Is the Pay Scale Higher with a Criminal Justice Degree with the Specialization of Public Safety?

If you are currently in school and considering a career in criminal justice, you might be wondering if you should specialize in public safety. Is the pay scale higher with a criminal justice degree with a specialization in public safety? The answer depends on your career goal. If you want to become a police officer or work directly as a public safety agent, having a public safety minor can help you get the job. Criminal justice work is competitive. If you have a public safety minor on your résumé, you will stand out to almost every recruiter. And, perhaps more importantly, over the course of your career you will be trained to assume a leadership position. This will help you secure a top administrative job within your field.

Evaluating Your Career Goal

There are many possible career choices for a student who graduates with a criminal justice degree. Some students elect to continue in school in order to earn a law degree or even a Ph.D. For other students, the criminal justice focus is designed to prepare them for work in one of the following careers:

  • Police Officer (Deputy)
  • Fire Investigator
  • Prison/Corrections Manager (Supervisor)
  • Police Detective/Investigator
  • Immigration/Customs Inspector
  • Special Agent
  • Fish and Game Warden

If your career goal is to find a field job, such as a position in one of these fields, a public safety minor will let your potential employer how serious you are about your career focus. In today’s competitive economy, this is very important.

Core Classes in Public Safety

The core classes in public safety focus on developing administrative skills. You can expect to learn the basic principles of strategic planning as well as the ways this can apply to a management team. Other classes will highlight systemic public policy issues. Students are expected to understand not just the way that policy is created, but the way it is challenged and changed. Finally, you will have an opportunity to focus, in depth, on issues related to risk management within the context of social and political systems.

Earning Potential

Working in the field in a law enforcement can be a highly desirable job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the median income for a law enforcement officer is $55,000 a year. In fact, all of the field jobs in criminal justice pay (on average) between $43,000 and $57,000 a year. These jobs are highly stable and have excellent benefits. You can be assured that your services will always be needed.

Of course, your earning potential doesn’t have to stop at these median salaries. If you have a background in public safety, you are in an excellent position to advance ‘up the ranks’ during your career. Top administrators make significantly more money then the average wage, often doubling or tripling that base income. With an academic background in public safety, you will be better prepared to advance up those ranks.


A career in criminal justice is a commitment to the community. You will be charged with a duty to respond to emergencies, to protect citizens and ensure public safety. Whether you choose to work as a police officer or in corrections, your career will focus on service. Few things are as fulfilling, personally and professionally, as a mandate to provide protection to your fellow citizens. With added training in public safety, you will be well prepared not just to get the job, but to take on additional leadership challenges throughout your career.

Take a look at “Criminal Justice Career Guide“.