Under Lock and Key: Pursuing a Career as a Corrections Office
Learn more about career opportunities for corrections officers, including career advancement, salary, and recommended training.
When Sherry Richardson was named Correction Officer of the Year by the Connecticut Department of Correction, she credited her firm, fair, and consistent approach. "I look at it really as a journey that I have been on... I love the job," she said. "I love the people."
Sherry, a single mother of two, is just one of thousands of corrections officers nationwide who love their jobs, working with each other to manage and process the 1.5 million people incarcerated at any given time in the nation's local, state, and Federal prisons.
Working as a Corrections Officer
If you're looking for a career with real rewards, consider a position as a corrections officer. Though the job comes with daily challenges, corrections officers appreciate the ability to work in a team with other bailiffs, court officers, and supervisors. Officers may focus on one duty, such as searching inmates and their living quarters, inspecting locks and gates, or managing mail and visitors to the facility.
Training for entry-level positions in state and local prisons is typically completed on-site. However, corrections officers hoping to advance in the career or work in a Federal setting are advised to pursue a formal education.
Fast Facts: Corrections Officers
• Correctional officers employed nationwide in 2006: 500,000
• Popular employers: Federal, state, and local government
• Job growth expected through 2016: 16 percent (82,000 jobs)
• Age requirement: 18 to 21 (varies by state)
Department of Corrections Salary Report
Check out the mean annual wages of some of the most popular correctional facility careers, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2007:
• Correctional officers and jailers: $39,970
• Bailiffs, marshals, court officers: $38,510
• Federal correctional officers: $48,550
• First-line supervisors/managers of correctional officers: $56,510
Wages and bonuses may vary based on your location and experience. While no college degree can guarantee a particular career or salary, formal training is typically required by many hiring managers. The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have a bachelor's degree.
Corrections Officer Training Facts
While correctional facilities typically require a high school diploma or equivalent for employment, workers hoping to advance in the field or take on entry-level Federal jobs should consider formal training, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that promotion prospects are enhanced with a college education. Training can make you a more versatile employee.
A range of degree and certificate programs are available, depending on your personal career goals. Bachelor's degrees in criminal justice provide an encompassing four-year education, while shorter-term associate degrees and certificates may be appropriate for some advancement on a local level. Typical training courses may include firearms laws, self-defense courses, and custody and security procedures.
Rewarding Careers in the Department of Corrections
Working as a corrections officer means working to keep people safe and productive in difficult circumstances. Sherry Richardson credits her success as a corrections officer to her ability to communicate. "I love people," she told The News-Times. "I can work with anyone. It's about understanding people."
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Correctional Officers
Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2007 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
"Corrections officer earns respect of peers" by Karen Ali for The News-Times