Society will always need criminal justice professionals to keep law and order and protect the welfare of the public, but certain job titles will be in particularly high demand in 2017.
From lead criminal investigators to cybersecurity directors that fend off increasingly sophisticated acts of digital crime, here are five of the best jobs in criminal justice for the year ahead, based on growth projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for talent and salary figures.
1. Supervisory criminal investigator
Justice depends on the validity and thoroughness of the evidence that prosecutors bring to a courtroom, and it is up to the supervisory criminal investigator to ensure that this evidence is solid. Leaders in this role oversee crime scene investigations and manage a team of technicians, detectives and other professionals to ensure that investigations run smoothly and effectively and in line with the policies of the department, making supervisory criminal investigators a critical role in the criminal justice system. Private detectives and investigators are expected to see strong growth from now until 2024, averaging 5 percent, and as these positions become increasingly in demand, so will the need for supervisors to oversee these activities. Criminal investigators already receive high salaries—at an average of $73,210 per year—and positions with federal agencies, particularly supervisory and executive roles, frequently exceed six figures. The average annual salary for investigators at the U.S. Department of Justice, for example, was $111,160, according to data from Indeed.
2. Substance abuse counselor
As illegal drugs become more prevalent and easy to find, illicit drug use is becoming more widespread. And as legal substances such as alcohol continue to affect lives, substance abuse professionals are in demand, including counselors that support individuals struggling with drugs to recover and change their behaviors and specialists that help rehabilitate persons convicted of drug-related crimes, including juveniles. Substance abuse and behavioral counselors have one of the fastest predicted job growth rates of any profession within criminal justice, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculating a much-faster-than-average 22 percent job outlook, with 21,200 jobs expected to be added by 2024. In addition to counselors, this field also requires experienced professionals to fill executive and leadership roles at rehabilitation centers. There is also great potential for jobs for these skilled professionals at think tanks and nonprofits dedicated to researching and spreading awareness about drug issues in both the U.S. and worldwide.
Behavioral counselors and experts can also work closely with individuals affected by issues beyond substance abuse. For example, they can lead rehabilitation efforts with prison inmates or work with troubled juvenile offenders.
3. Forensic psychologist
Forensic psychologists take a science-driven, research-based approach to understanding how and why crimes are committed. They analyze and assess criminal suspects, seeking to shed light on their motivations and driving behaviors, and then try to use this knowledge to prevent crime in the future. Their opinions and insights are incredibly valuable in criminal justice, and forensic psychologists are often called on as witnesses in court, requiring individuals that have sound judgment and expansive knowledge of the law and criminology. They’re also valuable professionals to policymaking groups and state and federal agencies, helping these organizations understand and prevent criminal behaviors in their communities. Psychologists overall are expected to see much-faster-than-average job growth from now until 2024, at 19 percent. As forensic psychology requires a deep knowledge of crime theory and criminology as well as human behavior, and is largely supported by research, a master’s degree in criminal justice can help increase salaries, especially at consulting firms, where they can earn a median annual wage of $75,000, according to the Houston Chronicle. Pay can also exceed six figures, such as for forensic psychologists in Washington, D.C., who earn an average salary of $120,779 per year, as data from Indeed.com shows.
4. Security/defense specialist
Security and defense specialists figure out solutions to the most challenging threats to public safety, whether working in tandem with consulting firms, local police departments, building designers, event organizers or federal agencies. Defense budgets are on the rise, making specialists in this field in demand. As a report by Deloitte found:
“Defense budgets in the US, United Kingdom, France, Japan, several Middle Eastern countries, and other nations are increasing at a time when national security threats are being heightened with governments equipping their armed forces with modern defense weapons platforms and next-generation technologies, including cyber, intelligence gathering, defense electronics, and precision strike capabilities.”
Related to security and defense positions are emergency management directors, another high-opportunity job role. These leaders create comprehensive plans for action in the event of emergency, conducting thorough risk assessments that require expert-level knowledge of criminal behaviors. They also direct hostage negotiation situations, assemble teams of emergency responders and train individuals in crisis management protocols. Emergency management directors at high profile agencies such as those that are part of the federal executive branch make an annual mean wage of $148,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while those working for scientific research and development organizations, rail transportation services and petroleum and coal products firms also command salaries of more than $100,000. These positions require a level-head in high-pressure situations and sound judgment backed by extensive education and training in criminal justice and emergency management techniques.
5. Head of cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is no longer just the realm of technology companies or government agencies—nearly every industry, from health care to hospitality, is in need of skilled professionals that can protect their data. According to a study by Burning Glass Technologies, job postings for cybersecurity positions have grown three times as fast as postings for IT jobs. Finance has seen the largest rise in demand for cybersecurity professionals, increasing 137 percent over the last five years, followed by healthcare at 121 percent and retail trade at 89 percent. In addition, cybersecurity professionals on average receive a salary that is 9 percent higher than the pay received by IT employees.
Cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with new facets of digital crime appearing all the time. Cybersecurity professionals with a robust background in criminal justice as well as the in-demand technical skills are highly desired by organizations that need to protect themselves from cyber threats. There is ample opportunity for criminal justice professionals who have specialized in criminal justice to take on supervisory or management roles in the field, leading cybersecurity efforts for large organizations such as banks, consumer products companies and government agencies.
With a master’s degree, criminal justice professionals can be better prepared to take on these five best jobs in the industry in 2017 and help create a safer tomorrow for all.