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The Top 5 Highest Paying Criminology Careers In America

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By Johnny Bevers

Criminology careers can be both profitable and gratifying. Many find being on the right side of the law to be the greatest thing one can do with their lives. Before one can deem themselves a lawman (or woman), they need to think about the different possibilities and avenues of achieving their chosen profession. There are many jobs in criminal justice, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. In this article we will explore different opportunities and the pros and cons of each.

criminology crime sceneSo, what is criminology? Criminology can be most simply defined as the scientific study of crime and criminals. Criminology jobs are some of the most competitive because stature, social status, and rank are everything. It is a multi-faceted field with many overlapping layers. To help you in your search for the right position, I will list the 5 highest paying criminology jobs in order of highest to lowest.

Lawyers – Upwards of $163,000

criminology 3Being a lawyer, along with making any parent proud, is a great bill payer. Being a hotshot lawyer in a courtroom is something many aspire to be, but it is hard work to which one must fully devote themselves. If you think this is the path for you, prepare for a long road of studying for the BAR exam and protecting your reputation.

Without defense lawyers there would be nobody working for the accused. You help protect people’s rights and even aid immigrants in getting citizenship. In this sense it can be very fulfilling work. However, don’t expect a job of leisure. You will work long hours and with difficult clients. Remember, the chances are quite high that your client will be ticked off upon meeting you. They’ve already been jumping through hurdles and getting a heavy dose of misery at the hands of the circus that is our criminal justice system. Your job is not only to defend a client, but to console them and give them hope. This is not a task that everyone is up for.

FBI Agents – Upwards of $114,000

criminology and the human brainWorking for the FBI can be an exhilarating career with great benefits (and one heck of a thing to put on your resume). While it’s not quite what it’s made out to be in Hollywood movies, you will still be doing something pretty exciting when compared to other jobs in criminal justice. Your time will be spent defending US soil against terrorists and uncovering foreign intelligence threats.

This all sounds great, but there are many disqualifying factors and barriers to entry. Elements that will disqualify you include felony convictions, defaults on student loans, inability to pass a drug test, having registered for selective service, or a history of drug use. Marijuana use in your past will not disqualify you, if you haven’t partaken in three years prior to applying.

If you are clear of these factors you still have many obstacles in your way. First of all you need a valid driver’s license. Secondly, you have to be between the ages of 23 and 37. A minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree is required, with the ability to transition your studies into Law, Language, Accounting, or Diversitized Studies (which requires an advanced degree).

Still clear? Now you can complete an Application Checklist. Here you will provide the bureau with a list of all addresses, former and current, along with your complete work history including volunteer work and academic achievements. Once completed you send the application in to your area’s local FBI office. Phase I testing begins next. Don’t worry about studying for it, it assesses your personality more than anything else. If they like what they see, you will be asked to fill out their “real” job application where you will be asked about your immediate family and upbringing.

You’re not done yet! A secondary application will given to you upon acceptance of the first. This test gets even more personal and they will check all the facts. They will go as far as calling your high school sweetheart to see what kind of partner you were. Next is the background check which will review your criminal history. Upon passing you will be invited to Phase II testing which includes another interview and a battery of written tests.

At last you are eligible for final screening! You will be given a polygraph and drug test, a physical exam, a security interview, a credit check, and psychological testing among other things. You can still be rejected at any time (typically by mail), but you’ve almost made it to training. Field agent training takes place in Quantico, VA and lasts around 16 weeks.

If you are serious about being in the FBI, be prepared to move to another city upon employment. Chances are high that you will be operating out of a town where you don’t know anyone. This is in order to inhibit you from favoring friends and family who may be investigated. The FBI’s website has a detailed checklist and explanation of the process.

Judges – Upwards of $104,000

criminology and justiceA strong moral compass and integrity are the qualities of a good judge. An ability to see the action and consequence of courtroom decisions is vital. However, becoming a judge may be even harder than becoming an FBI agent. You have to be appointed and elected. If you truly want this as a career then there are a few things you can do to give you a leg up.

Judges oversee the court to make sure due process is followed at local, state, and national levels. Rules on who can be a judge depend on the area’s own requirements. There are many jurisdictions that all have their own regulations, but typically judges start out as lawyers and have practiced law for many years.  Getting into an ivy league law school can be hard, so first obtain your BA from a University. Do well in school and learn the law inside and out. Choose a major that will compliment your career choice. Good picks are business, economics, history, sociology, and political science. Upon graduation complete your BAR exam and start practicing as an attorney, spend as much time as you can in the courtroom. From here you can begin building relationships with judges in your area and applying for judgeship.

Private Investigators – Upwards of $93,000

criminologist at workAnother career that has been glamorized by the movie industry is that of private investigators. Don’t expect a Sherlockisque life. Most of your time will be spent cooperating with law enforcement. In fact, most private investigators get their start as police officers. This is not to say it can’t be enjoyable, your time will be spent gathering evidence for lawyers in civil and criminal cases.  There is no educational requirement, but possessing a degree in law can only aid you during the licensure process. Make sure to keep a clean record and check on your state’s firearm requirements. Firearms and not required but should be obtained as a safety measure. Good steps to learning the in’s and out’s are formal instruction and apprenticeship.

Forensic Psychologists – Upwards of $84,000

criminology definition snippetWhat is forensic science? This term encompasses a large spectrum of technologies and sciences that investigate crime after the fact. There are many types of psychology, forensic psychologists study the mind of a criminal to further the understanding of what makes a lawbreaker tick.

So, what is forensic psychology in terms of a typical work day? They will be found working in prisons, jails, and institutions working directly with attorneys, victims, and defendants. They see to the mental needs of the accused and abused and offer services ranging from anger management to psychological screening. All those who practice forensic science hold a doctorates degree in psychology. A good place to begin studying is Forensic Science International, a journal that covers the pathology of criminals.

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