How Much Can I Earn by Studying Criminal Justice and Law?

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Criminal justice salary projections vary. Professionals in the legal and criminal justice fields often secure justice for victims or mediate issues between clients. Individuals in these fields can work in high-demand criminal justice jobs, including as mediators, court reporters, judges, lawyers, and paralegals. This page covers the basic tasks and earning potential for the most popular careers in the field. College Choice provides more in-depth information about the field of criminal justice and law.

Criminal Justice and Law Jobs at a Glance

Criminal justice and law jobs require research, analysis, and communication skills. Most professionals in the field also need at least a fundamental knowledge of current laws and regulations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for all legal occupations was $80,810 in 2018, significantly higher than the median salary of $38,640 for all occupations. The table below highlights a few of the highest-paying criminal justice jobs.

Career Median Annual
Salary
Projected Growth Rate
(2018-2028)
Lawyers/Attorneys $120.910 6%
Judges and Hearing Officers $117,190 6%
Police and Detectives $63,380 5%
Paralegals $50,940 12%
Arbitrators $62,270 8%
Private Detectives and Investigators $50,090 8%

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Criminal Justice and Law Jobs

Lawyers/Attorneys

Lawyers and attorneys

advise and represent clients in court, before government agencies, and in a variety of private legal matters. These professionals need a comprehensive knowledge of local, state, and federal law. A lawyer’s primary duties may include conducting research, compiling and filing reports, and defending cases.

Law salary varies depending on many factors. According to the BLS, lawyers earned a median salary of $120,910 in 2018, with the highest 10% of earners making more than $208,000 each. The highest-paying law jobs exist in the federal government and legal services. Lawyers who work in large firms or for corporations typically earn higher salaries than those who maintain a private practice.

Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers play a vital role in enforcing the law. These professionals hear cases and apply legal knowledge to make decisions and determine charges. For individuals in this area of law, salary potential varies by specific position and experience level. In 2018, administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers earned a median salary of $99,850, while judges and magistrates earned a median salary of nearly $134,000.

Police and Detectives

Tasked with keeping communities safe, police officers and detectives respond to emergency and non-emergency calls, investigate criminal activity, issue citations, and prepare cases for court. According to the BLS, police and detectives earned a median salary of $63,380 in 2018. The lowest 10% of earners in the field made about $36,550 and the highest 10% earned more than $106,090. Officers and detectives typically receive extensive benefits and often retire at a younger age than average professionals.

High-Demand Criminal Justice and Law Jobs

Paralegals

Common responsibilities of paralegals and legal assistants include gathering evidence, drafting legal documents, and coordinating communication between lawyers and clients. The BLS reports the median paralegal salary in 2018 was $50,940. Paralegals work in one of the most high-demand law jobs. The BLS projects employment for paralegals to increase 12% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. The growth rate may be due to an increase in the number of corporations that hire paralegals.

Arbitrators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help parties reach mutual agreements. These professionals often facilitate communication, apply legal knowledge, and draft agreements for clients. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 8% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Most arbitrators secure positions in state or local government. However, arbitrators can also work as consultants to settle disputes related to topics such as employment and real estate.

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators gather evidence to help solve legal, financial, and personal disputes. Typical responsibilities include conducting surveillance, performing interviews, and analyzing public records. The BLS projects employment for individuals in this competitive field to increase 8% from 2018 to 2028. The highest percentage of private detectives work for security companies or armored car services. Others find positions in government or in the finance and insurance industry. These professionals can also work independently and manage their own caseload.

Learn More…

What Are Criminal Justice and Law?What Are the Requirements for a Career in Criminal Justice and Law?What Kinds of Degrees Are Available in Criminal Justice and Law?What Kinds of Criminal Justice and Law Specializations Are Available?

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