What Kind of Salary Can I Expect from a Job in Criminal Justice?

Deciding on your major is one of the most important decisions that you’ll ever make. The old adage says that you should find a job doing what you love, but many students find that the jobs they love don’t leave them with enough money to pay their bills. Criminal justice is one of the fastest growing fields in the world. Students see actors on television shows and in films, and they think they would love solving crimes and helping people. While some criminal justice positions pay quite nicely, these jobs come with a range of salaries based on the exact position.

Police Officers

According to Patrick Erwin, a popular career path for criminal justice major is law enforcement. Erwin puts the beginning salary for police officer positions at just over $38,000. This number refers to the average starting salary reported by police officers across the country, and the figure includes those working for government agencies, including the FBI and CIA. Working at the local level usually comes with a lower salary, and police officers and sheriff’s deputies typically make less than $30,000 a year. Students who think this figure is too low should keep in mind that they can work their way to much higher salaries.


Thanks to the popularity of television shows like Law & Order and CSI, more students now have an interest in the criminal investigation side of the law. Criminologists work at crime scenes, collecting evidence and documenting the scene. Those workers transport the evidence back to the lab, perform tests and prove that a crime happened in a particular way. While the fictional world makes it seem like those tests only take a few minutes, criminologists often wait weeks and even months for results. Students must complete a graduate program and work in the field before seeking employment, but criminologists can make $40,000 to over $100,000 a year.

Loss Prevention Manager

A loss prevention manager can make more than $40,000 a year starting out. Stores higher these workers to keep a close eye on the inner workings of the store and to reduce its losses. Loss prevention agents are responsible for determining where the store loses money. This often involves watching security footage, keeping an eye on shoppers and following the different workers in the store. Most losses reported by popular stores involve workers stealing and wasting time on the clock.

Probation Officer

Another potential career path for a criminal justice major is probation. When the court convicts an individual of a crime, the person usually serves time in jail or prison. Those released early from custody must meet with a probation officer on a regular basis. That officer is responsible for ensuring that the convict follows any rules established by the court. This might include working a regular job or applying for work, staying away from children or particular individuals or maintaining a clean record. Probation officers will also look at any drug tests ordered by the court to ensure that the convict doesn’t use drugs or alcohol, and these officers make around $40,000 a year.

Criminal justice majors can leave college and find jobs making $40,000 or more a year, but some students find themselves making more than $100,000 a year after finishing graduate school. Popular jobs in the field include probation officers, loss prevention managers, criminologists and police officers, and each position comes with a different salary.