Attorney Salary: What You’ll Earn

A Career as an Attorney in the Criminal Justice System Can Offer You Lucrative Earning Opportunities

Lawyers provide legal advice and representation for individuals, government agencies, and businesses. Among criminal justice professionals, attorneys command the highest salaries, earning an average salary of over $120,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This page explores attorney salary information, including projected growth, average salaries by industry, and attorney salaries compared to other criminal justice professionals.

How Much Do Attorneys Earn?

Attorneys perform a critical function within the legal system, helping resolve disputes while specializing in areas like employment law, criminal law, and business law. Lawyers also earn above average salaries in several industries. The average attorney salary varies by experience, degree, and industry.

Lawyers working for the federal government earn among the highest salaries in the field at over $145,000, while those working in legal services earn around $122,000 on average. Local and state governments also employ attorneys, who earn salaries around $90,000 a year. Attorney salaries also vary by location. Attorneys in urban areas and high cost-of-living states generally earn the highest salaries.

What’s My Earning Potential as an Attorney?

Attorneys earn high average salaries, which increase as lawyers gain professional experience. Entry-level attorneys make an average of $61,000, according to PayScale, while mid-career lawyers earn $94,000 per year, on average. As the following table demonstrates, salary growth continues over the course of an attorney's career.

Average Pay by Experience Level for Attorneys
Entry Level (0-12 Months) $60,500
Early Career (1-4 Years) $71,000
Midcareer (5-9 Years) $94,000
Experienced (10-19 Years) $110,000

Source: PayScale

How Do Attorney Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?

Among criminal justice professionals, attorneys earn the highest average salaries with strong projected growth. The BLS reports that lawyers make over $120,000 a year on average, exceeding the average salary for judges, arbitrators, paralegals, and law enforcement officers. In addition to high salaries, the BLS projects an 8% growth in attorney positions from 2016-2026 — faster than judges and law enforcement officers.

The following table shows the median annual salary and projected growth rate for different criminal justice careers.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Lawyers $120,910 8%
Judges and Hearing Officers $117,190 5%
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators $62,270 10%
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $50,940 15%
Police and Detectives $63,380 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Take the Next Step Today

A career in law enforcement or as an attorney offers lucrative salaries and opportunities for career advancement. However, prospective law enforcement officers and attorneys must hold certain degrees and meet professional requirements. Learn more about the degree options for professionals considering law enforcement and legal jobs.