The criminal justice system requires a number of trained professionals. This article takes a closer look at three professions: crime scene investigators, private security officers, and correctional or court officers. While not all criminal justice professions require postsecondary education, earning a bachelor's degree may attract employers or qualify a candidate for promotion.
Police, court and corrections officers, as well as private industry investigators utilize complex methods to detect, analyze and prevent illegal violations and criminal behavior. Educational requirements vary, but several college degree programs are available for those interested in a profession in criminal justice technology. Some jobs may require only a high school diploma and specialized training.
|Career||Crime Scene Investigator||Private Security Officer||Correctional or Court Officer|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree||High school diploma or GED; post-secondary training often preferred||High school diploma or GED; bachelor's degree required for federal positions|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training||On-the-job training and state registration||Training academy and on-the-job training|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||14% (for forensic science technicians)||4% (for security guards)||-7% (for correctional officers and jailers)|
|Annual Median Salary (2018)*||$58,230 (for forensic science technicians)||$28,490 (for security guards)||$44,330 (for correctional officers and jailers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The advances in technology used by criminal justice professionals have enhanced the investigative and prevention techniques used in several areas of law enforcement and security industries. Those interested in the field of criminal justice may choose among a variety of career options in public offices, private companies and government agencies.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators thoroughly search and gather information from a crime scene in order to reconstruct an event. Trained to look for minute traces evidence, including tissue samples, hazardous materials, fingerprints, clothing fibers, and air particles. Correct handling and storage of evidence is extremely important, as contamination may render it inadmissible in a court of law. Some specific areas of specialization for a crime scene investigator include:
- Serology and DNA Typing
- Physical Trace Evidence
- Weapons Analysis
- Illegal Substance Identification
Crime scene investigators can be criminal investigators, who collect the evidence, or specialized forensic technicians, who analyze the evidence. Employment of detectives and criminal investigators is projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to increase by 3% from 2018 to 2028, while employment for forensic science technicians is expected to increase much faster than the average during the same period. According to BLS data, detectives and criminal investigators earned a median annual salary of $81,920, and forensic science technicians in the 90th percentile or higher earned of $97,200 as of May 2018.
Private Security Officer
Those employed with a private security firm may be responsible for protecting people, information or property. Depending on the organization, security officers may require specialized knowledge and skills, such as weapons-handling, information technology or legal procedures for crime scene investigation. Security officers may enter the field as experts in a particular profession, including law enforcement or computer networking. The BLS anticipates an employment growth slower than the average for security guards over the 2018-2028 decade. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $49,650 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $20,290 or less per year.
Correctional or Court Officer
Local, state and federal judicial systems require officers to control and oversee accused or convicted criminals in corrections facilities and in a public court of law. Officers must be constantly alert, assessing the behavior of charges under their protection. Those working in jails may require investigative skills during cell or prisoner searches and often use technology for monitoring and tracking prisoners. Courtroom officers also share in maintaining order, though technical tools used may apply more often to administrative duties. The BLS projected that the field of correctional officers would decline from 2018 to 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $76,760 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $76,760 or less per year.
Jobs in all of these careers require at least a high school diploma and crime scene investigators typically must hold a bachelor's degree. Understanding how these professions work, and awareness about the expected job growth, annual median wage and educational requirements can help you decide if one of these professionals is the career path you want to pursue.