Salaries have many variables. Geographic location, demographics, experience, education, cost of living, and seniority, as well as the type of employment affect wages. For examples, correctional officers in Connecticut have a median wage of $54,540, according to the May 2016 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Idaho, the same officers earn $35,330 as an average salary. Therefore, the figures used in this article are averages, not absolutes. We will feature some of the highest paying jobs with a criminal justice (CJ) degree and the preferred degree to enter this profession.

Judges and Magistrates

With a median pay of just under $120,000 a year, Judges came in second on our list of highest paying criminal justice careers. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for the federal court system reported that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court earns roughly $224,000 a year, and at $214,000, the Associate Justice earns just slightly less. Federal circuit judges earn about $185,000 a year and Court of International Trade and Federal Claims judges earn $174,000 a year.

The two highest paying states by average salary are New York and Florida, per the BLS. The highest concentration of judges/magistrate judges is in Ohio (2,420) and New York (3,250).

Required Degree: Law degree: including the possibility of a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice


Immediately, you may be thinking that a lawyer earns a Juris Doctor (JD), not a Criminal Justice (CJ) degree. However, the educational path begins with a bachelor’s degree before applying for law school. Law students intending to specialize in criminal law will benefit from securing their undergraduate in CJ.

The median income is $118,160 with the highest paid practicing in San Jose and San Rafael, California. After California, there is New York, Florida, and Texas as the highest paid in this profession.

Required Degree: Bachelor’s + Juris Doctor (JD)+ pass the bar exam

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists are trained clinical psychologists who specialize in criminal justice. Forensic psychologists use their understanding of human nature and behavior to develop criminal profiles that law enforcement officer can use to identify and track suspects. They may also interview suspects, counsel prisoners and work with law enforcement officers to prosecute suspected criminals. Forensic psychologists have advanced degrees in the fields of psychology or behavioral science to help them perform their duties.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lumps them into the “other psychologists” category. The BLS reports that other psychologists, including forensic psychologists, have a median salary of $84,000, with the top tier earning over $117,000 a year. According to a survey published by, forensic

Required Degree: An undergraduate degree in CJ or related field, but ultimately, you will need a doctorate in forensic psychology.

Intelligence Analyst

Intelligence analysts find work in agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) as well as in military branches like the Army and the Marines. The work of an intelligence analyst is to gather, research, analyze, and evaluate information. They perform much of their work behind the scenes. There is no one-degree path that leads to a career as an intelligence analyst, but instead many possible paths that candidates can take.

While intelligence analysts work at the state and local levels, the vast majority work at the federal level for the FBI. Intelligence analysts can make from $60,000 to $83,000 a year.

Required Degree: Minimum bachelor’s degree; a master’s in lieu of experience for FBI consideration

Federal Bureau of Investigation

To become an FBI agent you need a college degree in a relevant field of study, have an impeccable background, and pass two testing phases. Phase 1 testing, which takes place at an FBI facility, consists of a number of written tests. Those with specialized experience may also need to take additional tests in their field of expertise. Upon passing Phase 1 testing, candidates move onto Phase 2 testing, which includes a writing test and an in-person interview conducted by a panel of FBI Special Agents.

The acceptance rigor does not end there. All FBI Special Agent candidates who receive a Conditional Letter of Appointment must then pass a thorough FBI Background Check and meet all FBI Special Agent Physical Requirements. Next, there is a thorough medical examination including vision and hearing tests.

Assuming you can meet the stringent requirements, then the potential may interest you. Trainees can look forward to making $43,441 a year plus an additional locality adjustment of 17.50% while in the FBI Academy – for a total of just over $50,000 a year. However, annual compensation quickly jumps to $61,000 to $70,000 when trainees become new Special Agents working in the field.

Required Degree: Minimum bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education


A criminologist studies crime prevention, the causes of crime, criminal behavior, and society’s response to crime. It has had an impact on the criminal justice system and has produced notable findings that have influenced how our law enforcement, corrections, and courts system address crime and criminals. Since the field encompasses many fields, undergraduate degrees of criminologists may range from biology and computer science to social work and criminal justice, just to name a few.

The BLS does not have an occupation for this profession. A cousin would be a sociologist that has a median wage of $79,750 as of 2016 with a Master’s degree. Those with a master’s degree often work in private business or industry as forensic consultants or as advisors to government organizations.

Required Degree: Minimum bachelor’s degree; preferably a master’s