Should I Become a Corrections Officer?
Corrections officers, also known as detention officers, are responsible for supervising prisoners, enforcing rules, and maintaining security in a local, state, or federal correctional facilities. Some facilities may be outdated and uncomfortable, and corrections officers must stand for long periods of time. Working with incarcerated individuals may be difficult and stressful, but corrections officers have an opportunity to bring a positive influence into prisoners' lives.
|Degree Level||High school diploma; bachelor's degree needed for work in federal prisons|
|Degree Field||Criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field|
|Certification||Optional certification available|
|Training||On-the-job or regional training programs available; federal correctional officers must complete the mandated hours required for formal and specialized training|
|Key Skills||Good judgment, physical strength, and self discipline ability; negotiation; interpersonal and resourceful skills; ability to use hand guns and surveillance devices|
|Median Annual Salary (2014)*||$39,780 (for all correctional officers and jailers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine
Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Program
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for corrections officers. However, depending on the correctional institution, some college coursework may be required. Those who plan on working in federal prisons will need to earn a bachelor's degree. Aspiring corrections officers may consider a degree program in law enforcement, police studies, criminal justice, or a related field. Course topics generally include constitutional law, peacekeeping, and criminal investigations. In some cases, postsecondary educational requirements can be waived if a candidate has enough law enforcement or military experience.
Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Training
Newly hired corrections officers are often required to complete a training academy followed by facility-specific on-the-job training. Officers learn about ethics, safety precautions, and crisis management. They may also learn self-defense techniques and how to use firearms. Physical fitness training is often included as well. Prospective federal correctional officers must complete a minimum of 200 hours of formal training as well as 120 hours of specialized training at a federal prison.
Step 3: Get a Job in Corrections
Corrections officers usually find work in federal, state, or local institutions. These professionals are required to be U.S. citizens and have no felony convictions. Employers may also request candidates pass a drug test. Because the work of corrections officers involves many security-related situations, including potentially violent ones, employers may favor applicants with law enforcement or military experience. The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires at least three years of full-time work experience in a related field for those who don't hold bachelor's degrees. Officers seeking initial employment at federal prisons must be under 37 years old. They must also exercise good judgement and have good physical strength and self discipline ability, negotiation, and interpersonal and resourceful skills. The ability to use handguns and surveillance devices is also required.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, correctional officers and jailers made a median salary of $39,780 a year as of 2014.
Step 4: Fulfill In-Service Training Requirements
To stay abreast of new developments or procedures, corrections officers are often required to complete in-service training. Those who work in federal correctional facilities usually complete in-service training every year. Depending on the agency, qualifying coursework may be available through local colleges, professional organizations, or officer training academies.
Get certified. A corrections officer can become a Certified Corrections Officer (CCO) through the American Correctional Association. Requirements for the CCO credential include holding a high school diploma or equivalent, completing one year of experience as a corrections officer, and passing an exam. Although not required for employment at most facilities, certification can give a corrections officer an advantage in terms of getting a new job or obtaining a promotion.
Corrections officers are responsible for supervising prisoners, enforcing rules, and maintaining security in local, state, and federal correctional facilities and have to go through four general steps professionally:
- Complete a postsecondary program
- Complete on-the-job training
- Get a job in corrections
- Fulfill in-service training requirements