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15 Highest Paying Law Enforcement Jobs

February 19, 2021
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Now, more than ever, the U.S. justice system needs skilled law enforcement officers to assist in protecting the innocent, keeping the peace and achieving the ends of justice. From lawyers and secret agents to forensic analysts and probation officers, there are many high-paying jobs within law enforcement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median criminal justice degree salary in 2019 was around $81,820.1

The criminal justice system comprises three distinct areas - law enforcement, courts and corrections, encompassing a wide range of jobs requiring highly trained professionals to operate efficiently. Let’s look more closely at some of the highest paying jobs with a criminal justice degree.

Victim Advocates

Victim Advocates often work alongside lawyers and attorneys to help clients cope with and recover from trauma suffered as a result of crime or abuse. Their skills can be instrumental in solving cases quicker and bringing criminals to justice. Victim Advocates earn, on average, $35,400 annually and typically have a master’s degree in sociology, criminal justice, or psychology.2

FBI Agents

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducts high-profile investigations into cybercrimes, terrorism and threats to domestic security. The agency takes on a number of roles, from office admins and trainees to special agents and investigators. Candidates require a bachelor’s degree and relevant experience at a minimum, although a master's degree is preferable. Successful candidates will also complete additional training at special FBI academies. Depending on positions and experience, FBI agent salaries range from $39,000 - $118,000.3

Secret Service Agents

The Secret Service is a special criminal justice agency primarily tasked with safeguarding the national treasury and protecting the U.S. president. Secret Service agents usually have extensive prior experience at other law enforcement agencies and receive additional training at purpose-built facilities. Positions are highly competitive, with annual salaries ranging from $100,000 - $171,000.4

Dea Agent

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) works with the Department of Justice (DoJ) to combat drug-related crime, including the illegal use of pharmaceutical drugs and dangerous chemicals. Candidates will benefit from holding a master’s degree and may be subject to extensive background checks. DEA Agent salaries range from $40,000 to $92,000 per annum, rising as employees progress through internal training programs.5

ATF Investigators and Special Agents

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) employs highly trained agents tasked with investigating and combating crimes related to these sectors, including smuggling, arson and terrorist threats. Successful candidates must undertake rigorous training and prepare for long hours, extensive travel and high exposure to risk, particularly in the case of Special Agents. Investigators earn between $30,113 to $59,316 and Special Agents between $78,681 to $102,288, plus locality pay.6

ICE Agents

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigate international border-related crimes such as human trafficking, illegal immigration and money laundering. Agents will be tasked with investigating and attending to such crimes and typically have prior experience in law enforcement with at least a bachelor's degree. Those with a master's degree require less experience for higher-paying GL-9 level positions. ICE Agent salaries range between $29,300 and $76,600 annually.7

Private Investigators and Detectives

Private investigators and detectives usually have a history in the police force, where they learned the techniques required for conducting interviews, collecting evidence and solving crimes. Many continue to work for law enforcement agencies, while others go at it alone or join private firms. A typical detective or PI salary will range from $59,320 to $92,700 annually, or an average of $23 per hour.8

Forensic Analysts

Forensics analysts help law enforcement agencies to collect and analyze sensitive evidence such as fingerprints, human tissue and munition samples. Some analysts actively attend to crime scenes while others work in toxicology labs, morgues and hospitals. Candidates preferably have graduate-level education and earn, on average, $87,115 a year.9

Federal Marshals

A Federal Marshall is tasked explicitly with judicial procedures such as making arrests, overseeing court security and transporting prisoners. Candidates typically have a degree in criminal justice and several years of experience in the force combined with additional in-house training. The National Average Salary for a Federal Marshal is around $45,000 per year.8

Police Officers

Police officers usually provide the first line of defense in law enforcement and are among the most publicly engaging roles. There are various types of police officers, including local officers, state troopers, deputy sheriffs, fishing and game wardens and special jurisdiction officers. Duties involve patrolling neighborhoods, responding to calls, providing first aid and investigating incidents. The average national salary is $32.50 an hour or $67,600 per annum.10

Parole Officers

A parole officer is tasked with ensuring that criminal offenders understand and adhere to the terms of their probation. They work with various criminal justice departments to act as intermediaries between offenders and judges, helping to ensure successful reintegration into society. The salary for a parole officer ranges from $46,000 to $71,000 annually.11

Correctional Officers

Correctional officers manage prisoners in courthouses and correctional facilities, ensuring the safety of both staff and inmates. The work is well paid but can be dangerous and stressful, involving long hours and high potential for injury. While not required, a degree in criminal justice can be advantageous in securing a correctional officer position. The national median salary for a Correctional Officer is $47,800, or around $22 per hour.12

Paralegals

Paralegals, or legal secretaries, usually work in private law firms and provide administrative support for lawyers. The job requires an in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system and involves the preparation of legal documents, affidavits, contracts, and appeals. Paralegals can earn between $46,700 and $106,200 per year, depending on experience.13

Court Clerks

Court clerks assist in administrative tasks related to court proceedings, helping judges, lawyers and officers complete their business. Common duties include record-keeping, drafting agendas, issuing licenses, fee collections and docket preparation. While not a necessity, a criminal justice degree will help you secure a court clerk position, which offers a national average salary of around $60,000 or $25 per hour.14

Lawyers / Attorneys

For those willing to earn a Juris Doctorate, lawyers and attorneys are often the highest-paid employees in the criminal justice system, pulling in between $79,000 to $182,500 annually. As a lawyer, you are expected to offer expert advice to your clients based on your extensive knowledge of the legal system. An undergraduate law degree takes four years to complete, after which most students attend an additional three years of law school.15

Getting Started in Law Enforcement

The future of law enforcement in America could face many challenges in the coming years, so police and legal departments need well-trained professionals to serve their communities and uphold justice. If you would like to begin a career in law enforcement or further your existing education, consider Kent State’s Online MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Sources

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4. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from thebalancecareers.com/federal-law-enforcement-jobs-974533
5. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from allcriminaljusticeschools.com/law-enforcement/dea-agent/
6. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from atf.gov/careers/salary-and-benefits-special-agents
7. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from criminaljusticedegreeschools.com/careers/ice-agent/
8. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/best-law-enforcement-jobs
9. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Forensic-Analyst-Salary
10. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
11. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/parole-officer-salary
12. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm
13. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from becomeaparalegal.org/salaries/
14. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from bls.gov/oes/2018/may/oes231012.htm
15. Retrieved on January 8, 2021, from money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/lawyer/salary