How to Become a Juvenile Detention Officer: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a juvenile detention officer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the juvenile justice field. View article »

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Video Transcript

Juvenile Detention Officer

Juvenile detention officers are employed in juvenile detention facilities, overseeing and guarding youths charged with a crime or considered to be a threat to public safety. Time at work is spent escorting inmates, observing their behavior, and maintaining order.

Work in the field can be dangerous due to the need to have frequent contact with juvenile detainees who may be violent. Since these detention centers run all night, professionals must put in weekend, holiday, and overnight shifts. They also must spend most of their shift standing.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree for federal facilities
Training Training academy and on-the-job training typically required
Licensure and/or Certification Certification may be required by some states; optional professional certifications are also available
Key Skills Good physical condition, emotional maturity, empathy, knowledge of data and word processing software
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $40,580 (for correctional officers)

Sources: American Correctional Association, *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation,

Steps to Getting into this Career

Step 1: Meet General Minimum Requirements

Several requirements have to be fulfilled prior to applying for a juvenile detention officer position. Juvenile detention officers must be at least 18 or 21 years of age depending on the institution. Job seekers must not have felony convictions. A high school diploma or its equivalent is the typical educational requirement for an individual who wants a career as a detention officer in a juvenile justice facility. Entry-level positions are regularly available.

Step 2: Consider Post-Secondary Education Options

While many agencies do not require formal college education, a certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in criminal justice can enhance the resume of a juvenile detention officer. Courses that focus on law enforcement and legal issues are particularly useful, and some officers also prefer to have some background in sociology, psychology, or criminology. Depending on the level of award, these programs can take six months and four years to complete. Aspiring juvenile detention officers may consider an associate's or bachelor's degree in law enforcement, police studies, criminal justice, or a related field. Course topics generally include Constitutional law, peacekeeping, and criminal investigations. Federal prisons look for applicants who hold a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Federal Bureaus of Prisons.

Step 3: Obtain Employment and Complete Training

Many states have special training programs at an academy for newly-hired juvenile detention officers that individuals attends prior to beginning employment on-site. Additional training occurs after the individual arrives at the facility in which he or she will work. There, on-the-job training may continue for weeks or months. The amount of time in the academy and in supervised job training varies based on the agency.

Success Tip:

To really stand out, consider getting certified. A juvenile detention officer can acquire voluntary professional certification through the American Correctional Association. Four areas of certification are available for individuals who work in the juvenile justice field. The Certified Corrections Officer (CCO) certification is designed for employees who work directly with juveniles, such as juvenile detention officers. Requirements for CCO certification include holding a high school diploma or equivalent, completion of one year of experience as a corrections officer, and passing an examination.

Step 4: Continue Training and Education for Career Advancement

Correctional officers with several years experience can move into administrative and supervisory roles within institutions. Gaining additional education - either a bachelor's degree or a graduate degree - in criminal justice, behavioral science or law enforcement can also lead to career advancement.

To recap, with a high school diploma, completion of a training program, and possibly certification, juvenile detention officer make about $41,000 to oversee and guard youths charged with a crime or considered to be a threat to public safety.

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