Correctional officers play a very important role in the criminal justice system. They are responsible for keeping order within jails and prisons. To accomplish that, correctional officers must ensure that inmates follow rules and behave according to the prisons' rules and regulations. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that career growth within this field is slow, as illustrated in the figures above, many jails and prisons experience high turnover due to stress. Due to such high turnover rates, there should be positions available for up-and-coming officers. Once hired, correctional officers can expect to fulfill the following duties:
- Inspecting inmates and prison cells to ensure that the prison is free of weapons and other contraband.
- Supervising interactions between inmates to ensure that they remain civil.
- Reporting on inmate behavior, especially prison rule violations.
- Helping inmates participate in rehabilitation programs.
One of the most important responsibilities of correctional officers is being fair and objective. Officers cannot favor some inmates over others; they must report all infractions, regardless of the person responsible. Additionally they also must be adept at handling stressful situations, as inmates can become violent. Emotional strength is therefore vital for success within criminal justice jobs.
Job Growth for
- Annual Pay National Average
- Hourly Pay National Average
Becoming a Correctional Officer
Before qualifying for careers in corrections, candidates must earn high school diplomas or the equivalent. Although some states do not require candidates to have degrees, earning an associate or bachelor's degree in a criminal justice field can help improve job prospects. In addition, students who have earned a bachelor's degree in corrections or a related field can qualify to work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Once admitted into bachelor's degree programs, future correctional officers will learn about criminal law, investigations, and the rehabilitation programs that exist for offenders. They will also study criminal behavior, which will give them insight into ways to manage unruly inmates. Students may be required to take kinesiology courses to help them stay physically fit as well, which will come in handy if they ever need to restrain violent prisoners. Some of the specific classes that students will take include:
- Ethics in criminal justice
- Correctional Institutions
- Public Policy
Education does not end at the receipt of a degree. After graduating, correctional officers must receiving training. Exact training requirements will depend on the individual facilities, however many facilities follow training criteria set forth by the American Correctional Association. Typically, training includes practice with firearms, hands-on experience within a prison, and physical conditioning. Although it is not required, correctional officers can pursue additional certificates in areas like juvenile justice or adult corrections by taking exams. Earning a certification may lead to career advancements.