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Federal Prison Officer: Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a federal prison officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and on-the-job training to find out if this is the career for you.

Federal prison officers typically have a bachelor's degree. Teachers, supervisors, and some other professionals may be able to substitute work experience for a degree. All federal prison officers must complete training after being hired and fulfill yearly continuing education requirements.

Essential Information

Federal prison officers supervise inmates and enforce regulations in federal prisons. These workers, also known as federal correctional officers, are required to have either a formal education or work experience. All new officers are trained extensively and are often required to continue their education throughout their career. They need a bachelor's degree or some supervisory experience, and some positions call for graduate study.

Required Education Bachelor's degree, but work experience can substitute
Other Requirements Post-hiring training; annual continuing education requirements
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% for all types of corrections officers
Mean Salary (2015)* $45,320 for correctional officers and jailers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education Requirements for Federal Prison Officers

The Federal Bureau of Prisons classifies prospective federal prison officer candidates as either GS-007-05 or GS-007-06 grade levels. In order to qualify at the GS-007-05 level, candidates must have either completed a bachelor's degree program or have three years of work experience as a full-time supervisor, advisor, medical responder, teacher or counselor. The GS-007-06 grade level requires candidates to have either completed nine semester hours of graduate study in criminology, law or a related field or to have at least one year of specialized experience as a law enforcement officer or mental health specialist.

Accepted officers must complete formal on-the-job training within their first year including 80 hours of orientation to their assigned facility. Additionally, new officers are required to complete 120 hours of training in firearms, self-defense and physical training. They are also trained on policies and procedures. The Federal Bureau of Prisons mandates annual training for experienced officers in order to help keep them up-to-date with protocol.

Career Information for Federal Prison Officers

Job Description

Federal prison officers act as supervisors and counselors to inmates. As supervisors, officers observe inmates and maintain order. Officers may also be responsible for:

  • Conducting searches of inmate cells
  • Defusing potential conflicts
  • Assessing risks
  • Responding to security breaches
  • Transporting prisoners
  • Performing evaluations
  • Applying disciplinary techniques such as revoking privileges
  • Reporting violations to a unit supervisor or disciplinary committee

As counselors, officers resolve inmate issues, help inmates adjust to institutional life and consult with supervisors to make recommendations regarding inmates.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment among all corrections officers is expected to increase by four percent from 2014-2024. While salaries vary based on facility location and shift schedules, the average annual earnings for federal prison officers were $45,320 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

Inmates are supervised by federal prison officers, who enforce regulations and maintain order in prisons. They may also counsel inmates to help them adjust to life in prison or resolve conflicts. They need a bachelor's degree and must complete a training program.


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