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Prison Guard Degrees and Diploma Program Options

Prison guards, sometimes called correctional officers, work in jails and prisons to enforce facility regulations and monitor inmates. All prison guards go through extensive on-the-job training programs.

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Essential Information

Formal prison guard education options are available through diploma, Associate of Applied Science and Bachelor of Science programs in criminal justice. Some of these programs may include courses in self-defense and prison facility management, along with a concentration in corrections. Students learn about the inner workings of courtrooms, jails and mental institutions. They are trained to work with inmates, enforce institutional rules, prevent strife and oversee work duties. Community and technical colleges offer 1-year diploma programs that teach students about procedures regarding visitor rights, mail inspection, searches and escape prevention. Associate's curriculum is typically heavy in social science topics, providing pupils with information on criminal psychology and substance abuse, as well as an overview of the nature of crime and its causes.

Programs provide self-defense and weapons training and prepares students to meet the physical fitness guidelines established by each facility. Negotiations, communications, critical thinking and research skills are gained. At the bachelor's level, how to organize prisoners' daily schedules, monitor prisoner activities and prepare written reports are discussed. For all programs, only a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) equivalent is necessary for admission.


Diploma in Criminal Justice Technology

Coursework exposes students to the legal and justice systems. Topics within the social sciences are also covered, since an understanding of humanity is necessary to perform well in this field. Students may delve into subjects like:

  • Criminology
  • Patrol operations
  • Constitutional law
  • Sociology of crime
  • Communications
  • Defensive tactics

Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice

Students in an AAS in Criminal Justice degree program learn how to safely and effectively work with incarcerated people to ensure that prison rules are followed and that day-to-day operations at the facility run smoothly and safely. Criminal justice classes prepare prison guards for correctional facility work through both liberal arts coursework and training in the physical aspects of the job. Future prison guards are likely to focus on a corrections or law enforcement track in their AAS program, rather than general criminal justice courses. Typical AAS coursework in a criminal justice program includes:

  • Firearms training
  • Criminal law
  • Substance abuse and addiction studies
  • Juvenile justice
  • Psychology of criminal behavior
  • Criminal investigations

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

A criminal justice baccalaureate program consists of classes that address the role of the police, the courts and the prison guard. The history and trends of criminal activity are also discussed. Other possible subjects include:

  • Crime prevention
  • Domestic violence
  • Criminal law and procedures
  • Correctional facilities management
  • Crime scene investigations

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a diploma program are equipped with a skill set that prepares them for entry-level employment, though an associate's or bachelor's degree can improve job prospects. They may find positions in government, law enforcement or security. Job roles are similar in any correctional facility, but training, responsibilities and workload vary depending on the nature of the facility, ratio of workers to inmates, common types of crime seen in the surrounding area and other variables. A few examples of job titles graduates may attain are:

  • Prison guard
  • Detention officer
  • Corrections officer
  • Loss prevention specialist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of correctional officers would increase by 4% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for this position was $40,530 as of May 2015.

Prison guard programs prepare students to work with inmates, enforce institutional rules, prevent strife and oversee work duties in a number of different environments. These skills are necessary to gain entry-level employment, but additional degrees may provide more opportunity for advancement.

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