February 7, 2021


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Correctional Officer Job Description, Salary, and Education

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Correctional Officer Job Description

Salary: $31,100 – $52,500Number of Jobs: 454,540
Hourly Rate: $14.97 – $25.25Employment Outlook: Good
Green Job: NoEducation: Moderate-term on-the-job training

What do Correctional Officers do?

Correctional officers guard inmates in prisons or rehabilitative institutions. They maintain a peaceful and safe environment for inmates while strictly observing established procedures and regulations.

Correctional officers have many responsibilities on the job. Common responsibilities include searching inmates for contraband like drugs and weapons, settling disturbances, and disciplining inmates when they break the rules. They also check cells for sanitation standards, and look for evidence when it’s suspected that inmates may have broken the rules.

Each day, correctional officers have to fill out logs that detail the behavior of the inmates, and make note of any behavioral issues that occurred that day. When an inmate has to go to court or needs advanced medical care, correctional officers escort prisoners to where they need to go.

Correctional officers also have to make rounds in the facility they work in to make sure that all gates, windows, locks, and bars are secured and will not provide prisoners with a means of escape.

When a crime occurs within a correctional facility, correctional officers work with police and other government agencies to investigate the crime. However, these officers have no authority outside of the prison they work in.

This can be a dangerous occupation at times. Some inmates have been convicted of violent crimes, and they don’t always respond well to instruction or discipline from a correctional officer. Altercations with inmates are common, and people who work in this field are hurt on the job more than those in just about every other occupation.

Correctional officers spend most of their shifts working on their feet, and have to remain alert at all times. The work can be exhausting and extremely stressful.

Most correctional officers work full time. Since correctional facilities are open every hour of every day, correctional officers are often required to work nights, weekends, and holidays. In some cases, they need to work paid overtime.

How to Become a Correctional Officer

A minimum of a high school diploma or GED is required to work as a correctional officer. In some places, correctional agencies also require candidates to have some college credits or experience in law enforcement or the military. Some community colleges offer programs in correctional science. Graduating from one of these programs can make it easier to find entry level employment.

Correctional officers who work in a federal prison need to have a bachelor’s degree, as well as three years of experience in a related field. Federal correctional officers also have to receive 200 hours of training in their first year of employment, which includes 120 hours of training at the Federal Bureau of Prisons training center.

Before they are hired, correctional officers need to pass physical examinations, drug tests, background checks, and psychological exams. A felony conviction automatically disqualifies potential correctional officers from the application process.

All correctional officers receive on the job training. Training can last anywhere between several weeks and several months, and includes instruction on security and custody procedures, institutional policies, and the laws and regulations that affect correctional officers. In some cases, training also includes firearms training, self defense, and instruction on how to respond to riots, hostage situations, and other disturbances.

Depending on the state, correctional officers need to be at least 18 or 21 years old. New correctional officers need to be appointed before they turn 37.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 454,540 correctional officers in the United States, with 14,360 new correctional officer job openings created each year.

Correctional Officer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Correctional Officer Salaries

Overall Salaries

Correctional Officer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most correctional officers make between $31,100 – $52,500 per year, or $14.97 – $25.25 per hour.

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