Corrections Officer

After other people in law careers have done their duty, corrections officers take over. They deal with people incarcerated in jails and prisons and they maintain the security of the facility and the prisoners and enforce rules.

What is the job of a corrections officer?
Corrections officers work in jails and prisons, overseeing people who have not yet been to trial or those who are serving sentences for crimes. They ensure that no one escapes or is injured by another inmate. By enforcing rules, they keep the peace of the facility and protect the prisoners, the facility and the corrections officers. Sometimes their work includes searching prisoners for contraband, such as drugs or weapons, and supervising work details. They perform frequent inspections to ensure that each prisoner and the facility are safe, without tampering. A daily log of prisoner activities and attitudes is kept and that record is useful during parole hearings. Often one officer works in a cellblock containing 50 to 100 prisoners. Another part of the job is escorting people to trials and hearings.

What are the requirements for the job?
The minimum educational requirement for a corrections officer is a high school diploma or GED. For some state facilities a person must have some college credits, which can be waived if the person has law enforcement experience. The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires a Bachelor’s degree and three years of experience.
A corrections officer must be at least 21 years old, have no felony convictions, be a U.S. citizen and be in good health. They must have excellent communication skills, patience, and an ability to think and act quickly. Background checks and a drug screening are required.

What is the work environment?
The work environment for a corrections officer is stressful and demanding. They have one of the highest rates of nonfatal on-the-job injuries. While some correctional facilities are fairly new, well lit, and have good temperature control, many are severely overcrowded, dark and dingy, and either hot or cold.

Correctional officers typically work 40 hours a week, on rotating shifts. They may be required to take overtime hours when needed. The work must be covered for every hour, so they will have night shifts and work weekends and holidays.

Salaries, job advancement and outlook
In 2008, the median salary for corrections officers was 38,300, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages are higher in federal jobs, up to $51,000. Supervisors of corrections officers earned $57,000.

Corrections officers may be promoted to corrections sergeant, supervising other officers. They may work up to supervisory positions, even up to prison warden.

Employment levels are expected to grow about 9% from 2008 to 2018, about the average for all professions. Increased demand could come from longer sentences and the aging out of current corrections officers.

Last Updated: 05/23/2014

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