Top Five States for Criminal Justice Careers

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Wondering what the best states are for criminal justice careers?

It depends!

It depends on whether you value salary, availability of employment, and other factors…not to mention the specific criminal justice career you are after.

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies a number of careers under its Protective Service and Legal Occupations major groups.

Protective Service Occupations range from police and sheriff’s patrol officers, detectives and bailiffs to transportation security screeners, correctional officers, fish and game wardens, security guards and more.

Legal Occupations range from paralegals and legal assistants, court reporters and judicial law clerks to lawyers, judges, arbitrators, mediators, title examiners and more.

Top Five States for Protective Service & Legal Employment Levels

According to the BLS, as of May 2013, the states with the highest number of protective service professionals are:

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Illinois

The states with the highest level of employed legal professionals are:

  • California
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Illinois

It is probably no coincidence that in both case these states represent the most populated states in the country. That is why it’s also important to look at employment concentration and location quotients.

Top Five States for Concentration of Protective Service & Legal Jobs

Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. defines Location Quotient as: “basically a way of quantifying how concentrated a particular industry, cluster, occupation, or demographic group is in a region as compared to the nation. It can reveal what makes a particular region ‘unique’ in comparison to the national average.”

Location Quotient goes hand in hand with Concentration of Jobs (i.e. the proportion a particular career or occupational group makes up overall employment).

According to the BLS (May 2013), the top five states with the highest concentration of employment for protective service occupations are:

  • District of Columbia (42.57/1,000jobs)
  • Hawaii (34.90/1,000 jobs)
  • Nevada (33.50/1,000 jobs)
  • New York (32.05/1,000 jobs)
  • Arizona (31.35/1,000 jobs)

The top five states with the highest concentration of employment for legal occupations are:

  • District of Columbia (60.62/1,000jobs)
  • New York (12.03/1,000 jobs)
  • Delaware (11.92/1,000 jobs)
  • Florida (10.57/1,000 jobs)
  • Virginia (9.96/1,000 jobs)

Top Five States for Protective Service & Legal Occupation Salaries

According to the BLS (as of May 2013) the average annual salary for protective service professionals in the U.S. is $43,510 and for legal professionals is $99,620.

The five states with the highest average salary for protective service occupations (BLS, May 2013) are:

  • District of Columbia ($56, 470/year)
  • New Jersey ($55,870/year)
  • California ($52,920/year)
  • Alaska ($52,470/year)
  • New York ($52,290/year)

The five states with the highest average salary for legal occupations (BLS, May 2013) are:

  • District of Columbia ($143,820)
  • New York ($123,840/year)
  • California ($117,820/year)
  • Delaware ($113,370)
  • Massachusetts ($109,250)

Keep in mind!

When exploring your criminal justice career options in terms of location, there are other things to consider:

  • Criminal justice careers also exist in other occupational groups besides the protective service and legal categories. For example, the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics categorizes Forensic Science Technicians under Life, Physical and Social Science Occupations; Information Security Analysts under Computer and Information Technology Occupations; and Probation Officers under Community and Social Service Occupations.
  • Each specific occupation has their own ‘Top 5 States’. For example, according to the BLS, West Virginia and Connecticut are among the states with the highest concentration of paralegals and legal assistants; and the state of Washington is among the top five paying states for police and sheriff’s patrol officers.
  • It is also important to consider the regional or localized data supplied by the BLS to find out about the criminal justice career employment levels, concentrations and salaries for top metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Quality of life and balance are also important factors to consider. Picking a place to live and thus work because it is close to family or friends, or has gorgeous natural spaces, or a vibrant culture scene, or sporting opportunities, or wherever your interests may lie…is also important.

Data and quantitative studies are important career research tools, but they are not the only tool you should be using.

If there is a geographic location where you would like to work, be active and find out straight from the source what your options are!