Correctional Officer Careers

NUMBER OF JOBS

493,100

JOB OPENINGS

26,000

JOB GROWTH

5%

AVG. SALARY

$39,020 /yr

$18.76 /hr

All Stats from www.BLS.gov

Correctional officers have a tough job. It involves keeping order in jails and prisons; supervising inmate activities; providing counseling or rehabilitation; and ensuring that the conditions inside correctional facilities meet certain requirements for safety and cleanliness.

Correctional Officer Job Description

Correctional officers prevent assaults, conflicts, and other disturbances within the prison. They may prevent inmates from escaping as well as fighting. They ensure that inmates don’t possess banned items such as drugs or weapons; they mete out punishments for those breaking the rules; and they help inmates by scheduling education, counseling, work assignments, and other activities.

Correctional officers are often also held responsible for the condition of prison facilities. Duties might include inspecting cells, dining areas, bathrooms, laundry rooms, libraries, showers, and exercise areas to find unsanitary or unsafe conditions, signs of security breaches, or signs of hidden contraband.

The job can be highly physical—and officers are sometimes called upon to step in between fighting inmates or restrain inmates manually. It’s crucial for corrections officers to maintain relationships with all inmates without showing favoritism.

How to Become a Corrections Officer

Correctional officers usually start off with a high school diploma. Requirements vary by state, however, and some states and local jurisdictions require at least some college credits or law enforcement / military experience. In most cases, college credits may be earned either at a traditional or an accredited online college.

If you want to work in a federal prison, you’ll need to have either a Bachelor’s degree or three years’ experience in a related field even for entry-level positions.

Once you get hired, your department of corrections will enroll you in a training program based on the American Correctional Association’s guidelines. Training often spans the institution’s policies and rules, methods of maintaining security; and more. On-site instruction in firearms, self defense, riot management, conflict management, hostage negotiations, and other skills are also often part of the training.

While training time varies depending on where you’re employed, it’s fairly regular for federal corrections officers—who must complete 200 hours of formal training within the first 12 months of employment—including 120 hours at the residential training center for the US Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Corrections Officer Salary

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, corrections officers earned a median of $39,040 as of 2010—with the lowest earners taking home less than 26,040 and those on the high end earning as much as $67,250. Federal corrections officers made the highest wages, with those working for privately-operated facilities generally earning the least.

Job Outlook for Corrections Officers

The job outlook for this position is projected to grow by 5% in the next decade—slower than the average. The slow growth is due to budget constraints at all government levels as well as reduced crime nationwide and a trend for shorter prison terms and prison alternatives in sentencing, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

However, some demand is expected to be driven due to the high turnover in this field—often due to stress, danger, and low pay.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Correctional Officer

This job can be both dangerous and stressful—and for a low salary. This is the drawback, and it can be a big drawback for many. Add to that the physical demands and requirement for shift work at irregular times, and that can make this job even more difficult.

However, education requirements for entry are fairly low—a large investment in college is often not required unless you’re planning to work at the federal level, and this may not be true if you have the right experience.

Additional Information:

American Correctional Association
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Corrections Officers

 

Correctional Officer Jobs:

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Indeed.com: Correctional Oficer Jobs