The criminal justice field includes a number of career options that encompass the court system and law enforcement. And not every career involves carrying a gun or solving crimes.
Here are seven jobs across the criminal justice spectrum that might be of interest:
Police and sheriff’s deputies
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies provide the front line of defense for public safety in any community. They respond to 911 calls that could range from violent crimes to property crimes, domestic incidents to disorderly conduct.
Police officers and deputies interview witnesses, collect evidence and prepare detailed reports. They are often the first on the scene for most incidents and can represent the face of law enforcement in the community.
In general, police officers work for municipalities while sheriff’s deputies work for a sheriff’s office that is responsible for unincorporated areas of a county.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 5% growth in the number of available jobs through 2022, which is slower than average for all occupations.
As of May 2014, there were more than 600,000 police officers and deputies employed nationwide with a median annual salary of $56,800 while those in the top 10% of the salary range earned more than $92,400, according to the BLS.
First line supervisors and detectives
Police detectives do not wear a uniform but are intimately involved with solving crimes. Typically, this position is the next step for a police patrol officer who has accumulated several years of experience.
Detectives often testify in court proceedings and work directly with prosecutors to ensure that evidence and confessions received during an investigation are enough for a conviction.
First line supervisors directly oversee and coordinate the activities of police officers and detectives. The BLS said as of May 2014, there were more than 100,000 first line police supervisors employed nationwide earning a median annual salary of $80,900.
Transit and railroad police officers protect and supervise railroad and transit properties, cargo, employees and passengers. The jobs date to the 1800s when the United States began expanding railroad service across the country but faced possible interference and attacks from criminals and gangs.
They patrol rail yards and stations and are part of security for restricted areas. They have the legal power to make arrests, serve warrants and carry guns. Some are also part of counterterrorism networks working with other law enforcement agencies.
Railroad officers have statewide jurisdiction but sometimes cross state lines in pursuit of a case. This prompted the creation of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1990, which provides additional statutory authority to effectively police the industry.
The BLS said as of May 2014, there were 3,380 transit and railroad police officers employed nationwide earning a median annual salary of $51,700.
Sociologists working in criminal justice play an important role in helping law enforcement officials understand the influence of social forces on crime and how public safety entities can affect the lives of the people they are sworn to protect.
The BLS estimates that this career field will continue to expand by 18% through 2020. The bureau estimates that the median annual salary earned by sociologists working in criminal justice is $72,300.
Court reporters are vital for legal proceedings, providing verbatim transcripts of what is said in open court, legal meetings, depositions and hearings. Most work for local and state governments, but some operate as freelance court reporters. Freelance court reporters are typically paid for their time and per page for transcripts.
The BLS estimates that as of May 2014 there were 18,000 court reporters employed nationwide earning an average salary of $55,000. The bureau estimates that the career field should see a growth rate of about 10% through 2022.
Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, primarily work for law firms or government agencies, assisting attorneys with trial preparation, depositions and client meetings. Paralegals also work on drafting pleadings and motions and perform legal research.
The BLS said this career field will grow by 18% through 2020. As of May 2014, the bureau estimates there were more than 272,000 legal assistants employed nationwide earning an average salary of $51,800.
Private investigators perform many of the same duties as police detectives but without being sworn law enforcement officials. They conduct interviews, analyze evidence, do research and surveillance and conduct investigations.
Many private investigators specialize in a specific area which could be financial investigations, fraud prevention or criminal activity. Some work for defense attorneys to help prepare a case. Often, individuals will transition to private investigator after retirement from a law enforcement agency or the military.
The BLS said this career field will grow by 11% through 2022. The bureau estimates that about 30,000 private investigators work nationwide. As of May 2014, they earned an average salary of $52,900.