What Is the Difference Between Correctional Officers & Bailiffs?

Jul 27, 2018

There are different types of law enforcement officers than just police. Correctional officers enforce regulations in prisons and jails, while bailiffs maintain a safe environment in courtrooms.

Comparing Correctional Officers to Bailiffs

Correctional officers and bailiffs both have the ultimate goals of maintaining a safe environment and handling punishment for those who break regulations and jeopardize that safety. Correctional officers do this in prisons and jails, and bailiffs handle these responsibilities during courtroom proceedings.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Correctional Officer High school diploma and academy training $43,540 -8% (for all correctional officers and jailers)
Bailiff High school diploma and academy training $42,960 -2%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Correctional Officers vs. Bailiffs

Correctional officers and bailiffs are both law enforcement officers, and the primary difference between them is where they work. Correctional officers work in prisons and jails, protecting the population, enforcing rules, and preventing escape. Bailiffs work in courtrooms, protecting everyone in the court, ensuring that laws and court regulations are followed, and generally making sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible to guarantee a fair and safe trial can take place. Both positions require physical stamina and the ability to remain calm during intense situations.

Correctional Officer

Corrections officers are in charge of the safety and containment of inmates in prisons and jails. Their main responsibilities are to prevent conflict, enforce rules, and inspect the facilities to prevent escape or the distribution of illegal materials. These officers oversee inmates' behavior, sometimes using surveillance equipment, and must report any actions that appear suspicious or go against regulations. For this position, you must be in good physical shape and be able to handle incredibly stressful situations, at potentially any hour of the day. A high school diploma and some secondary academy training is generally required.

Job responsibilities of a correctional officer include:

  • File reports regarding inmate behavior
  • Safely transport inmates between facilities
  • Conduct searches on inmates and visitors
  • Search mail and other incoming materials for contraband


A bailiff is an officer who manages the security of a courtroom. They enforce the rules of the court, and they make arrests or escort unruly observers out when necessary. Bailiffs are a vital part of ensuring that the legal process runs smoothly, without unnecessary interruptions. They are ultimately responsible for the security of everyone in the court. This is a full- or part-time position for someone who is comfortable standing for the majority of the day. A high school education is required, along with completion of a training academy.

Job responsibilities of a bailiff include:

  • Protect juries that are being sequestered
  • Escort parties to and from the courtroom, including judges, prisoners and witnesses
  • Inspect the courtroom and surrounding areas for suspicious activity
  • Notify the judge when the jury comes to a decision

Related Careers

If you are interested in working in a courtroom setting, like bailiffs do, you may be enjoy becoming a court stenographer. If you are intrigued by the work done by correctional officers but prefer not to work directly in prisons or jails, you may look into becoming a police officer.

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