How much do criminal justice professionals make?
According to Payscale, the average salary of criminal justice personnel is $50,000 per year. The legal side of criminal justice has a median annual salary of $115,000, but jobs in this field typically require post-graduate education.
For a more thorough understanding of the average salary of the criminal justice job you’re most interested in pursuing, it makes sense to explore the salaries of law enforcement, the court system, and corrections.
Working for the police is one of the most notable jobs within the law enforcement sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for police officers is $61,000 with additional pay for weekends and paid overtime.
There are also many benefits provided to police officers, including above average insurance coverage and retirement packages. Other benefits vary from agency to agency and range from tuition assistance to generous leave. Promotions are also available after a probationary period.
At the state and local level, it is typically possible to become a police officer with simply a high school diploma, though there are strictly physical and personal qualifications that must be met. Regardless of education level, all police officers will need to participate in on-the-job training.
The BLS reports a 4% growth for jobs in this field, which is slower than average.
Another law enforcement job is that of a forensic science technician. These professionals aid in investigations, both in and outside of the lab. Some are also called into court to testify on findings. The median salary, as of 2016, is $56,000, with job growth projected to be 27% or much faster than usual, according to the BLS.
While some forensic science technicians work regular hours, most are expected to work odd hours, like nights and weekends, depending on the case. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is required, usually in the natural or forensic sciences. On-the-job training is also provided.
Other law enforcement jobs include, but are not limited to:
Paralegals work to support lawyers, doing anything from research to organizing and drafting documents. The median salary for this profession is $49,000 with paid overtime. Benefits range from tuition reimbursement, paid vacation and health, dental, and/or vision insurance.
Most paralegals work regular hours, though overtime hours may be required to meet certain deadlines. The minimum education required for paralegal work is an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. Some firms will hire candidates who have an unrelated bachelor’s degree and train them on-site. Job growth is projected to be 8% on average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal disputes. The median salary for lawyers is $118,000, and job growth is projected to be 6%, which is about average for most professions. Hours fall into the typical 40-hour work week, but many work longer. About 1 in 5 attorneys are self-employed, according to the BLS.
In order to work as a lawyer, a law degree is required. Those seeking a law degree must first have a bachelor’s degree and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Possible bachelor’s degrees that lawyers take, include, but are not limited to:
Lawyers must also pass the bar examination, which varies from state to state. Information on the bar examinations can be found at the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
Judges typically have work experience as lawyers. Their job is to oversee the legal process in courts. The median salary of judges is $109,000. Most people in this profession hold regular hours, although some cases might require weekends or nights.
Correctional officers work inside jails or prisons, overseeing those who have been arrested or incarcerated. In a similar field, bailiffs work to maintain order within courtrooms. The median salary for these professions is $42,000, with 4% job growth, which slower than usual. A typical work schedule is 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Since jails and prisons, however, are 24-hour facilities, this can include weekend and night shift work.
For local prisons, a high school diploma is often the only educational requirement, although some require college credits or law enforcement experience. Federal prisons require a bachelor’s degree or three years of professional experience. For some federal prisons, both are required. On-the-job training is mandatory for all prisons. Advancement is based on experience and performance, though it may also require a master’s degree.
Probation officers work with individuals to keep them from committing new crimes. Median pay is $50,000, and job growth is at 4%, which is slower than average. These jobs often demand overtime, with many agencies keeping an on-call rotation, leaving an officer to oversee problems within a 24-hour period.
A bachelor’s degree is required to work as a probation officer. Potential degrees that will prepare and qualify you for this position include, but are not limited to:
The criminal justice system encompasses a variety of careers, but there are some general advantages and disadvantages that accompany most, if not all of them.
In terms of disadvantages, criminal justice jobs tend to be dangerous. For example, police and correction officers may work with violent individuals, or in unsafe situations in order to keep the public safe.
Even if the job is not dangerous, most jobs — including those in the court system — report high levels of stress. Almost all of them require hours beyond the typical work week. These disadvantages should be considered alongside the advantages and salaries when choosing a career.
That said, most careers pay well for their respective education requirements, and many offer good benefits, like insurance, paid vacation, and tuition reimbursement for continuing education. Many also have low educational requirements for entry, some as low as a high school diploma.
Overall, criminal justice salaries and careers are fulfilling because you will be able to help a lot of people. They also offer a sense of inclusion into the justice system.
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