15 of the Highest-Paying Criminal Justice Jobs To Pursue

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 27, 2022

Published April 3, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're considering a career in criminal justice, there are many jobs available. From entry-level jobs like paralegal assistants to senior-level roles like a senior attorney or a court judge, pursuing a criminal justice career can offer advancement opportunities, too. Learning about various high-paying criminal justice jobs can help you decide if you want to pursue a specific type of role in the future.

In this article, we explore 15 of the highest-paying criminal justice jobs for entry-level, mid-level and senior-level roles.

What is criminal justice?

Criminal justice encompasses the delivery of justice and the enforcement of federal and state laws. The criminal justice system consists of various government institutions and agencies, including law enforcement and police, defense and prosecution lawyers and the prison and court systems.

Related: What Criminal Justice Career Is Right For Me?

15 highest-paying criminal justice jobs

Pursuing a career in criminal justice demands specialized training and often requires a degree or certification, depending on the field in which you're planning to work. Additionally, many entry-level positions in criminal justice have advancement opportunities, which can increase your earning potential as you develop in your career. Consider the following high-paying criminal justice jobs. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.

1. Junior legal assistant

National average salary: $37,877 per year

Primary duties: Junior legal assistants work under the supervision of an attorney. They aim to maintain and organize files, conduct research and draft documents. Junior legal assistant roles are typically entry-level positions with advancement opportunities through continuing education and pursuing additional degrees in criminal justice.

Read more: Learn About Being a Legal Assistant

2. Correctional officer

National average salary: $39,285 per year

Primary duties: Correctional officers enforce rules and maintain order within a jail, prison or detention center. Correctional officers supervise inmates, their activities and inspect the facilities in which they work. This is in an attempt to ensure the environment in which they work meets safety, health and security standards.

3. Paralegal

National average salary: $43,509 per year

Primary duties: Paralegals prepare affidavits, contracts, wills and other legal documents. A paralegal often maintains legal correspondence and with clients, attorneys and legal assistants to provide expert legal services. This includes assisting their clients in preparing for trial.

Read more: Learn About Being a Paralegal

4. Crime scene technician

National average salary: $55,148 per year

Primary duties: Crime scene technicians gather and document physical evidence at crime scenes. Additionally, crime scene technicians work closely with forensic science technicians and investigators to collect and transfer physical evidence from the crime scene to a laboratory. Other experts then use those samples for analysis.

5. Police officer

National average salary: $55,592 per year

Primary duties: Police officers maintain order and safety within their communities and work to enforce the law. Police officers work in a variety of settings, including local, county, state and federal government law enforcement agencies. Depending on their rank, police officers can be responsible for a variety of duties, including responding to emergency calls, arresting suspects and documenting and filing reports. In entry-level patrol positions, police patrol throughout their communities and respond to emergency and traffic calls and monitor the roads and highways to ensure drivers are following traffic and safety laws.

Read more: Learn About Being a Police Officer

6. Private investigator

National average salary: $56,743 per year

Primary duties: A private investigator gathers and provides evidence for private clients, court cases and legal proceedings. Private investigators conduct interviews, verify evidence and information and perform surveillance. They also assist in missing person cases and often compile data and pertinent information for legal cases.

7. Criminal investigator

National average salary: $57,690 per year

Primary duties: Criminal investigators, or detectives, investigate various types of crimes, including homicide, burglary, robbery, assault and arson. Investigators commonly conduct interviews with witnesses, suspects and victims of crimes, compile and analyze evidence, prepare and deliver search and arrest warrants and make arrests. Criminal investigators may also testify in court if it's necessary.

8. Forensic specialist

National average salary: $58,034 per year

Primary duties: Forensic specialists work with forensic scientists to examine, analyze and evaluate physical evidence from crime scenes. Forensic specialists commonly employ chemical, physical, microscopic and instrumental methods of evidence analysis. Forensic specialists frequently work with bodily and biological fluids, drugs, fibers, paint and gun residue to find clues that aid in solving legal cases.

9. Staff attorney

National average salary: $69,774 per year

Primary duties: Staff attorneys are lawyers who dedicate their services to a single organization, such as a corporation or business, government agency, academic or educational institution or nonprofit. Staff attorneys perform a variety of daily tasks, including conducting legal and factual research and analysis, attending legislative committees, preparing legislation, developing presentations for training, drafting contracts and advising executives on legal procedures and policies. Essentially, a staff attorney protects an organization's rights and interactions.

10. Law clerk

National average salary: $73,559 per year

Primary duties: Law clerks may perform a variety of duties that can differ depending on the judge they're employed with. Typically, law clerks focus on legal research and writing. A law clerk's additional duties generally include preparing bench statements and memos, verifying citations, drafting orders and opinions, reviewing the judge's orders and opinions and assisting the judge during court proceedings.

Read more: Learn About Being a Law Clerk

11. Resource conservation officer

National average salary: $75,261 per year

Primary duties: Resource conservation officers, or simply resource officers, usually work for the Department of Natural Resources or other government organizations to monitor and preserve natural resources and maintain public safety. A resource officer patrols nature areas, enforces environmental policies, investigates law violations, files reports and citations and testifies in court proceedings if it becomes necessary. Additionally, resource officers maintain environmental records, assist injured wildlife and work to preserve ecosystems, animals and plants.

12. Judge

National average salary: $77,521 per year

Primary duties: Judges are elected officials or appointed magistrates who preside over court trials and legal proceedings. Judges are responsible for passing their ruling on questions of laws and serving as mitigators between defendants and plaintiffs. They also give final orders in legal proceedings and disputes.

13. Forensic accountant

National average salary: $80,520 per year

Primary duties: Forensic accountants combine criminal justice and forensics with accounting to investigate crimes like fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. They commonly provide expert testimony during trials and may take on work regarding civil disputes. Forensic accountants frequently work with forensics teams and criminal investigators to gather physical evidence of a crime.

Read more: Learn About Being a Forensic Accountant

14. Police chief

National average salary: $89,676 per year

Primary duties: A police chief is an elected or appointed law enforcement official who oversees and directs an entire police department. Typically, a police chief reports directly to a city mayor or state governor, depending on the jurisdiction and level of law enforcement on a local or state level. These senior-level professionals commonly analyze their departments' responses to crime and find ways to drive improvements across their departments.

15. Senior attorney

National average salary: $101,161 per year

Primary duties: Senior attorneys serve in top-level roles within government agencies or in privately owned law firms. These professionals represent their clients in court trials and summarize and present their cases to judges and juries. Senior attorneys are responsible for compiling and organizing evidence, forming defenses, initiating legal action, evaluating their findings and developing arguments and strategies for the presentation of their cases in court.

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