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Top Careers in Criminal Justice and Homeland Security

Over the past decade, an increasing number of television shows, news segments and films have focused on the courtroom, the police station and the confidential rooms of national security offices. This, of course, reflects the growing need for national security and law enforcement.

If these subjects seem captivating to you, then you might be pleased to discover that there are dozens of potential careers in these fields. Find out what some of the top careers in these areas are as well as what kind of degree is required for employment.

Police Officers and Detectives

One of the most common careers for those who want to serve and protect their community is that of police officer. Along with county sheriffs and city police officers, those with a special interest in solving crimes and thinking outside of the box might opt to become detectives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a police detective is $56,980 per year, and there are also a number of benefits for these employees as they work for either the state or the city.

This is also one of the few careers where you don't necessarily need to have a college degree, but it will certainly be a big help in a competitive job market. In order to become a detective, you should expect to graduate from a police academy program and complete a series of on-the-job courses.

Private Investigators

Those who find the work of police detectives fascinating often turn to careers as private investigators. In many ways, the work itself will be the same: You use evidence and clues to capture criminals. However, some private investigators appreciate the freedom that comes from working with a non-governmental firm or even as freelance agents.

This career is one that doesn't require a college degree, but in order to be initially successful you should have either a bachelor's degree or extensive work experience already in the field of law enforcement. Making an average annual salary of $45,740, private investigators often get to choose their own cases and set their own schedules, which is a big advantage for some individuals who want to avoid the monotony of daily office work.

Criminal Justice Attorney

Attorneys earn some of the most lucrative salaries in the legal and justice industries. However, the annual salary of $113,530 does come at a cost. Lawyers need to earn a full bachelor's degree, take the LSATs and then attend three years of law school before they can take the bar exam and become licensed and qualified criminal justice attorneys.

Then, once they find employment with a firm or on their own, long days are the norm. However, many people find this work to be fascinating and worth the effort, and the demand for these jobs is predicted to rise by 10 percent over the next decade.

Information Security Analysts

In some of the high-level national security agencies, keeping information secure is the highest priority imaginable. Information security analysts are trained to create secure networks for companies and organizations, and these individuals are well-paid for their talents.

This kind of job is best for someone who enjoys working on their own but can still communicate well with others and work in a collaborative team when the circumstances dictate.

In and around Washington, D.C. where many Homeland Security careers are available, the average salary for information security analysts is an impressive $102,650. To secure employment in this field, a computer sciences degree at the bachelor's or master's level is often the best choice.

Transportation Security Screeners

When you pass through the airport or go through customs, you will almost certainly come into contact with an agent of the TSA, or Transportation Security Administration.

Although the day to day tasks might not stand out as fascinating to the uninformed onlooker, the reality is that these individuals are often the first and last defense that the country has against criminals and terrorists.

Some of the work might include checking the background information or criminal records of foreign or suspect travelers, operating X-ray machines and even physically surveying security checkpoints in airports, bus stations or train stations.

Having a degree in national security can be a wonderful way to prepare for this kind of career, better understand the threats to the country and take on a meaningful career protecting the country.

Emergency Management Directors

When disaster strikes, most people panic and aren't sure where to go, how to act or even how to help those in trouble. Thankfully, emergency management directors can delegate tasks and make the important calls in order to ensure that as many people as possible can escape free from harm.

Emergency directors often work for the government, but they may also work for nonprofit organizations or even big energy providers. Their job is to keep up to create clear plans for events like hurricanes, terrorist attacks, fires and other major emergencies. There are many ways to prepare for this important career, but one of the best is to earn a bachelor's degree in emergency managing or public management.

Criminal Investigators

In the world of criminal justice, one of the most interesting careers is that of the criminal investigator. This position is similar in some ways to that of a police detective, but they are often in charge of high-profile cases involving well-known individuals or criminals with extensive records.

The work can be stressful, but the salaries average out to $73,400 each year, according to the BLS. Some criminal investigators work for government agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, but many others work for private firms or even in conjunction with the police.

Those who want to find a career that helps them protect the country have an incredible variety of options. For most of these employment positions, the very first step will be earning a bachelor's degree in some area of criminal justice online or through a traditional college campus.