Youth correctional officers are required to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Training programs may be available from employers, though many candidates begin training by enrolling in a criminal justice associate's and bachelor's degree program. Youth correctional officers should have excellent communication skills in order to supervise, control and guide juveniles. Some positions require correctional officers to provide teaching or counseling services, so they should demonstrate patience, organization, professionalism and objectivity. Physical fitness is also an important aspect of working in correctional services.
Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
An associate's degree program in criminal justice introduces students to criminal justice, judicial and correctional systems. Students learn social and psychological theories of criminal behavior, crime prevention and correctional strategies. Programs require two years of study and include courses in:
- Criminal justice theories
- Correctional systems and policing
- Criminal law
- Crime and delinquency
- Juvenile corrections
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
While an associate's degree program provides a foundational knowledge of criminal justice, a bachelor's degree program provides students with advanced coursework. Students take core courses in psychology, sociology and judicial administration. Many courses focus on research and statistics in criminology and related subjects. Programs may offer internship opportunities with local correctional agencies. Common courses include:
- Advanced correctional strategies
- Social statistics and research
- Aspects of criminal behavior
- Forensic science investigation
- Criminal victimization
- Correctional case management
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, correctional officers and bailiffs, as of 2015, made a median annual wage of $40,580. The BLS also states that the employment for these officers, from 2014-2024, is expected to grow 4%. This is slower than average.
Certification for juvenile correctional officers is available from the American Correctional Association (ACA). Although certification is not required, it may be preferred by an employer. Similarly, employers may ask correctional officers to obtain certification within six months of employment. The ACA offers different levels of certification for professionals with varying amounts of training and experience. Entry-level credentials as a Certified Corrections Officer for Juveniles (CCO/JUV) are available for correctional officers with a high school diploma, one year of experience and a satisfactory work evaluation from an employer. To obtain CCO/JUV credentials, officers must pass an exam administered by the ACA. This certification is designed for correctional officers who work directly with juvenile offenders; youth officers who are supervisors can obtain Certified Corrections Supervisor for Juveniles (CCS/JUV) credentials by meeting similar requirements. Certification is also available for juvenile managers and executives who supervise entire programs or correctional facilities.
Training workshops are held by colleges and universities with criminal justice degree programs. Juvenile delinquency workshops apply correctional and criminal prevention strategies to youth populations, providing students with knowledge that might not be available through conventional criminal justice curriculums. Employers may also offer workshops for newly hired youth correctional officers with little professional experience. The ACA provides training workshops for juvenile correctional officers through its Online Corrections Academy (OCA). These workshops address areas of juvenile corrections, rehabilitation and delinquency prevention. The ACA also offers in-person workshops at their headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
The ACA provides professional development, continuing education and advancement resources for juvenile correctional officers (www.aca.org). The ACA offers corrections professionals several publications, including Corrections Today magazine, Corrections Compendium journal and Correctional Health Today journal. The organization's website provides continuing education events, industry conferences and a database of professional standards and best practices.
Youth correctional officers can also obtain a master's degree in criminal justice, counseling or psychology to increase their knowledge of correctional systems. Obtaining a master's degree allows juvenile correctional officers to pursue supervisory positions as correctional program directors, juvenile counselors and correctional managers.
Though there are some opportunities which only require a high school diploma, job prospects are best for youth correctional officers with an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice. These programs ensure graduates have the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful.