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Correctional Officer Vs. Police Officer: Salary & Career Information

Two of the most common kinds of officers are correctional and police officers. Both have very similar roles and responsibilities but in different domains.

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Comparing Correctional Officers to Police Officers

Correctional officers and police officers must use their smarts and physicality to maintain peace and ensure that the law is being followed at all times. Correctional officers do this in prisons, jails, and inmate transport vehicles, while police officers work in communities. Other similarities and differences are detailed below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Correctional Officer High School Diploma or equivalent; Complete Training Academy Program $43,510 (for correctional officers and bailiffs) -7% (for correctional officers and bailiffs)
Police Officer High School Diploma or equivalent; Complete Training Academy Program $62,960 (for police and detectives) 7% (for police and detectives)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Correctional Officers vs. Police Officers

The overall day-to-day responsibilities of these officers are quite similar. They enforce the law, oversee communities of people, and do their best to make sure that everyone remains safe. The training and education requirements tend to be quite similar as well. The largest differences are in the details and the settings. Correctional officers manage the daily activities of prisoners in prisons and jails as they enforce rules, search for contraband, and report findings. Police officers' purview is entire communities, where they work to assist and protect citizens, investigate disturbances, and make arrests.

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers are the law enforcement agents that are in charge of individuals who have been arrested, whether they are awaiting trial or current inmates of a prison/jail. These officers ensure a safe environment by supervising inmate behavior and enforcing regulations. The ultimate responsibility of this position is to keep everyone safe from harm and to minimize the potential for additional illegal activity or escape. To become a correctional officer you must be able to keep your cool in stressful, and potentially dangerous, situations. A high school diploma and completion of a training program is required. A bachelor's degree may be required for those working in federal penitentiaries.

Job responsibilities of a correctional officer include:

  • Transport inmates safely
  • Inspect inmates for weapons and other illegal materials
  • Maintain safety, security, and cleanliness of facilities
  • Create reports to record events that occur during each shift

Police Officer

Police officers are the first line of defense in our communities, as they protect citizens and their property. They do this by communicating openly with locals, enforcing laws, and being a deterrent through their presence. If someone is suspected of a crime, it is the duty of these officers to make the arrest and identify potential evidence. Officers must have a high school diploma and be able to pass a background check. Other requirements vary, but generally require some sort of training program, whether through an academy or on-the-job. To be successful in this position you must be able to deal with volatile situations, exhibit physical stamina, and be willing to work unusual hours.

Job responsibilities of a police officer include:

  • Obtain and execute search warrants
  • Use computers to search for records and evidence
  • Appear in court regarding related cases
  • Keep detailed reports to ensure cases are handled appropriately

Related Careers

If you are interested in becoming a correctional officer, you may want to read up on becoming a bailiff, as they act as the correctional officers of the court room. FBI agent is a potential career path as well, as they share some similarities with police officers but work on larger, federal crimes.

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