You'll not only need a bachelor's degree to qualify to become a federal correctional officer, but prior appropriate experience is highly recommended. You must have a clean criminal record and successfully complete a certain number of hours in a specialized training program as well.
Federal correctional officers monitor inmates and facilitate the day-to-day operations of federal penitentiaries. Although most training takes place on the job, these officers are required to possess a bachelor's degree or several years of experience in law enforcement, corrections or a similar field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no special licenses or certifications required for this career field. Anyone interested in becoming a federal correctional officer must have no previous felony-level convictions, and individuals must be selected for the position prior to turning 37 years old, per the BLS.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training; felony-free record; meet age requirements; experience recommended|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||Correctional officer: -7%*|
|Average Salary (2020)||Federal correctional officer: $59,390*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At least 200 hours of training is required for entry-level federal correctional officers during their first year of employment. Training topics include basic prison procedures, security, emergency programs and methods for working with inmates. Officers may tour facilities, be taught how to identify and manage contraband, learn about federal regulations relating to prison operations and train in firearms.
Also, new correctional officers may be required to participate in a 3-week federal correctional training program in Glynco, Ga. Here, they'll learn more advanced marksman training and inmate transportation. Annual refresher training may be required.
Individuals interested in becoming a part of tactical response units must complete more training. These officers learn advanced techniques in topics such as riot control, physical combat and chemical attacks.
Individuals interested in becoming a federal corrections officer must be no older than age 36, unless they possess previous law enforcement experience. A bachelor's degree is also required, unless the applicant has more than three years of experience in social work, law enforcement or a related field. Candidates seeking employment in higher-salaried entry-level positions must meet minimum postgraduate hours in fields such as criminal justice or a related field.
Since this job is physically and mentally exhausting, candidates may be subject to extensive inquiries into their medical histories. They must be physically fit because the job requires the patrol of facility grounds and the restraint of inmates when necessary.
Correctional officers primarily maintain security and oversee inmate life to prevent escapes, fights and other problems. Their jobs may include searching cells for contraband, resolving inmate disputes and disciplining inmates. Officers also routinely inspect the facility for fire hazards and that no doors, windows or other things have been tampered with. Mail and visitors are also inspected for banned items.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Jobs for correctional officers were predicted to decline between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS. Although there will be some growth due to population increases, budget cuts and decreasing crime rates will slow the demand for workers in the field. As of May 2020, the BLS listed the average annual salary of correctional officers working for the federal government at $59,390.
Unless you have prior law enforcement experience, you cannot be over 36 years of age in order to qualify to become a federal correctional officer. Also, unless you have more than three years of experience in a field related to law enforcement, you must hold a bachelor's degree, which is generally recommended at any rate. Employment opportunities for all correctional officers are expected to decline compared to the national average for all occupations.