How do I become a corrections officer? This is a common question asked by many high school students. Corrections officers work in a variety of different settings, including jails, prisons and community corrections facilities. Being a corrections officer is a great way to use your critical thinking and interpersonal skills to make a positive impact on the lives of inmates.
What is it like to be a corrections officer?
If you want to become a corrections officer, you need to be in good physical shape. The main duty of a corrections officer is to maintain order in the facility. As you become more experienced you will be able to diffuse volatile situations before they become violent. However, no matter how experienced you are in corrections, you will always be in charge of keeping inmates safe and secure. On an average day, you may have to restrain one or more inmates. Good interpersonal skills and respect for inmates are essential to success in corrections.
What are the education requirements for a corrections officer?
A degree is not usually required for local corrections officer jobs. However, if you plan to become a corrections officer on the federal level, you will need a bachelor’s degree. Most colleges and universities offer degree programs in criminal justice with a focus on corrections. While a degree may not be required for the job, the knowledge you will gain while earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will help to prepare you for the rigors of the job.
Most corrections agencies have their own training programs. This training is required to become a corrections officer, even if you have a formal degree. In the training program, corrections officers are taught the rules of the facility and security procedures. Corrections officers are trained to be prepared for routine and non-routine situations. You will learn admissions and release procedures, policies regarding medical emergencies and other facility specific rules and regulations.
If your plan is to become a federal corrections officer, you will need to prepare by earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Experience in a related field may be substituted for a formal education. Both formal and on-the-job training are required for entry-level employment with the Federal Bureau of Corrections.
Most facilities require corrections officers to be armed. If you are required to carry a weapon on the job, you will be trained on proper use of the weapon. While you are training to become a corrections officer, you will learn how to disarm inmates and respond to fights and riots.
Salary and job opportunities for corrections officers
The salary you can expect as a corrections officer is directly related to the amount of education you have. Federal corrections officer positions require college degrees, but the average salary is over $54,000. State and local governments require less education and pay less in return. Corrections officers in state and local facilities can expect to earn, on average, less than $40,000 per year.
Job openings are generally available for corrections officers in jails and prisons due to high employee turnover. As states attempt to trim their corrections budgets by sentencing nonviolent offenders to community corrections facilities, more opportunities will be available in the private sector.