What are the top criminology careers?

building with skyWe’ve all watched Law & Order or NCIS and wondered what it took to work in the field of criminology. Maybe you’ve dreamed of being the one to take down the “bad guy” or thought about how awesome it would be behind a microscope identifying different types of DNA. 

Keep reading to find out what it takes to work in some of the top criminology careers. 


Lawyers can work in almost any field where there is written law to follow. They can advise individuals, businesses, or even government agencies. Not only will they represent their clients in court, but lawyers also do a lot of research and analysis on legal issues. Some may work for major firms with a team of paralegals, while others might have their own private practice for smaller clients. Their job is to present facts and argue on behalf of their clients.

To become a Lawyer, you will need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree, generally around four years, and then another three years of Law School recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA).

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The average salary for lawyers is $123,000 per year.

Private Investigator and Detective

These individuals research information on legal, financial, and personal matters. Private Investigators and Detectives’ services include verifying peoples’ backgrounds, validating personal statements, finding missing persons, and even investigating computer crimes. They gather this information through personal investigations and interviews, conducting surveillance, and collecting evidence.

To become a Private Investigator or Detective, you will need at least a high school diploma and several years of work experience, usually in law enforcement. A degree in Criminal Justice will help in addition to the work experience. Many states also require you to have a license to be a private detective or investigator.

The average salary for this profession is $50,500 per year.

Police Officer

Police officers’ primary job is to protect lives and property. They are responsible for responding to emergency and non-emergency calls, patrolling assigned areas, conducting routine traffic stops, and issuing citations. They also need to prepare cases and testify in court as well as many other responsibilities.

To become a police officer, you must have your high school diploma and successfully pass the agency’s training academy for which you are applying. You will need to meet physical and personal qualifications, and felony convictions or a history of drug use can disqualify you from applying.

The average salary for police officers is $65,000 per year.

Federal Marshal

Considered the Nation’s oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency, Federal (U.S.) Marshals have a list of duties, including:

  • Judicial security
  • Transporting prisoners
  • Fugitive investigations
  • Witness protection and security
  • Special missions and programs

To apply for the U.S. Marshals, you will need to review their list of qualifications, including:

  • Be between ages 21 and 36
  • Bachelor’s degree and one year of specialized experience, or a combination of education and work experience
  • Complete a background investigation
  • Complete a 21.5-week basic training program

The average salary of a Federal Marshal is $50,000 per year.

Forensic Analysts

Forensic analysts, or forensic science technicians, collect and analyze data to assist with criminal investigations. They generally specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis. They determine what evidence needs to be collected and by what means and photograph and reconstruct crime scenes.

To become a forensic analyst, you need a bachelor’s degree in natural science. Some of the more common areas of study include chemistry, biology, and forensic science. You can also refer to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences for a list of schools that offer degrees and programs in forensic science.

The average pay in this profession is $59,000 per year. 

While a criminology career probably won’t get you a mansion and luxury vehicle, the work itself can be quite rewarding. Keep in mind. There are many more careers in criminology than the five that we’ve listed above. 

Know you want to pursue a career in criminology but not sure what field is best for you? Try taking fun online quizzes like this one. Yes, we know this quiz will not determine your future, but it could open your eyes to a career you’d never thought of before.