March 20, 2023
9 mins read
So long as there are people in the world, there will be those who try to harm others by breaking the law. This fact means there will always be a need for individuals who dedicate their careers to helping the victims of these crimes. Public servants who strive to protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable for their actions remain in high demand, and many of these public servants work within the world of criminal justice.
If you have a passion for helping others and keeping your community safe, you may be considering a career in criminal justice or criminology. This career path means spending your days administering justice to people who have committed crimes or are facing criminal accusations. Within this field, you will find a wide range of career paths with a wide range of potential salaries.
You will also find two different paths of study: criminology and criminal justice. Is criminal justice the same as criminology? No, but these fields do have quite a bit of overlap. In fact, programs that cover one or the other will include many of the same courses. For some students considering careers in criminal justice or criminology, this distinction can be confusing. If you’re considering a career fighting crime and upholding justice, you will need to decide between studying criminology and criminal justice. This guide outlines these two fields and explores high-paying careers you can pursue if you choose this course of study.
Criminology Vs. Criminal Justice: What’s the Difference?
Criminology and criminal justice are similar lines of study, but they do have some differences. Criminology focuses on sociology and psychology to examine why people perform criminal acts. These professionals study criminals’ motivations to help find them find and stop crime before it happens and create policies to prevent future criminal behavior. When studying criminology, a student will focus on the following:
- Human behavior
- Forensic psychology
- Behavior patterns
- Crime and society
- Theories of crime and punishment
- Investigative skills
Criminal justice is the study of law enforcement, emphasizing the court systems and the correctional and probation systems. There is less focus on the analysis of behavior and more on the organizations that help stop these behaviors. While criminal justice students will also touch on criminology in their studies, their program of study will focus more on:
- Criminal law
- Criminal investigations
- Courts and court systems
- Theories of criminal behavior
- The criminal justice system
Because these two fields are so closely related, some schools, including Lindenwood University, combine them into one. This allows students to study both criminology and the criminal justice system, and it opens the door to a wider range of career opportunities as a result.
High-Paying Careers in Criminal Justice
From working as a probation officer to working for the FBI, there are a myriad of potential jobs for people with a degree in criminal justice. These are the seven with the highest potential income.
1. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent
The FBI is looking for people with specialized skills to work as special agents and help track down and apprehend people who wish to hurt the country. One skill set in high demand in this field is criminal justice and criminology experience. As a government position, a career as an FBI agent comes with good benefits and advancement opportunities.
The average salary for FBI special agents, according to the Bureau’s own website, is between $78,000 and $153,000 a year. However, those who make it into supervisory roles can earn up to $170,000 a year. On top of this, the FBI has a pension plan that allows new employees to retire after 20 to 25 years.
A criminologist is a type of specialized sociologist that works behind the scenes to study criminal behavior and evaluate crime scene evidence to help detectives and police officers find and apprehend criminals. Many choose to pursue this career path to work in criminal justice without heading out into the community to find and detain criminals. They also work with community members to make laws that better protect the community as a whole.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide an estimated salary range for criminologists, but it does indicate that sociologists earn a median salary of $92,910 a year. Those who find work in state governments are the highest paid, earning an annual salary of up to $105,120.
3. Financial Examiner
Financial examiners review the actions of governmental and financial institutions to ensure they comply with the many laws and regulations pertaining to the use of finances. They typically work for the government assessing risk and compliance issues and monitoring how banks and other organizations handle income and expenses, keep records, report their finances, and implement protocols to protect their customers.
The BLS expects to see a 21% increase in demand for financial examiners from 2021 to 2031, and the median pay in 2021 was $81,410 a year. With high demand and a high potential income, this is a job worth pursuing.
4. Emergency Management Director
Not all criminal justice careers involve tracking down criminals. With the understanding of local resources and systems gained through a criminal justice degree, you could also prepare for a career as an emergency management director, responding to non-criminal emergencies, such as natural disasters.
Emergency management directors respond to natural disasters and help coordinate the volunteers that rise to the occasion in these situations. When there is no active emergency, they monitor potential risks and make plans and procedures to help ensure a quicker response time when a problem does occur.
