What Is the Average Criminal Justice Salary in 2024?

Are you considering a career in criminal justice? With so many rewarding and high-paying opportunities, it’s no wonder that this field is attracting more and more professionals. In this blog post, we’ll explore the earning potential of various criminal justice careers and delve into factors that can affect your criminal justice salary, such as education, experience, and location. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the financial rewards that a criminal justice career can offer, as well as exciting career paths with strong growth potential.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Criminal justice careers offer a wide range of salaries, with factors such as education level and experience impacting earning potential.

  • Judges and hearing officers have an average annual salary of $118,160 while forensic science technicians can earn up to $60,000 per year.

  • A master’s degree in criminal justice can open up higher job opportunities with greater earnings, maximize your career potential today.

Criminal Justice Salaries Overview

Criminal justice careers offer a wide range of earning potential depending on factors such as education, experience, and location. From law enforcement officers to federal agents, there are numerous high-paying roles within the criminal justice system. With a criminal justice degree, you can unlock a variety of opportunities that offer competitive salaries and the chance to make a real difference in your community.

Many criminal justice jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, but pursuing higher education can significantly boost your earning potential. For example, judges and hearing officers typically have the highest salaries in the field, while other roles like forensic science technicians and intelligence analysts also offer lucrative paychecks.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for all criminal justice and law enforcement occupations was $67,290 in 2020, which is substantially higher than the median annual wage for all occupations at $41,950.

Factors Affecting Criminal Justice Salaries

There are several key factors that can influence your earning potential in criminal justice careers, including your education level, experience, and location. Each of these factors plays a vital role in determining your salary and can help you maximize your earning potential.

Here’s a more in-depth examination of these factors.

Education Level

Higher education levels can provide a great opportunity to increase earning potential in criminal justice, with advanced degrees offering the most significant gains according to labor statistics. Many employers recognize the value of higher education and may offer rewarding raises to motivate you to pursue further education, which can lead to higher positions such as administrative law judges.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related discipline is a prerequisite for success in a career as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialists. Additionally, pursuing a master’s degree or even a doctorate in criminal justice can open the door to many lucrative opportunities, such as researcher, psychologist, or professor.


As you gain experience in your criminal justice career, your salary can increase significantly, opening up the opportunity to earn the highest wages in the field. For example, First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives earn an average salary of $96,290, while crime scene investigators earn an average salary of $59,150.

Those aspiring to be police officers need a high school diploma and specialized training from a police academy. Depending on the agency and location, additional education may be required. Gaining experience in various roles within the criminal justice system can help you advance your career and increase your earning potential over time.


Geographic location can have a major effect on criminal justice salaries, especially for those working in criminal law. For example, you could potentially earn around $61,333 per year as a criminal justice professional in New York City, with private detectives earning an average salary of $59,380.

Location and type of area, such as working in federal law enforcement, can significantly boost the salary of a law enforcement officer with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Different regions may offer differing salary ranges based on the cost of living, job demand, and available resources.

Researching the average salaries for criminal justice careers in your desired location will aid in making an informed career path decision.

Top Paying Criminal Justice Careers

This section delves into the best criminal justice jobs, focusing on the highest-paying criminal justice careers such as judges and hearing officers, lawyers and prosecutors, and federal agents (FBI, DEA, etc.). These careers offer impressive salaries, and with the right education and experience, you can unlock the highest earning potential in the field.

For judges and hearing officers, the median annual salary is $118,160.

Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers oversee court proceedings and have the highest-paying criminal justice job, with median salaries exceeding $100,000. The rewarding median salary for judges and magistrates is nearly $134,000. In addition to their high salaries, judges and hearing officers have the potential to make even more with their growing experience.

To become a judge or hearing officer, you’ll need a strong legal background, typically gained through experience as an attorney. Gaining experience in this role is a great way to set yourself up for success as a judge or hearing officer.

Lawyers and Prosecutors

Attorneys, integral to the legal system, can garner high salaries, with median annual wages hovering around $120,000. Lawyers and prosecutors are vital to the legal system, representing individuals, government agencies, and businesses in both criminal and civil cases. Pursuing a career as a lawyer or prosecutor requires a professional or doctoral degree and passing a state bar exam – a great opportunity to use your knowledge and skills to the fullest.

The highest-paying law job is in the federal government and legal services, and the top 10% of lawyers earn an impressive annual salary of $208,000. With the right experience, education, and dedication, you can create a lucrative and rewarding career as a lawyer or prosecutor in the criminal justice system.

Federal Agents (FBI, DEA, etc.)

Federal agents, who work for diverse government agencies, can command high salaries with seasoned agents earning well over $100,000 per year. The average annual salary for FBI specialists is an attractive $100,000. Federal agents such as the FBI or DEA often have specific educational requirements, including a bachelor’s degree and law enforcement experience.

Federal agents serve in various roles, including:

  • Intelligence analysts

  • Surveillance team members

  • Forensic accountants

  • Language professionals

Their expertise makes them invaluable assets to government agencies, and their high salaries reflect their importance in the criminal justice system.

