Job Description of a Prison Administrator

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

Prison administrators oversee correctional facilities including every aspect of staffing and inmate well-being. These jobs require a college degree and correctional facility supervisory experience. Prison administrator jobs are expected to experience growth that is relatively slower than most in the upcoming decade.

Essential Information

Prison administrators oversee the daily operations of correctional facilities. They also might be called prison wardens, jail administrators, executive directors or facility managers. Prison administrators typically require a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in criminal justice or similar field; associate's degree and law enforcement experience may be accepted by smaller jails
Other Requirements Experience in a supervisory position within the correctional system typically required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for first-line supervisors of correctional officers
Median Salary (2015)* $59,720 for first-line supervisors of correctional officers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Staff and Inmate Management

Prison administrators oversee the intake, care and transfer of inmates, in addition to hiring and dismissing employees. They may also be involved in:

  • Preparing work schedules
  • Determining work assignments
  • Conducting staff training
  • Reviewing employee performance, taking disciplinary action and resolving problems
  • Guaranteeing medical care for inmates
  • Addressing inmate grievances

Setting Procedures and Policies

Prison administrators write and implement operational procedures for all areas of their facilities to ensure the safety of workers and inmates. This includes personnel policies, as well as inmate, staff and visitor interaction guidelines. They also make sure their facilities are in compliance with state and federal regulations.

Administrative Duties

Administrators must keep accurate records detailing general inmate population demographics and the personal histories of individual prisoners. They also must maintain financial records, including budgets, inventory and payroll documents, accounts receivable and accounts payable. Disciplinary incidents and injuries also must be reported.

Interpersonal Communication

Prison administrators regularly interact with individuals and agencies outside of the facility. These might include:

  • District attorneys or the public defender's office
  • Housing and food contractors
  • Law enforcement agents
  • Elected officials
  • Medical professionals
  • Clergy
  • State correctional officials

Education and Training

According to a sampling of county-level job descriptions, smaller jails might only require that prospective prison administrators have an associate's degree in correctional administration, paired with law enforcement experience. However, most institutions require that administrators have at least a bachelor's degree, as well as significant supervisory experience within the correctional system. Some positions require a graduate degree in public administration, criminal justice or a similar field.

Prison administrators also are expected to engage in ongoing professional development activities. They might attend training to stay abreast of changes in state and federal corrections policy, and they often complete certification programs to increase their level of expertise.

Salary and Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual income for first-line supervisors of correctional officers was $59,720 in May, 2015. The same source reports that positions for these professionals are expected to increase by 3% between 2014 and 2024. This is slower growth than average.

Prison administrators usually require a bachelor's degree, although some prisons may accept an associate's degree. These positions also require experience in corrections, usually at the supervisory level. The median income for prison administrators is about $60,000.


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