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livelaughlove21's avatar

Decent starting salaries in criminal justice?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15715points) June 18th, 2012

I’m working on my Bachelor’s Degree right now (I’m a Junior) in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. I don’t want to have to go to grad school just to make a half-decent salary, so I’d like to go into the CJ field instead of Psych.

I’m currently doing an internship with probation and parole, which I like, but I recently found out the starting salary is only $26,000 and an agent I talked to had been there 8 years and was only making $31,000 per year. I’d at least like to make $30,000 starting out and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for a college grad with grades like mine and at least one summer internship.

I was thinking about applying to a federal probation agent job, because they get paid more, but I’m told it’s really hard to get a job there and you need 2 years of experience to even apply. I don’t want to be a police officer, though.

What entry level CJ careers that only require a bachelor’s degree and that actually have a decent salary? And I don’t mean statistics, I mean actual people that know. The average salary for probation/parole agents is around $40,000 in the US. But I live in South Carolina, so I’m screwed on that front. I’m referring to starting salaries.

It’s easy to say “I want to be an FBI agent or a crime scene investigator”...but landing a job like is probably not nearly as simple as it sounds. I’m willing and ready to work to find a job, but I don’t want 12 years of hard work to be for nothing. I can make $26,000 at my current bank job.

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7 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It looks like your best bet is to work for the federal government:

” ATF Agents: An ATF agent is one who works specifically in the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau of the US Treasury. The job of an ATF agent is to regulate the possession and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and firearms in the country. ATF agents can also conduct raids in places where they suspect these products are being illegally held and sold. Their salary may range from $32,000 – $50,000

Nexr comes these:
“Forensic Department: Forensic scientists perform the function of gathering the evidence and conducting DNA analysis. Many crimes require this sort of evidences to conclusively trace the crimes. Forensic scientists do just that. Forensic scientists are paid about $30,000.
Police Officers: One of the most common criminal justice jobs is one as a police officer. A police officer is supposed to conduct patrols in his area, make a record of all the crimes and be there at the scene of the crime to make the official record of the crime scene. The average police officer salary is $44,560.”


Judi's avatar

Look at California. I know they are closing at least one prison and are kicking them out like crazy. There will probably be an increased need for probation. I’m not sure what they pay probation officers but CO’s make twice that without a degree.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Judi I’m not looking to move across the country where the cost of living is at least double. COs here get paid around $33,000, still more than POs. But being a CO doesn’t really interest me.

Judi's avatar

The cost of living is not double the national average in communities that have prisons as their primary industry.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

You already have the answer. To make serious money you’ll need a phd in forensics or criminal psych. With a bachelor you’ll start in the mid 20s to 30, which is fine as long as you continue your education in the evenings.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Judi Whether that’s true or not, I still don’t plan on moving thousands of miles away for a job. If I was desperate enough for money, I could move to a much closer location that pays PO’s better than they do here.

@MollyMcGuire That’s absolutely not true. Firstly, the wife of one of the PO’s I know spent 2 years as a probation agent, spent 6 months as a duty officer, and then became an investigator and is making nearly double what her husband is with only a Bachelor’s Degree. And secondly, I asked this same question on a different forum and got plenty of options: Court Reporter, Crime Scene Examiner, Detective, Private Investigator, research-based positions, etc. Even if you start off in the upper 20’s or low 30’s (and, as stated in my question, I’m not looking for a starting salary any higher than the low 30’s), you make more with more experience just like in any other field. You definitely don’t need a PhD to make good money. A graduate degree always helps, but it’s not really an option if you don’t have the money immediately after getting your undergrad.

I’m surprised no one mentioned government jobs. No, it may not be directly in the CJ field, but it’s along the same lines. And federal employees are paid pretty well generally, and with good benefits.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

@livelaughlove21 One of my undergrad degrees is CJ. I got it just because it was easy and I used my electives to get it as a second major. I went on to law school though.

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