The criminal justice system employs police officers, detectives, and lawyers to handle situations in which the law has been broken. As might be expected, lawyers make the most money, but they also must go through the most schooling in order to have the appropriate skills for their work. This article checks out each of these three careers in criminal justice.
Degree programs in criminal justice administration cover various aspects and practices of the justice system. Courses in criminal investigation, the court system and crime prevention are included, and students may be allowed to choose an area of specialization, such as corrections or law enforcement. While a degree is not always required for some careers in criminal justice administration, it is becoming increasingly common.
|Required Education||High school diploma or GED certificate, but a degree can increase job prospects||High school diploma or GED certificate, but a degree can increase job prospects; federal agencies require a bachelor's degree||Juris Doctor|
|Other Requirements||Law enforcement academy training||Law enforcement academy training; some jobs require an exam and a license||Must pass state bar exam|
|Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||5% for police and sheriff's officers||-1% for detectives and criminal investigators||6%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$58,320 for police and sheriff's officers||$77,210 for detectives and criminal investigators||$115,820|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Individuals interested in the criminal justice administration field will find several job options available, such as police officer, detective and lawyer. Most law enforcement officers are employed in criminal justice departments at the local, state and federal levels; however, options are also available in the private sector or with security companies. Lawyers may be employed with county, state and federal governments as prosecutors or defense attorneys or as staff attorneys.
To become a police officer, applicants must have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent, though it is becoming increasingly common for agencies to hire applicants with some post-secondary education. An associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration or a related field, such as police science or public administration, can increase appeal to employers as well as the opportunity for a higher salary.
Newly hired police officers typically undergo training at an academy where they learn state laws, regulations and receive training for skills needed on the job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median salary for police officers in May 2015 was $58,320 per year; however, earnings can vary according to location, level and the department where the officer is assigned.
The educational requirements of a detective are similar to those of police officers, as the majority of police detectives are promoted from that position. To work at the federal level, employers usually require a candidate to have a bachelor's degree, as well as a spotless background check with no prior history of criminal activity. Without previous on-the-job experience, most states require detectives to be licensed and pass an exam. The BLS reported in May 2015 that the median annual salary for a detective at that time was $77,210.
A lawyer or attorney works in the court system to defend or prosecute criminal offenders or advise people of legal issues. The majority of lawyers work in private practice firms, while some work for corporations, non-profit organizations or the government. The educational requirements to become an attorney are rigorous, with most lawyers completing a bachelor's degree, typically from any field, as well as three additional years in law school and pass a state bar exam in order to practice.
According to the BLS, national employment opportunities for lawyers will increase approximately as fast as average between 2014 and 2024. Job competition is expected to be sharp, however, as the number of law school graduates continues to be higher than the number of jobs available. As of May 2015, the yearly median salary for attorneys was $115,820, as per BLS data.
Essential job requirements for detectives and police officers include a high school diploma or its GED equivalent, though postsecondary education is often beneficial and occasionally required. These professionals typically complete training academies after being hired. Lawyers must complete four years of college followed by three years of law school before taking the bar exam for licensure.