Corrections Officer Job Description & Career Outlook

Corrections Officers, also known as Correctional Officers and Detention Deputies, are responsible for supervising people who either have been arrested and are being held for trial or have been convicted of a crime and are serving a sentence in a jail, reformatory, or penitentiary. Corrections officers are responsible first and foremost for maintaining security of the facility and to guard against escapes by the prisoners, assaults between prisoners and assaults on other corrections officers by prisoners, and general disturbances in the corrections setting.

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Occasionally, corrections officers conduct searches of inmates and their cells. They typically inspect all areas of the institution for safety and security; they may also inspect inmates’ incoming and outgoing mail. They only have these law enforcement responsibilities inside the location where they work; they do not have any law enforcement responsibilities out in the community, as do police officers. Corrections officers document the happenings inside the institution consistently; it is important that they communicate information about the behavior of inmates and anything unusual that happens during their shift. Corrections officers may work either armed or unarmed, depending on the institution’s security level. A corrections degree from an accredited school will help set you up for success as a corrections officer.

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Corrections Officer Job Requirements

For people who want to become a corrections officer, a high school diploma or GED is required although most employers favor an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree. For a federal corrections job, corrections officers must have at least a bachelor’s degree and three years of work experience in a related field such as supervision or counseling. Law enforcement or military experience might also meet the requirements for this job. Applicants for a position as a corrections officer must be at least 18-21 years old (depending on location), be a U.S. citizen, and have no felony convictions. Once hired, corrections officers participate in a training academy and then have a period of on-the-job training. This training includes communication skills, interpersonal relations, firearms training, procedures for custody and security, self-defense, and guidelines and restrictions that are placed on them by law.

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Working in a correctional facility can be a challenge. Corrections officers must be in good health and have sound judgment and the ability to make quick, appropriate decisions. They may be required to pass a written exam, go through a background check, and submit to periodic drug screenings. Corrections officers work in potentially dangerous situations; this occupation has a high rate of injuries that occur on the job.

Corrections Officer Salary and Benefits

As of 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual salary of $39,020 for correctional officers.1 In addition to salary, typical benefits for corrections officers include health insurance, retirement benefits, and a uniform allowance.

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Corrections Officer Career Outlook

Job opportunities in corrections in upcoming years appear fair. The demand is expected to increase slightly over the next decade, taking into account population growth, rising incarceration rates, longer sentences for criminals, and the retirement and transfer into other occupations of existing corrections officers. The BLS projects job growth for correctional officers to be about 5% from 2010-2020, slower than the average occupation.1

Online Corrections Degrees, Training, Programs and Schools

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American InterContinental University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor's - Corrections and Case Management

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University of Phoenix
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • A.A. in Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration - Human Services
  • B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration - Management

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Walden University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • B.S. in Human Services - Criminal Justice 
  • Ph.D. in Social Work - Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Criminal Justice - Crime and Criminals

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Capella University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • PhD - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

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California University of Pennsylvania
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Master of Science in Legal Studies: Criminal Justice
  • MA in Social Science (Applied Criminology)

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Liberty University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Masters in Criminal Justice: Command College

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Colorado Technical University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Human Services
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice


References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Correctional-officers.htm

Page Edited by Charles Sipe.