5 Top-Paying Criminal Justice Careers

Image for our list of 5 Top-Paying Criminal Justice Careers

  • Lawyer
  • FBI Agent
  • Judge
  • Private Investigator
  • Forensic Psychologist

Criminal justice is a vast field, and there are many top-paying jobs in criminal justice. Criminal justice jobs can be found at the local, county, state and federal levels. From paralegals, correction officers and patrolmen to security officers and lawyers, the career choices seem to go on and on for individuals who have chosen criminal justice as their career choice.


A lawyer is probably a criminal justice position that requires the most education and training. Lawyers must complete at least seven years of college, which includes four years for a bachelor’s degree and three more years in law school. Before they can practice law in any state, they must pass a bar exam so they can get a license to work in that state. Lawyers are expected to see an employment growth on 8 percent from 2016-2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Bureau, lawyers earn an average annual wage of $141,890.

FBI Agent

To become an FBI agent, an individual, between the ages of 23 and 37, must complete at least a bachelor’s degree and possess at least three years of professional work experience. They must also meet very strict requirements. To work as an FBI agent, the candidate must qualify for one of the following five special agent programs.

  • Law
  • Language
  • Computer Science/Information Technology
  • Accounting
  • Diversified

The candidates must also pass written and physical exams exclusive to the FBI organization. FBI agents earned an average annual wage of $63,470 according to PayScale. Applicants are typically offered a wage based on their level of study and then move up from there.


Judges are the legal professionals who preside over court cases. Becoming a judge requires earning a graduate degree in criminal justice. An individual may work his or her way up to becoming a judge with just a bachelor’s degree, but this is rare. In most cases, the judge has earned a law degree. Judges are usually elected or appointed into the positions after working as lawyers or district attorneys for several years. Judges are expected to see an employment growth of five percent during the 2016-2026 decade, according to the BLS. Their average annual wages are $121,050.

Private Investigator

The path towards becoming a private investigator varies from person to person and job to job. Some private investigators begin their careers with little training and receive on-the-job training while others earn two or four-year associate or bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. Private investigators are usually hired to investigate and find evidence to be used in court cases. The increase in fraud crimes and lawsuits has put private investigators more in demand. The BLS reports that private investigators should see a job growth of 11 percent from 2016-2026.

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists are trained professionals who study criminals and try to determine why criminals commit crimes. Their expert opinions and testimonies are often used in court cases. Forensic psychologists typically complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in criminal justice or criminology. Some forensic psychologists have master’s degrees and earn between $38,608 to $111,712 on average.


As of 2016, there were about 3 million individuals working in the criminal justice field, making this a booming industry and one with good growth. Choosing the right education program can put individuals in positions where they are qualified for several criminal justice careers.

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