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Correctional Officer Training and Schooling Requirements

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

Correctional officers are responsible for supervising people who are incarcerated or are in custody awaiting trial. The minimum requirement for an entry level position is a high school diploma, but some employers may require a post-secondary award related to criminal justice. The following article details the educational requirements and job outlook for a correctional officer.

Essential Information

Correctional officers maintain order, enforce rules and control the inmates of correctional facilities. The education required for this career varies by employer and position. Although some officers hold a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree related to criminal justice, a high school diploma is often the minimum academic requirement. Prior military training is sometimes accepted as well. On-the-job training is essential for correctional officers, and applicants may need to possess work experience and meet age requirements.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary training in a criminal justice-related field sometimes necessary
Other Requirements Age requirements and work experience; completion of training academy
Projected Job Growth 4% from 2014-2024*
Average Salary (2015) $45,320 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Correctional Officer Training Overview

Correctional officer training is usually provided by trade schools and community colleges, but is also provided by local, state or federal departments of corrections training facilities. Programs usually culminate in a certificate, but associate's and bachelor's degrees are offered in criminal justice. Most training programs are based on American Jail Association (AJA) guidelines as well as those of the American Correctional Association (ACA). Local and state correctional facilities usually hire correctional officers and give them on-the-job training during a probationary period. The length of this probationary period varies by state.

Topics of study in correctional officer and criminal justice programs include correctional rules and regulations, institutional policies, security measures, custody procedures and defensive tactics. Individuals hoping to become part of tactical response teams within correctional facilities might take specialized courses in hostage negotiations, riot situations, forced inmate moves and firearms training. They may learn to disarm prisoners, use chemical agents appropriately and manage dangerous situations. Additional subjects may include first aid, emergency preparedness, criminal justice communications and inmate searches.

Schooling Requirements

The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires a bachelor's degree for entry-level correctional officers along with three years of practical experience; it may accept a combination of the two. Most correctional agencies require some schooling, but others will accept law enforcement or military training as a substitute. Certain correctional officer certificate programs require students to complete internships in approved correctional situations. Some correctional officer and criminal justice training programs require that students be at least 19 before they graduate; some institutions have specific age requirements for new employees.

Correctional officers enforce rules and maintain order in jails and prisons, supervise the activities of inmates, and make sure that facilities meet safety and security standards. Many employers ask for only a high school diploma and provide on-the-job training, but some facilities require a post-secondary award in a criminal justice or related field. In addition, many employers will require completion of a training academy as a condition of employment.


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