Youth corrections officers work in juvenile detention centers, such as prisons and jails. They can also work as probation officers outside of jails, focusing on rehabilitating and supporting ex-juvenile offenders. Both of these positions can be dangerous, so candidates should be ready to prove their physical endurance before applying.
Individuals in the field of youth corrections primarily work as correctional officers in municipal, state or federal prisons, jails, group homes and other detention or rehabilitation centers that house juvenile offenders. Careers in youth corrections require a clean legal background and a substantial degree of physical strength and endurance. For employees at federal juvenile corrections centers, a bachelor's degree is required. Most correctional facilities require applicants to complete a physical fitness or endurance test prior to employment. Because of the highly physical nature of the job, age limits are also often in place for youth corrections officers. All corrections job applicants must also pass criminal background checks before working with juvenile offenders.
|Local Corrections||State Corrections||Federal Corrections||Probation or Parole Officers|
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma or equivalent||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's or Master's degree|
|Other Requirements||Training academy||Training academy||Training academy and prior counseling or supervisory experience||Certification program|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||-7%||-7%||-7%||3%|
|Average Annual Salary (2018)*||$44,830||$43,940||$58,010||$58,790|
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Youth corrections officers are responsible for maintaining order in correctional facilities, particularly among the juvenile inmates. They also perform many other duties designed to keep correctional facilities running smoothly and safely by searching prisoners and prison grounds for contraband, screening visitors and mail, and ensuring inmate compliance with facility guidelines.
Youth corrections officials may also work outside of correctional facilities as correctional or probation officers in prisons, jails, halfway houses and probation offices. Some youth corrections officers serve as official or unofficial counselors to juvenile delinquents who suffer from addictions or traumas related to child abuse.
Youth corrections officers often face a dangerous working environment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), corrections officers as a whole suffer among the greatest risk of work-related injuries of any profession (www.bls.gov). Prisoners may commit acts of physical violence against one another, which corrections officers are responsible for breaking up - or against corrections officers themselves. In order to minimize injury risk, youth corrections officers should be physically strong and agile.
The BLS reports that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), which regulates employment in all federal correctional facilities, requires possession of a bachelor's degree in order to become a federal corrections officer (www.bls.gov). There are no uniform educational requirements in place for youth corrections officers at the local or state level. Students may prepare themselves for employment at correctional facilities of all types by pursuing bachelor's degrees in youth corrections or criminal justice with a juvenile corrections concentration. Certificate and associate's degree programs are also available.
Students enrolled in juvenile corrections certificate programs learn the basic tenets of law enforcement and juvenile delinquency. Common required courses include developmental psychology, theories of deviant behavior, criminology and juvenile justice. Students may also earn Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in juvenile justice. AAS degree programs provide education in criminal law, delinquency prevention and foundations of juvenile courts, probation and residential treatment centers.
Bachelor's degree programs provide students with an in-depth education on all criminal law and social science-related aspects of juvenile justice, including legal report-writing, correctional procedures, cultural diversity in youth corrections, criminal evidence search and seizure, child abuse and family violence. Completion of several relevant internships is typically a graduation requirement in both associate's and bachelor's degree programs.
Average salaries for youth corrections specialists may differ depending on exact job title and place of employment. According to the BLS, the mean yearly salary for corrections officers working at the local level was $44,830 as of 2018. At the state level, it was $43,940. Federal corrections officers received slightly higher salaries, earning a reported average of $58,010 annually as of 2018 (www.bls.gov). Probations and correctional treatment specialists earned $58,790.
To work at the state and local level, a corrections officer needs only a high school diploma, or equivalent, in order to enter the training academy. Federal corrections officers and probation officers need a bachelor's degree before entering their specialized training programs. Degree and certificate programs can give students an understanding of the criminal law and juvenile justice system, while the training and certification programs for each position prepare new recruits for the physical and mental challenges of the job.