Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (BSCJ) program prepares degree candidates for a number of different careers in public law enforcement. But an academic foundation in criminal justice and law enforcement topics can also give professionals the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in the private sector. Plus, a BSCJ degree can be very helpful, even necessary, in pursuing a high-level, administrative position in private sector security-related fields.
Making the transition to the private sector is actually fairly common for law enforcement professionals. But why aim for a private sector job when federal, state and local law enforcement jobs offer substantial job stability and dependable pay increases? Private sector jobs are not constrained by governmental pay structures, so they can allow for more salary negotiation and can lead to a higher income. Plus, some private sector security-related jobs are truly fascinating, leading to exciting experiences all over the world.
Private Security Positions
The job of a corporate security guard is an entry-level position which often requires little in the way training and education, reflected in the relatively low pay. Salary.com reports security guards make an average of $32,550 annually, as of April 2020. Security guards maintain safety on and around the premises of their employing institutions. Malls, large companies, banks and other such organizations frequently employ security guards.
But private security jobs are not limited to these entry-level guard jobs. With experience, security professionals can move into higher level supervisory roles. PayScale data from April 2020 places the average salary of security supervisors at $48,222 annually. Security professionals with experience and a bachelor’s in a related field, especially those with extensive education in administrative functions (as included in Lamar University’s BSCJ program), can pursue security director positions. These jobs command a substantial average salary of $82,332 per year. According to PayScale, the highest paid security directors can make upwards of $151,000 annually.
Beyond traditional private security, modern security is concerned more and more with the technological aspects of information and cybersecurity. Accordingly, the private sector is ripe with jobs for security professionals with experience and education in information and technology systems management. Reflecting this, Lamar University’s BSCJ program includes coursework on microcomputer applications, internet security, business technologies, computer programming and even social networking technologies.
Job growth has been, and will continue to be, extremely rapid at this intersection of security and information. As demand for professionals with the broad skill set and multidisciplinary education necessary for these jobs is high, the pay is accordingly high. PayScale reports the following average annual 2020 salaries for higher level positions in this field:
Security Manager, IT: $107,715
Security Director, Computing/Networking/Information Technology: $143,639
Chief Information Security Officer: $160,964
And, again, the private sector is not limited by governmentally regulated pay structures. Including salary, bonuses and profit sharing, PayScale reports total 2020 pay for the highest earning chief information security officers to be over $250,000 per year. Clearly, combining law enforcement and criminal justice studies with cybersecurity and information systems studies can pay off quite well for the private sector professional.
Independent and Contract-Based Security Careers
There are a number of possible careers for those who wish to work in a more self-directed fashion. One of the most common applications of criminal investigation study in the private sector is in private investigation and detection. This job has been highly romanticized in countless TV shows, films and books. Being a private detective or investigator can be a fascinating, exciting and logical way to apply a criminal justice foundation and background to self-employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that private detectives and investigators made $56,070 per year in 2018 at the mean level and $89,760 at the high end (90th percentile).
Being a personal bodyguard can also be a thrilling career option for those with the appropriate skill set. Although everyone knows the term “bodyguard,” such professionals are often called private “close security” agents, or “executive protection” in modern parlance. Many bodyguards are independent contractors, although there are numerous large security firms that supply clients with teams of security personnel.
How much do bodyguards make? PayScale reports a bodyguard’s average salary in 2020 to be $65,165 per year. But pay levels can skyrocket considering personal security detail for well-known and wealthy clients such as celebrities and politicians. At this high end, personal protection professionals can make well into the six-figure range.
Private military work is another high-paying and generally contract-based private sector career option for those with a military, security or law enforcement background. Clients of private security companies are often governmental agencies involved with highly sensitive intelligence and an according degree of secrecy, so pay levels are not widely reported. But CNN did report on private security contractors in Iraq making $500 to $750 a day. And a quick look at private security job market sites like Silent Professionals will reveal a wide spread in pay similar to that of personal bodyguard jobs.
Private Prison Jobs
Perhaps the closest private analog to public criminal justice is in the world of private prisons. Private prisons are constantly growing in number and hiring more and more correctional facility professionals. Every federal, state and local prison-related job has an equivalent in private prisons.
At the entry level are prison guards or correctional officers, performing all the basic functions of daily life in a correctional facility, including maintaining order and safety among inmates. According to the BLS, correctional officers made an average salary of $44,400 per year in 2018. With experience, senior correctional officers make slightly more.
Correction treatment specialists plan and facilitate successful inmate transition back into society, including networking with various social agencies and organizations. The BLS reports the 2018 median annual wage for correctional treatment specialists to be $53,020 (grouped with the similar occupation of probation officer), and jobs in this role typically require a bachelor’s degree.
With considerable experience and education in administrative criminal justice, private prison professionals can work toward higher positions within a correctional facility. The highest position would be that of a prison warden, overseeing all administrative duties and functions of a correctional facility. A degree in criminal justice is generally required for prison warden positions. PayScale reports the 2020 average yearly salary for prison wardens to be $88,264, but the highest paid make over $152,000 annually in part due to substantial bonuses and profit sharing at private prisons.
Clearly, security-related jobs are numerous in the private sector. Those with the education and experience in criminal justice and law enforcement are well-positioned to occupy the higher levels of these positions. From the excitement and independence of being a private investigator to modern, technologically advanced positions in cybersecurity, interesting and potentially lucrative alternatives to federal, state and local law enforcement jobs exist in the private sector.