Starting Salaries in Criminal Justice: How Much Can You Make?

Starting salaries in criminal justice

In a field as diverse as criminal justice, there is a wide array of possible career paths, each with its own pros and cons. Here’s the good news: the need for professionals with a background in criminal justice is predicted to show continued growth for the foreseeable future. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the government agency that tracks such things. That means that the starting salaries in criminal justice will be competitive to keep up with demand.

It is certainly possible to command a hefty salary when you work in criminal justice. (Criminal lawyers come to mind.) However, do not let your salary potential be your only consideration as you plan your criminal justice career. Many criminology jobs offer intense rewards, such as helping others and maintaining public safety. While some may offer more eye-popping starting paychecks than others, all are worthy of consideration. The following is a basic salary survey of criminal justice salaries.

Private Sector Criminal Justice Positions

In the private sector, starting salaries in criminal justice can be quite high, even for a fresh-faced grad with a criminal justice degree and some internship experience. Of course, public-sector gigs often come with attractive benefits. Here’s what to expect if you go the private route.

Private detective. Starting salaries for private detectives hover around the $20,000 mark. (When you work for yourself, the payoff comes once you build a clientele.) According to BLS, median earnings are in the area of $32,110.

Paralegal. In a recent salary survey from Robert Half International, the salary stats in criminology for case clerks or junior paralegals ranged from $22,000 to $47,500; salary expectations are generally tied to the size of the firm.

Private Security Agent. Based on information from ASIS, a large organization for security professionals, your starting salary as a security agent depends on your industry. Here are just a few:

  • Banking and financial security: $35,000 to $65,000
  • Commercial real estate: $40,000 to $50,000
  • Intellectual property: $20,000 to $40,000
  • Criminal Lawyer: The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites median earnings for a starting lawyer, after nine months, as falling between $40,000 and $80,000. Those who work in a private practice earn the most.

Public Sector Criminal Justice Positions

Public-sector criminal justice jobs often offer a lower starting salary than those in the private sector, but again, salary is just one indicator of how well compensated you will be for your work. Well-designed benefit programs and the rewards of working in the public interest make public-sector criminal justice jobs a great choice for the right candidate. Here are the starting salaries in criminal justice in the public sector from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Probation or Correction Officer. Probation officers typically start out around $25,000. Those who work in urban areas tend to earn more.

Police Officer or State Trooper. As a police officer, your earnings as an entry-level worker depend on whether you are working in a local, state, or federal agency. At the lowest end of the scale, you might earn in the range of $30,000. You can often earn considerably more as a federal officer.

Social Worker or Caseworker. Your earnings as a social worker depend heavily on your area of expertise. Median salaries range from $33,920 to $40,080, with starting professionals typically earning less.

Government Security Agent. Government security agents earn anywhere from $55,000 to $75,000, according to ASIS.

Of course, these options are just a few of your many career choices, and as you can see, starting salaries for criminal justice graduates span the pay scale. Go with your heart and choose a field that you love. The money will come, but happiness is invaluable.