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Top Criminal Justice Careers: Detective, Police Officer, Criminal Investigator

If you’re searching for a career that’s constantly evolving while being based on foundational truths, then a job in the criminal justice industry may be your ideal fit. Much like any other industry, the criminal justice system features hundreds of different job and career options. While some of these career options require advanced-level degrees, others are attainable with an undergraduate degree in criminal justice. Even though the “top” criminal justice career for you may be different than any other person, the following list is considered the top criminal justice career options due to their expected job growth and salary. If you’re interested in entering the world of criminal justice, but aren’t quite sure what career is best for you, consider the following as your starting point.


The exact level of education required to become a detective can vary; however, an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is typically required. Based upon the type of detective work you wish to enter, you may be required to successfully complete a police training academy program before being considered for this position. While this job can be quite challenging, its challenges are rewarded with a handsome salary. As of May 2012, the average detective salary is just under $57,000 per year.

Police Officer

Do you have a desire to make a true difference in your community? If so, then you should consider a career as a police officer. If you’re looking for an entry level position within the police force, then an associate degree in criminal justice may be required. Check with Your-Police-Career and your local police department for specific requirements set forth by your state. Regardless of where you live, the average salary for a police officer is just over $70,000 per year; however, the majority of police officers earn just under $60,00 per year.

Criminal Investigator

Criminal investigators work alongside police and detectives to inspect and investigate suspected violation of local, State or Federal laws. Their work is vital in solving or preventing crimes. While the requirements to enter this career can vary by state, most require completion of a training academy along with an associate or bachelor’s degree. Of course, a master’s degree in criminal investigation will establish you as an expert within this field, which yields higher pay and higher responsibilities. The average compensation for criminal investigators is just over $86,000 per year.

Other Career Options

There are literally hundreds of potential jobs available to someone who holds a criminal justice degree. The following careers are typically held by those with this degree; however, some of the positions will require graduate-level degrees.

  • Substance Abuse Counselor – Average salary of $59,000 per year
  • FBI Agent – Average salary of just under $80,000 per year
  • Secret Service Agent – Average salary of just under $70,000 per year
  • Insurance Investigator – Average salary of $56,000 per year
  • Fraud Investigator – Average salary of $56,000 per year
  • Legal Secretary – Average salary of $54,000 per year