Working in the field of criminal justice is a noble goal. In order for society to function effectively and safely, there needs to be a solid criminal justice system in place. With the right education and training, you can pursue any number of careers in the field. These careers vary in training requirements and salary, but they all contribute to a better and safer society.
If you're interested in a career in criminal justice, you'll notice that there are many options available to you. Take a closer look at three of the most popular and fascinating careers in criminal justice: criminal investigator, paralegal and private investigator. Learning more about each of these positions can help you determine which career path is right for you
Criminal Investigator/Crime Scene Investigator
A CI, or criminal investigator, is an important job in the world of criminal justice. It is no surprise that there are so many popular television shows that explore the lives and work of criminal investigators since it’s such a fascinating career choice. Criminal investigators may work for a local police department, at the state level, or even at the federal level. Their primary objective is to investigate crimes so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Detectives within the police department are criminal investigators. They may collect evidence, record that evidence, or observe suspects in order to identify any suspicious behavior. A crime scene investigator does the same type of work, but their job is limited to the scope of the crime scene itself. This might involve collecting samples, running DNA tests, and photographing evidence for a future trial. Working as a criminal investigator can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. At the end of the day, you'll know that your work contributed to the safety and security of your neighborhood or even your country.
The educational requirements to become a criminal investigator vary depending on the specific role you want. For most positions, a bachelor's degree is a minimum. Ideally, candidates for this position would have a bachelor's degree in a subject like criminal justice or law enforcement.
The average salary for a criminal investigator in the United States is $77,210. However, that number can vary widely depending on location, years of experience, and niche.
Criminal justice involves solving crimes, trying criminals in court, and then punishing those responsible for their actions. Although lawyers and judges are a big part of bringing criminals to justice in a court of law, they are aided immeasurably by paralegals.
A paralegal is a person who helps prepare attorneys for their trials. Just a few of the responsibilities of a paralegal might include the following:
- Researching past cases for legal precedent
- Writing reports
- Filing motions with the court
- Gathering witness testimony
- Preparing witnesses for trial
- Assisting attorneys with their trial preparations
All of this is clearly instrumental to the legal system, and court cases simply wouldn't go as smoothly without the efforts of paralegals.
If you would like to become a paralegal, there are several ways to prepare. More paralegals have some form of higher education beyond the high school level. That might include a two-year paralegal program at a community college, or it could be a bachelor's degree in legal studies. With these qualifications, you may be able to find work at a private law firm, at a federal government agency, or in the office of a local prosecutor.
The average salary for paralegals in the United States is $48,810 per year. That number may be higher among paralegals who work in top legal firms or work in major cities.
While criminal investigators work for government or police organizations, private investigators are more likely to work for private clients. However, private investigators are sometimes also hired by law enforcement agencies. A private investigator may be asked to help solve a crime or locate a missing person or object. Their job is to uncover something that may be deliberately hidden.
Private investigators are tasked with all kinds of jobs. Some of the many ways that a private investigator might spend their day include the following:
- Finding a missing person
- Conducting surveillance
- Confirming the identity of a suspected criminal
- Investigate potential crimes
- Find missing items of value
If you enjoy solving mysteries, and you want to take on new challenges all the time, then working as a private investigator might be right for you. Be prepared for unusual hours as well as some travel, depending on the job.
To become a private investigator, there is typically no formal training or education requirement. However, private investigation firms are more likely to hire applicants with a bachelor's degree in criminal studies or experience in law enforcement.
The average salary for a private investigator in the United States is $45,610. Private investigators who work independently may be able to earn significantly more than that amount each year.