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How Much Money Can You Make With a Criminal Justice Degree?

by Luanne Kelchner, studioD

Degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s level are available in criminal justice. Students in criminal justice study areas such as policing techniques, criminal law, human relations, forensic science investigation and the justice system. Many people who seek careers in law enforcement earn degrees in criminal justice to improve their job prospects. The salary criminal justice graduates can earn depends on the type of job they seek and where they are located.

Police and Detectives Career and Salaries

Police officers, detectives and investigators protect the public, gather evidence and interview witnesses and suspects to solve crimes. Police officers respond to calls for assistance, patrol, conduct traffic stops, write tickets and prepare police reports. Investigators and detectives investigate crimes and monitor suspects during a criminal investigation. The education requirements for police officers and detectives vary according to the agency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many police officer applicants have a college degree in criminal justice. Police officers and detectives must graduate from the law enforcement agency’s training academy. The median annual salary for police and sheriff’s officers was $55,270 in 2012, according to the BLS. The bottom 10 percent of police officers made $32,350 or less, while the top 10 percent earned $89,310 or more.

Probation Officer Careers and Salaries

Probation officers oversee offenders that the courts have placed on probation. The officer meets with the offenders to evaluate their needs and finds resources to assist them in their rehabilitation. While offenders are on probation, officers monitor their progress and prepare reports for government officials. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for a position as a probation officer. Probation officers may complete degree programs in criminal justice, social work or psychology to qualify for a position. The state or federal agency employing the officer may require applicants to complete a training program. The median annual salary in 2012 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $48,190, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of probation officers earned $31,590 or less, while those in the upper 10 percent earned $83,410 or more.

Private Investigator Careers and Salaries

Private investigators gather facts and analyze data for private clients. Investigators may analyze financial data, perform background investigations and locate missing persons. Clients include individuals, businesses and lawyers. Private investigators conduct surveillance and interview witnesses to gather data for their clients. While employers might not require a degree, many investigators have some college education. Associate or bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice are common among private detectives. Most states require a license to work as a private investigator. Work experience in law enforcement is also beneficial. The median annual salary for private investigators and detectives in 2012 was $45,740, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of investigators earned $27,670 or less. Those in the highest 10 percent earned $79,790 or more.

Corrections Careers and Salaries

Correctional officers oversee criminal offenders in a prison or jail. The officer is responsible for ensuring offenders follow the facility’s rules, supervise inmate activities and inspect the condition of the prison. The correctional officer must search the inmates and their living space for weapons or drugs. Prison officers complete daily reports detailing the activity on their shifts. A minimum of a high school diploma is required for some correctional officer positions, but others require a college education. According to the BLS, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level corrections officers to have a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience. The median annual salary for correctional officers in 2012 was $39,040, according to the BLS. The highest paid 10 percent of officers earned $69,610 or more, while the lowest paid 10 percent earned $27,000 or less.

About the Author

Luanne Kelchner works out of Daytona Beach, Florida and has been freelance writing full time since 2008. Her ghostwriting work has covered a variety of topics but mainly focuses on health and home improvement articles. Kelchner has a degree from Southern New Hampshire University in English language and literature.

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