Careers in criminal justice continue to grow nationwide in local, state and federal agencies, as well as in private firms. With social changes and technological advances, the field is continually evolving, yet the basic structure of the criminal justice system remains intact. The following table highlights the salaries of some of the most popular occupations in criminal justice. Salary levels vary depending on someone’s level of education, area of the country and level of experience. This table provides the typical hourly wage, mean hourly wage, and annual average salary for a number of professions.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE OCCUPATIONS
|Occupation||Median Hourly Wage||Mean Hourly Wage||Annual Average Salary|
|Correctional Officer Supervisor||$26.88||$28.02||$58,290|
|Court, Municipal Clerk||$16.53||$17.39||$36,170|
|Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers (Post-secondary)||N/A||N/A||$65,590|
|Detective, Criminal Investigator||$33.08||$35.10||$73,010|
|First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives||$37.62||$38.83||$80,770|
|Fish and Game Warden||$23.91||$26.50||$55,650|
|Forensic Science Technician||$24.79||$26.46||$55,040|
|Law Teacher (Post-secondary)||N/A||N/A||$107,990|
|Paralegal, Legal Assistant||$22.44||$23.87||$49,640|
|Parking Enforcement Worker||$17.01||$17.37||$36,130|
|Police (Patrol) Officer||$25.74||$26.74||$55,620|
|Private Detective, Investigator||$20.61||$22.99||$47,830|
|Probation, Parole Officer||$22.69||$24.64||$51,240|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor||$18.33||$19.62||$40,810|
Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011
OUTLOOK FOR 2012:The 2012 job prospects look positive for the field of criminal justice. However, positions in law enforcement, corrections, probation/parole, forensics, education and paralegal studies look particularly promising for the coming year.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack federal law enforcement positions continue to grow, especially within the Department of Homeland Security. Issues with immigration and terrorism support the need for more personnel in national security and U.S. Customs positions. Currently, federal agents receive a median annual wage of approximately $47,000.
There is also a continuing need for law enforcement in local departments, as local police make up almost 80 percent of law enforcement. The average annual salary for a local patrol officer is about $51,000. However, depending on level of education, experience and city of employment, police officers make anywhere from $27,000 to $80,000. In addition to their salary, police officers receive medical benefits, sick leave, life insurance, vacation pay and have pensions that allow them to retire at half-pay after 25-30 years of service.
Careers in law enforcement are expected to grow at a rate of 10 percent from now until 2018. Population growth is the primary source for such a high demand in law enforcement services. In addition, as the older generation of police officers retires, the attrition rate always presents a need for new officers.
As prisons continue to operate over capacity, there is a constant demand for correctional officers in all levels of government. There are over 500,000 correctional officers in the United States, and that number is expected to increase by 9 percent from now until 2018. As long as the prison population continues to grow due to population growth and mandatory sentencing guidelines, the prospect for correctional positions will continue to be favorable.
The average annual salary for correctional officers is approximately $43,000. Depending on various factors, this figure can range from $20,000 to $70,000. There is often high turn over in corrections work due to the difficult population they serve and the fact that many correctional facilities are located in remote areas. However, retirement coverage allows correctional officers to retire at age 50 after 20 years of service, or at any age with 25 years of service.
PROBATION AND PAROLE OFFICERS:
Due to the over-crowded prison population, many offenders either serve their time in the community, or are released early. This creates an increasing demand for probation and parole officers, respectively. Employment for probation and parole officers is expected to grow 19 percent from now until 2018. The average annual salary for a probation officer is $51,000, but can range from $30,000 to $80,000. In addition, these positions have standard benefits, and allow for geographic flexibility, as there are offenders in all communities.
With the popularity of television programs such as CSI, as well as the growing need for DNA analysis, many individuals are becoming forensic scientists. State and local governments continue to apply forensic science techniques to analyze, solve, and prevent crime. There is an expected increase of 20 percent from now until 2018 in this sector, as scientific and medical research proceed to grow. Forensic scientists earn an average annual income of $55,000, but can range anywhere from $37,000 to $85,000.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE TEACHERS:
The influx of people entering the criminal justice field creates a need for more teachers and instructors. Technical schools, junior colleges, colleges, universities and law schools are all seeing more and more applicants. Some of this increased enrollment is due to population growth, but the majority can be attributed to the need for higher education in criminal justice professions. Professors at law schools earn anywhere from $50,000 to $165,000 per year, with the average being nearly $108,000. Criminal justice professors earn between $34,000 and $118,000 per year, averaging approximately $66,000. These professions offer flexibility in scheduling and often allow for summers off. This permits professors to conduct research or publish material on their own.
Another occupation that should expect to see high growth potential in the coming year is paralegals, or legal assistants. Paralegals take on many of the administrative responsibilities of lawyers, provided it is within the scope of their practice. As the number of lawyers continues to grow, so does the number of paralegals. There are currently about 250,000 paralegals and legal assistants working in the U.S, primarily in private law firms, and the need for paralegals is projected to rise 28 percent between now and 2018.
Wages for paralegals can vary greatly depending on level of education, training, experience, type of employer, and location. For instance, a new paralegal working in a small rural firm might earn less than $30,000 per year, whereas an experienced paralegal in a large urban firm could earn over $75,000. In addition to their salary, full-time paralegals and legal assistants receive medical benefits, vacation pay, 401K plans and many receive significant bonuses.
Regardless of your position in the criminal justice system, it is imperative to constantly improve your resume in order to receive appropriate compensation. With the economic downturn, criminal justice agencies and private firms have become increasingly selective in the hiring process. It is more important than ever for applicants to continue on to higher education, and to keep up-to-date with technology. More and more people are going back to school to obtain advanced degrees and specialized training in their respective fields. Although the structural integrity of the criminal justice system has not changed, it is crucial that its members keep up with the changes in society.