The median salary for emergency management directors in 2021 was $76,730, according to the BLS. Those who work in scientific and professional roles can earn over $125,000, with those in the top 10 percent earning over $133,000 a year.
5. Intelligence Analyst
An intelligence analyst is a specialty type of FBI agent that analyzes the intelligence the Bureau gathers to determine areas of potential risk. They are contracted by law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community to gather data and evidence while learning about the culture of a region to assist in helping with threats.
The FBI does not publish the salary range for intelligence analysts, but the pay range for all agents is between $78,000 and $153,000 a year. PayScale estimates the average annual salary for this role to be $75,192.
6. Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts combine their knowledge of criminal justice and technology to help protect a business or organization’s computer networks and systems. To work in this field, you will need both a degree in criminal justice as well as a degree or focus in information security. These professionals watch for risks and vulnerabilities, research IT developments and hacking techniques, provide recommendations for security enhancements, and work with organizations to ensure their networks are as strong as possible.
This is one of the highest-paid positions on the list because of the need for advanced knowledge in two areas. The BLS estimates a median wage of $102,600 for information security analysts, and the expected job growth from 2021-2031 is 35%.
7. Police Officer or Detective
One of the most common roles people with a criminal justice degree pursue is working for law enforcement agencies as a police officer or detective. These individuals help protect public safety in their communities by investigating crimes, making arrests, monitoring traffic situations, and responding to emergencies. Police officers generally provide law enforcement services within the community, conducting patrols and responding to 911 calls. Probation and correctional officers fall into this category, but this specialization works within the jail system or with recently released incarcerated individuals.
Detectives collect evidence and gather facts about criminal actions and cases. They perform interviews, monitor suspects, and will occasionally partake in raids and arrests but are less involved in day-to-day community protection services.
According to the BLS, the median wage for police officers and detectives in 2021 was $66,020. However, those in the top 10%, which tend to be detectives, can earn over $105,000 annually.
Value and Skills of a Criminal Justice Degree
The skills learned in a criminal justice degree program are invaluable for those who want to work in the criminal justice field. These programs provide a deep understanding of how the criminal justice system works, the theory behind crime, and the prosecution or prevention of crime. Here are some specific ways a student earns value through this degree program.
Multiple Job Opportunities
In addition to the seven roles mentioned already, a degree in criminal justice opens the door to many fields. You may find work as a:
- Corporate investigator
- Crime lab analyst
- U.S. Marshal
- Fish and game warden
- Correctional officer
- Postal inspector
- Court administrator
- Victim advocate
- Investigative reporter
- Forensic psychologist
- Private investigator
- Private security
With so many potential job options, this is a valuable degree to pursue, even if you don’t picture yourself working as a police officer or detective.
Some careers in criminal justice do not require a criminal justice degree, but having one makes your application more appealing. For example, many police departments offer on-the-job training for recruits. However, if you have a degree, you can skip some of that training and get straight to work, increasing your potential pay. You may also look more appealing as a new hire because of the lowered cost of bringing you on board.
Overall, the value of this degree is in the knowledge it provides. You will be better at your job when you understand the ins and outs of the criminal justice field, and that is invaluable in many ways. Increased knowledge will also give you confidence as you collaborate with colleagues and strive to keep your local community safe.
Earn a Degree in Criminal Justice
If criminal justice is a degree that appeals to you, Lindenwood University’s Bachelor of Arts in criminology and criminal justice could be the best choice. It combines the education you need for both criminology and criminal justice jobs into one degree, giving you a well-rounded experience. Because it is a fully online program, you can study at your convenience. In this 120-credit hour program, you will study:
- Criminal justice systems
- Criminal law
- Race, crime, and punishment
- Research methods
This award-winning program was named one of the Top 25 Online Law Enforcement Degrees by the Security Degree Hub. Students learn from experienced criminal justice professionals and criminologists who are now training the next generation of public safety professionals.
If you’re interested in learning more about this degree program, reach out to our admissions team for more information. You can also apply online. Learn how you can embrace a career in criminal justice with help from Lindenwood University today.
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