Managers and Supervisors - $59,810

Image of Handcuffed Suspect
Timothy Roufa

Supervisors and mangers of corrections officers are responsible for the actions and da- to-day work of their subordinate personnel.  They general work their way up the ranks, starting out as corrections officers themselves.  They work in jails and prisons and ensure the safety both of the officers and inmates they supervise. More

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Instructors - $62,750

Police Academy Classroom
Tim Roufa

Criminal justice college instructors work in community college, vocational and police academy environments to prepare students for careers in criminal justice.  They may serve as police instructors or adjunct professors.  Typically, they have prior law enforcement or other related experience, as well as at least a bachelor's degree in either criminal justice or criminology. More

Police Detectives and Investigators - $65,860

Crime scene tape
Tim Roufa

Police detectives work with patrol officers and other law enforcement personnel to solve more serious or complicated crimes and strings of cases. Detectives start out as police officers and either promote or transfer into the investigative division or bureau. Detectives usually work during normal business hours, but may be subject to call out at any hour of the day or night.


Immigrations and Customs Inspectors - $65,860

U.S. Customs agent
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Customs inspectors and immigrations officers include members of the United States Border Patrol and officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  They work to enforce laws regarding entry into the United States and keep potential dangerous individuals, materials, weapons and drugs from entering the country.

Police Identification and Records Officers - $65,860

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Sworn police officers often serve as crime scene technicians, doing double duty as lab tech and crime scene investigator.  Police identification and records officers respond to crime scenes, identify and collect evidence such as fingerprints, and perform the necessary analysis.  They work closely with police detectives to solve crimes and ensure convictions.

Special Agent Careers

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Special agents most often work for investigative agencies and include jobs such as FBI agents, NCIS agents, DEA agents, ICE agents and Secret Service agents.  Though some agents may work for state agencies, special agent jobs are typically found in federal law enforcement careers.  Agents are specially trained investigators and specialize in the detection and investigation of a variety of crimes.


College Professor - $71,970

Professor in front of classroom
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College professors in criminal justice, criminology and sociology provide instruction for students looking to earn 2 or 4-year degrees.  They most often work in a classroom, but may find themselves working out of an office more and more as the popularity of distance learning programs increase.  College professors typically need to hold at least a master's degree in criminology or criminal justice in order to find long-tern employment.

Criminologists and Sociologists - $73,450

Empty Courtroom
Tim Roufa

Criminologists work in a variety of settings, including public and private think tanks, universities, local governments, state legislatures and even the U.S. Congress. Criminologists study the effects, causes and consequences of criminal activity and deviant behavior. They advise police departments and governments on best practices relating to criminology and crime prevention. More

Forensic Accountants and Financial Examiners - $79,070

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Tim Roufa
Forensic accountants are financial experts with an eye for detail. They investigate financial crimes such as tax evasion, money laundering, embezzlement and fraud. Forensic accountants are certified public accountants who provide their services in furtherance of enforcing the law. They may work for public law enforcement agencies or private investigative firms, and provide information and advice to courts regarding both criminal investigations and financial analysis for civil damages and liability cases. More

Forensic Psychologists - $84,220

Empty Just Box
Tim Roufa
Forensic psychologists apply their knowledge of human behavior to legal services and law enforcement functions.  The field of forensic psychology has a number of diverse specializations and includes jobs such as jury consultants, victim and prisoner counseling, suspect and defendant evaluations and criminal profiling.  Forensic psychologists typically must hold advanced degrees in psychology and other social sciences to find lucrative work. More

Judges and Magistrates - $103,990

Judge's bench
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Judges and magistrates are responsible for ensuring due process is adhered to in their jurisdictions.  They preside over trials and hearings and render decisions and judgments that have far-reaching effects across the entire criminal justice system.  They promulgate sentences for convicted criminals and determine if probable cause exists to issue warrants, hold prisoners or allow evidence into court.  Though not necessarily required, judges are most often attorneys.  They are appointed or elected to their positions. More

Lawyers - $129,000

Tim Roufa

Lawyers and attorneys work in a variety of specializations.  Within criminal justice and criminology, they most often serve as prosecutors and defense attorneys.  Lawyers present cases against suspects or defend clients from the charges against them.  They argue their cases at trial in front of judges and juries.  The highest paying jobs are found in private firms as defense attorneys.  Lawyers must attend law school, earn a juris doctorate and pass the bar exam in order to practice law.

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