Prison guards work in local, state or federal prisons. Their main duty is to ensure the security of the facility. They may watch over the prison, report on inmate behavior, search visitors, and perform other duties associated with running a prison.
Many local and state positions for prison guards only require a high school diploma or its equivalent, though some college education is often preferred. Students who want to work as prison guards in the federal prison system usually require a bachelor's degree, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (www.bop.gov). Relevant undergraduate education for prison guards may include a degree in criminal justice. Some programs offer a concentration in corrections, which provides additional training for those who plan to work in the adult or juvenile prison systems.
Along with degree requirements, prison guards are normally required to complete additional training programs at the prison or central facilities. Academy training programs include coursework such as firearms training, prisoner rights, prison gangs, crisis management, mental health issues and officer safety.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree required for federal positions|
|Other Requirements||Academy training|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||7%* decline for jailers and correctional officers|
|Median Salary (2020)||$47,410* for jailers and correctional officers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Also called correctional officers, prison guards monitor prisoners in state and federal facilities. Guards supervise inmates and make sure that each inmate obeys the rules at all times. If an inmate refuses to follow the rules, or he or she is caught with contraband, a prison guard must administer proper punishment, such as placing the inmate in solitary confinement or temporarily revoking the inmate's privileges.
Prison guards must fill out reports to document prisoners' daily activities. Some reports help guards verify if prisoners are completing their work detail assignments. Guards also file reports to keep track of each inmate's prison affiliations, such as gang ties. Many of these reports can be used in probation and early release trials, so guards must make sure that the information is documented in accordance with state and federal law.
Other than directly watching over inmates, prison guards are responsible for keeping the facility secure. To maintain control over the facility, some prison guards stand watch in guard towers so that they can keep an eye on the entire prison. Other guards inspect the perimeter to make sure inmates cannot escape. Prison guards also search visitors to prevent them from giving contraband items to inmates.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that jailers and correctional officers will have a 7% job decline in the years 2019-2029. Jailers and correctional officers earned $47,410 as a median annual wage in 2020, according to the BLS.
Prison guard positions at state and local facilities only require a high school education, although some college education is preferred. Federal prisons usually require a bachelor's degree. Prison guards typically complete on-the-job training at the facility where they are hired.