Prison Warden: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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

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Prison wardens oversee the day-to-day activities of correctional institutions. The educational requirements for these positions vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree. The outlook for job growth in these positions is somewhat slower than average.

Essential Information

Prison wardens manage and oversee the activities of correctional facility staff to ensure safety and security of the facility, as well as the proper treatment of inmates. As administrators, prison wardens establish prison policies and set financial goals for the prison. Although only a high school diploma or its equivalent is required, most wardens have a bachelor's degree. Due to their high-level administrative and supervisory role, prison wardens usually have extensive knowledge and experience in a corrections facility.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Extensive training and experience
Projected Job Growth 4% from 2014-2024 for all correctional officers and baliffs*
Median Salary (2016) $85,833 annually for prison wardens**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Prison Warden Job Duties

The supervisory duties of a prison warden require him or her to manage staff at all institutional levels, making decisions regarding hiring, training, promotion, discipline, evaluation and firing of staff. A prison warden coordinates staff to maintain a safe working environment, delegating responsibilities to first-line supervisors and monitoring activities for compliance with prison and state regulations. The prison warden also oversees the support staff associated with prison programs in education, work, mental health and the infirmary, which requires a thorough understanding of the needs and best practices for treatment of the incarcerated.

Prison wardens perform administrative functions of running a prison, including budgeting and setting policies. In setting budgets, the prison warden reviews expenditures and evaluates the success and necessity of prison programs. He or she also oversees inspections of the prison to assess the need for new equipment or repairs to the facility in order to maintain the safety of the institution, since staff and inmates rely on the proper functioning of security systems and monitoring equipment. In conjunction with other corrections supervisors, a prison warden advises in the adoption of prison policies and procedures, including those regarding intake and classification, treatment programs, education or job training, recreation and discipline.

A prison warden seeks to maintain the fair and safe operation of the prison at all times. He or she enforces rules, regulations, policies and laws regarding incarceration and employee conduct, and maintains records of infractions by staff or inmates. The warden also coordinates the response during crisis situations, such as an emergency, a riot or a natural disaster.

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Requirements to Become a Prison Warden

The educational and experience requirements to become a prison warden vary widely. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that initial employment as a correctional officer requires at least a high school education, a position as a warden is often attained through many years of experience and additional education (www.bls.gov). For example, warden biographies published on the Tennessee Department of Corrections website showed wardens with bachelor's degrees in diverse fields, including social work, administration of justice, English, science and business (www.tn.gov/correction). Warden job descriptions from other states indicated that the possession of a bachelor's degree in any field is acceptable preparation, provided the candidate has acquired the necessary skills, training, expertise and experience in corrections.

A position as a warden requires extensive knowledge of the administration of a correctional facility. Job descriptions listed knowledge of institutional behavior and psychology as a requisite, with an emphasis on understanding the unique challenges of treating offenders. As such, many warden biographies explained that wardens had worked in the corrections system for 15 to 30 years, with many of them starting as correctional officers and being promoted through the ranks to increasingly challenging supervisory roles.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although the BLS does not specifically list job growth projections for prison wardens, it does list them for the broader category of correctional officers. Need for correctional officers is expected to increase 4% between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than average for all careers. In 2016, the median annual salary for prison wardens was $85,833, according to Payscale.com.

Prison wardens are in charge of every aspect of the functioning of a particular prison, a position that gives them significant responsibility for the health and well-being of many people, staff and inmates alike. They may be expected to have a bachelor's degree, although some positions require only a high school diploma or equivalent. They are also expected to have relevant work experience, usually at the supervisory level, and usually within the correctional system.

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