How To Become A Correctional Officer

This job requires a high school diploma or GED to be considered for the position; although, specific requirements may vary with agencies. For instance, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree or three years of work experience related to military or law enforcement, or a combination of the two. Candidates must also attend training academies that follow the recommendations provided by the American Correctional Association (ACA). After this, they will be provided additional on-the-job training by being assigned to work under a senior officer. In addition to this, candidates must be at least 18 to 21 years of age, be a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency and have no felony convictions.

How To Benefit From Online Education
The requisite education for becoming a correctional officer may be easily gained by enrolling in an accredited online degree program. Students earning a degree through this option may benefit from flexible schedules, lower costs, and an opportunity to progress at their own pace.

What Do They Do
Correctional Officers (CO) work inside prisons and jails where they enforce rules and regulations. They have to monitor and report inmate conduct and keep order within facilities. For this purpose, they often have to use handcuffs, leg irons, weapons, and physical force. They have to supervise the activities of inmates, and search them for contraband items such as drugs and weapons. Their assistance is required in the process of rehabilitation of offenders. They are also responsible for ascertaining that the facility meets the established criteria by inspecting conditions within the facility. Other responsibilities include:

  • Guarding facility entrances and screening visitors
  • Inspect conditions of locks, grills, doors, window bars, and gates at correctional facilities to prevent escapes
  • Book convicted people into prison
  • Maintain discipline and prevent violence amongst inmates by monitoring them during work, recreational activities, and in housing units
  • Assist in educational opportunities and counseling provided to the inmates

Job Outlook
As stated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow by five percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than the average of all occupations. This trend could be explained by the fact that in recent years the crime rate has been falling steadily due to enhanced security practices.  Budgetary constraints have also necessitated laws that provide alternatives to prison and shorter jail terms. In May 2010, COs held about 493,100 jobs, and their median annual wage was around $39,040. They are employed under the following titles:

  • Detention officer
  • Public safety officer
  • Booking officer

What Is The Work Environment?
Most correctional officers feel that their work environment is highly stressful as they have to deal with aggressive and violent people.  Their job often leads to confrontations with the inmates. There is also less room for creativity and work responsibilities could become monotonous, such as inspecting facilities, equipment, and materials. As security has to be in place 24-hours a day, these professionals work on rotating shifts for a total of 8 hours per day and five days per week. They should also expect to be called to work during various holidays.

Q:How long does it take to become a correctional officer?

A:After completing high school, 2-4 years are needed to prepare for a correctional officer job. Some states require an associate or a bachelor level degree, along with work experience. It is recommended that you seek information about the minimum educational and training requirements in your state. Browse through our page for more detail.

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