How To Become A Correctional Officer

As a correctional officer, you will protect and provide security inside of prisons and jails. This is a job that involves elements of risk, and it is certainly not for everybody. If you value the law and justice system, this is a good job for you. You will respond to crisis situations. You will make our jails a safer place to be. Training is extensive for becoming a corrections officer, and some officers also go to school for criminal justice.

Why Become A Correctional Officer

Correctional officers are the security inside of our nation’s prisons and jails. Correctional officers are responsible for watching people who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in prison. These people are the ones who make sure jails are a safe environment for everybody there.

Correctional officers are responsible for enforcing the rules inside of jails. They help prevent escapes in the jail, assaults and fights. They calm down arguments between inmates. A Correction Officer will make reports on inappropriate behavior. They make sure the inmates are located where they are supposed to be. They also supervise inmate activities. They inspect facilities on a regular basis. Officers search inmates for illegal and contraband items. While it is not always easy being a Correctional officer, it is a vital role inside of a jail or prison.

Some people make natural Correctional officers. People who excel at being fast-acting, thinking quickly and calmly in a crisis situation. People who are not afraid of confrontation, may enjoy this as a future career choice.

Correctional Officers must have the following qualities and skills:

Qualities & Skills For A Correctional Officer

If you are looking for employment within the field of correctional, be aware that you will need to possess the following qualities and skills for a correctional officer position.

  1. Communication Skills – As a correctional officer, you must be able to effectively and clearly communicate with inmates, staff, and judicial staff. As a correctional officer, it is vital to treat inmates with respect and dignity, while practicing the art of empathy.
  2. Physical Strength – Correctional officers must be physically fit and have the strength of apprehend inmates during hostile situations.
  3. Judgment Skills As a correctional officer, you must have a plethora of common sense in order to quickly determine the best solution or steps to a situation.
  4. Self-Discipline Skills Correctional officers must be able to keep a cool head and react quickly, as controlling your emotions is vital the safety of the correctional officer and other inmates.
  5. Resourcefulness Skills – As a correctional officer, it will be your responsibility to understand an inmate’s circumstantial situation, which will allow you to make smart choices when working within a correctional facility. Additionally, if a dangerous situation arises, you will need to react quickly while determining the best, practical solution to an issue.
  6. Negotiation Skills In order to avoid inmate or staff conflicts, correctional officers must be able to make negotiation decisions when resolving differences.

Correctional Officer Work Environment

Almost all Correctional officers work for federal, state and local governments. Their job is to watch over individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial. They also watch those who have been sentenced to serve time in prison. Due to the nature of people who Correctional officers work with, this can be a potentially dangerous job. A Correctional officer is working with hostile people who do not want to be in jail. The officer must be physically strong, fast-acting and be able to confront inmates. Correctional officers work on rotating shifts and they may be scheduled to work.

Correctional Officer Salary

The median salary for a Correctional officer was $40,580 in May 2015, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are many things that may affect a Correctional officer’s salary. The facility that they are working for, whether it is a federal, state or local government determines the salary, with amounts varying at each level. Some Correctional officers are paid a salary, while others are paid hourly wages. Correctional officers are more likely than other professions to be part of a union.

Average Correctional Officer Annual Salary


The average annual salary for correctional officers is $47,600 a year. Salaries start at $29,540 a year and go up to $74,940 a year.

Average Correctional Officer Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a correctional officer is $22.88. Hourly wages are between $14.20 and $36.03 an hour.

Stats were based out of 428,870 employed correctional officers in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Correctional Officers

Top Paying Cities For Correctional Officers

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Correctional Officer Career Outlook

Employment opportunities for Correctional officers are expected to increase by four percent from 2014 to 2024. This is slower than average growth compared to the other occupations in the United States.

There will always be a need for Correctional officers to watch over prisoners. In the future, the prison population will continue to grow. On the other hand, local, state and federal jails are funded using government monies, and these are in short supply. The hiring of Correctional officers may be stunted in the case of not having enough money to hire additional staff.

Correctional Officer Degree

Read below to find out how you can earn a career as a Correctional officer.

Step 1: Graduate from high school. Most facilities require you to earn a high school diploma before you can apply for a position as a Correctional officer. In high school you will learn basic skills such as reading, math and science.

Step 2: Consider undergraduate education. Many undergraduate colleges, community colleges, and vocational schools offer programs in criminal justice or correctional studies. If you would like to pursue a job as a Correctional officer inside of a federal prison, you are required to have a bachelor’s degree.

Other requirements include years of full-time experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision to others. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to obtain.

Step 3: Receive training. Training is a crucial step to be able to perform your position. Federal, state, and some local facilities provide training for their own Correctional officers. Courses in training include self-defense, rules and regulations, custody and security procedures, and the operations of the facility. Some Correctional officers are trained with how to carry a weapon, even though most do not usually have weapons on them while they are on shift.

Correctional officers in federal prisons must obtain 200 hours of formal training. Experienced officers are expected to obtain continued education classes. Once the training academy has been completed, additional on-the-job training is provided under the guidance of other officers at the facility.

More Careers To Explore

Leave A Comment