How Do You Become a Corrections Officer?

Law enforcement is a popular career choice and many people are researching how to become a corrections officer. That is largely determined by what division of corrections interests you. Corrections encompasses several different areas and all of them require rigorous job preparation.

What is a Corrections Officer?

According to US Legal, the definition of a corrections officer is “an officer responsible for the custody, safety, security, and supervision of inmates in a prison or any other correctional facility.” Corrections is a division of law enforcement but people who work in the profession are not technically law enforcement officers. They do not have the power to make arrests; they only enforce the laws that pertain to the custody of offenders. Officers work as court bailiffs responsible for the welfare and security of offenders at court proceedings, as well as in jails and prisons and as parole or probation officers. Corrections officers at prisons and jails are unarmed, and sometimes do not wear protective vests. Because of this, one vital component of the job is developing relationships with the offenders so that officers will know if there is unusual stress or agitation and anticipate situations that might be dangerous for the officers and for the inmates.

How Do You Apply for the Job?

For local or state positions, applicants must have a high school diploma or a GED. Minimum age varies by state from 18 to 21. You must have no previous felonies and be a United States citizen. Federal requirements are more stringent: you must have a bachelor’s degree or have at least three years of work experience in a related field. You must be at least 21 years old, and no older than 36 years. You must have no previous felonies or history of domestic abuse, pass a background check and drug testing and undergo a written examination. Once you are hired as an officer, you will be sent to an academy where you will receive rigorous physical training and classroom instruction in first aid and CPR, managing special-needs offenders, firearms, offender rights, privileges and responsibilities, and other courses important to safely maintaining custody of offenders. Academies usually last from one to five months. You may have the option of living on or off campus during this time. After the academy, there is on-the-job training that is particular to the facility where you will work. Federal corrections employees must have some background in behavioral sciences. They complete 200 hours of initial training and must take continuing education courses annually. Officers can also choose to become certified through the American Corrections Association.

What is the Job Outlook for Corrections Officers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a slower-than-average growth in this field, but that depends upon the number of people incarcerated in the country. It also depends upon the state where you work, and whether you are employed in the governmental or private sector. The median pay for all corrections officers is $41,956 but federal jobs pay more and have more benefits.

Related Resource: Parole Officer

People in this profession are at an advantage if they have greater physical stature, and military experience is also a plus in getting a job. Nevertheless, there are openings for women in the profession and anyone with a desire to become a corrections officer who meets the requirements can find a career in this branch of law enforcement.