Promising Criminal Justice Careers with Growth Potential

Beyond the top-paying careers, there are also a number of promising criminal justice careers with strong growth potential. This section delves into criminal justice careers such as forensic science technicians, intelligence analysts, and cybersecurity specialists with strong growth potential.

Each of these careers offers a competitive salary and a strong job outlook, so you can look forward to an exciting career in criminal justice.

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians are invaluable professionals who:

  • Collect, analyze, and interpret evidence from crime scenes to help law enforcement agencies solve crimes

  • Utilize their expertise in science and technology to be an invaluable asset in the pursuit of justice

  • Have a median annual salary of around $60,000

  • Have strong job growth projections

The job outlook for forensic science technicians is expected to grow by an impressive 14% from 2019 to 2029. With the right education and experience, you can pursue a promising career as a forensic science technician, helping to solve crimes and bring justice to victims in your community.

Intelligence Analysts

Intelligence analysts use their expertise to:

  • Collect, analyze, and interpret data from various sources

  • Help law enforcement agencies stay one step ahead of criminal activity

  • Work at various levels of government

  • Identify and assess threats to national security

Intelligence analysts earn median salaries of around $70,000.

The job outlook for intelligence analysts is projected to increase by 19% from 2019 to 2029, making it a great time to get involved in this field. With a strong educational background and the right skills, you can pursue a career as an intelligence analyst and make a significant impact on national security.

Cybersecurity Specialists

As cybercrime continues to rise, cybersecurity specialists are in high demand, with median salaries ranging from $70,000 to $90,000. Cybersecurity specialists are highly-skilled professionals who are dedicated to safeguarding computer networks and systems from cyber attacks. They leverage their expertise in computer science and technology to:

  • Assist organizations in preserving their data and systems from malicious actors

  • Implement security measures to prevent unauthorized access

  • Conduct risk assessments and vulnerability testing

  • Monitor and analyze network traffic for potential threats

  • Respond to and mitigate security incidents

By hiring cybersecurity specialists, organizations can ensure the protection of their valuable assets and maintain the trust of their customers and stakeholders.

The job outlook for cybersecurity specialists is very promising, expected to grow by 32% from 2019 to 2029. With the increasing reliance on technology and the growing threat of cybercrime, a career as a cybersecurity specialist offers a rewarding and high-paying path in the criminal justice field.

Public Sector vs. Private Sector Salaries

Comparing criminal justice salaries in the public and private sectors highlights some differences in pay and benefits. The public sector, which includes jobs in government agencies and law enforcement, generally offers higher salaries and more comprehensive benefits than the private sector. Additionally, public sector careers often provide greater job security and more opportunities for career progression.

On the other hand, the private sector may offer more flexibility and entrepreneurial opportunities, such as starting your own private investigation business. Nonetheless, considering the trade-offs between the public and private sectors is crucial when deciding on a criminal justice career path.

Ultimately, the right choice will depend on your personal preferences, values, and long-term career goals.

The Impact of a Master’s Degree on Criminal Justice Salaries

A master’s degree in criminal justice can pave the way to higher salaries, advanced job opportunities, and heightened career satisfaction. Holding a master’s degree can bring about more lucrative career opportunities. People with such degrees tend to have higher earning potential than those without one. Pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice can unlock more job opportunities, secure leadership roles, gain specialized knowledge, and enjoy higher earning potential.

For example, achieving a master’s degree or doctorate in criminal justice can open the door to many lucrative opportunities, such as researcher, psychologist, or professor. As you advance your education, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the competitive and rapidly evolving landscape of the criminal justice field, positioning yourself for long-term success and financial reward.


In conclusion, the criminal justice field offers a diverse range of rewarding and high-paying careers, with salaries influenced by factors such as education, experience, and location. Whether you’re interested in becoming a judge, lawyer, federal agent, or pursuing a career with strong growth potential like forensic science technician, intelligence analyst, or cybersecurity specialist, there are ample opportunities for professional growth and financial success. By investing in your education and gaining valuable experience, you can unlock the door to a fulfilling and lucrative career in criminal justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest paying job in criminal justice?

With median annual salaries as high as $128,710, being a Judge and Hearing Officer is the highest paying job in criminal justice. With various specializations like FBI Agent, Attorney, Criminologist, Financial Examiner, Intelligence Analyst, and Forensic Psychologist also offering attractive salaries, criminal justice jobs are a great choice for those looking to make good money.

Are criminal justice degrees worth it?

A criminal justice degree can open many doors to exciting careers in law enforcement and the judicial system, making it a worthwhile investment of your time and money.

Is criminal justice good with money?

Criminal justice is an incredibly rewarding career path, with salaries often ranging from $50,000 to $125,000 and great job benefits. Police officers, attorneys, judges, and accountants are all highly paid members of the criminal justice field, making it an excellent choice for those looking to make a good salary.

Is it hard to do criminal justice?

Criminal justice is certainly achievable with hard work and the right education. A degree in criminal justice will give you the necessary knowledge and skills, setting you up for success in an exciting and rewarding career. So, don’t let any perceived difficulties get in your way of making your dream a reality!

What are some of the highest-paying criminal justice careers?

Criminal justice careers such as judges and hearing officers, lawyers and prosecutors, and federal agents offer some of the highest salaries in the industry.

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