Criminal justice professors shape the next generation of law enforcement, corrections and court professionals. Thanks to television dramas portraying lawyers and crime-scene investigators, this field continues to be exceedingly popular among new students. Criminal justice professors are charged with ensuring these students are prepared to face the numerous challenges of the profession safely and in compliance with the law. Many criminal justice professors have years of experience working in the field, and with related criminal justice careers; as a result can teach the subjects best aligned with their professional experience. Others may begin their careers with the goal of post-secondary teaching and earn their graduate degrees before seeking work in the academy. Many may start out as part-time faculty or assistant professors before moving up to become full-time, tenured professors. Tenure provides criminal justice professors with a measure of academic freedom and job security: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), tenured professors cannot be fired without just cause and due process, and their earnings are usually significantly higher than those of non-tenured or adjunct faculty.
Criminal Justice Professor Salary
Criminal justice professor salaries: Experience pays
In general, post-secondary instruction can be a lucrative career, with some fields and colleges paying more than others. According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for criminal justice and law enforcement professors in May 2013 was $61,850, with the top 10 percent earning $98,500 or more each year. Colleges, universities and professional schools tend to pay higher salaries than community colleges, other types of schools or state governments.
When it comes to estimating your potential earnings, location matters. According to the BLS, the following states boasted the most competitive criminal justice professor salaries in 2013:
- Alaska: $82,350
- New Jersey: $81,530
- Pennsylvania: $77,240
Sometimes knowing which areas pay the best is not enough, however, as those living in expensive areas may lose their extra cushion to higher-than-average living costs. According to data provided by the BLS and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the following metropolitan areas are the most lucrative relative to their states' cost-of-living rankings, with No. 1 referring to the lowest cost of living:
- Oklahoma City, OK: $95,840 average annual wage; state ranks No. 4
- Philadelphia, PA: $87,990 average annual wage; state ranks No. 24
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL: $84,290 average annual wage; state ranks No. 29
Perhaps the most significant driving factor in your future earnings as a criminal justice professor, however, is your experience, and that includes your education.
How to Become a Criminal Justice Professor
Many criminal justice professors have experience in the field, but most colleges still require that they earn master's degrees or beyond. Some career or community colleges might consider applicants with bachelor's degrees when their work experience makes up for their lack of formal training in education. While schools and training programs targeting post-secondary instructors in criminal justice in particular are in short supply, a graduate degree in education, criminal justice or a related field may often suffice.
Working professionals who want to transition to the academic world can often complete much of their criminal justice professor training online, though some schools require face-to-face internships with local schools or law enforcement offices. Those interested in tenured positions should plan to complete doctoral programs and a dissertation, which can take several years.