How to Become a Corrections Officer

Corrections Officer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $40,250
Avg. Pay / hour $19.35
Education 0-6 Months
Job Outlook -7%

When you become a corrections officer, you are responsible for the safety and well-being of prisoners within secure custody.

Other names for a corrections officer are a jailer, jail officer, prison officer, or prison warden.

If you’re looking for a job that allows you to give back to society and have an interest in law enforcement, then you might like to become a corrections officer.

You’ll need to have good interpersonal and negotiations skills, as difficult situations can arise in prisons sometimes.

You’ll also have to have a firm mannerism, and be able to demand to respect of the prisoners in your care.

Education Requirements to Become a Corrections Officer

In most places, you’ll need to be at least 18 to become a corrections officer.

In other places, you may need to be 21, but you will need to have your high school diploma or a GED to qualify for a job in most prison systems.

In federal prisons you may need a four year bachelor degree, or significant experience working with people in a career such as counseling or as a police officer.

Also, you will need to have US citizenship.

If you have a criminal record, you may not be able to work as a corrections officer.

Any felony, a misdemeanor within the last five years, or a charge involving drugs or violence will disqualify you in most instances.

Being in good health is also a requirement to become a corrections officer.

Before you start work, you’ll need to pass a medical test that will ensure you have good site and vision.

You’ll also need to be in good shape physically as well.

Most prisons take applications directly, and begin with an application followed by a written examination.

If you’re successful, you’ll go on to medical and psychological screening tests.

After you’ve been selected to work as a corrections officer, the institution may send you to some additional training before you start work.

If you are interested in working in a federal prison, you may like to look at the Federal Bureau of Prisons web site to see current job vacancies.

Corrections Officer Job Description

Corrections officers are mainly responsible for the security and safety of inmates within the prison system.

Keeping order in the prison is also important, as well as diffusing any hostile situations.

Fights, and sometimes even riots, can occur, so a prison officer needs to be prepared.

Corrections officers have one of the highest rates of non-fatal on the job injuries of any occupation.

Knowing that you may face a situation where you are put at risk of harm is important before you decide to become a corrections officer.

Working as a corrections officer, you’ll need to process incoming and outgoing inmates.

You will supervise prisoners in the system, and respond to events like assaults or escapes.

You will also need to keep a look out for contraband, or banned substances, such as weapons or drugs.

Here are some of the duties of a corrections officer:

  • Maintaining the order of a correctional institution
  • Contributing to the rehabilitation of prisoners
  • Ensuring the rules and regulations of a prison are upheld
  • Ensuring banned substances are not brought into the prison
  • Transportation of inmates
  • Responding to hostile situations

Corrections Officer Salary and Career Path

When you become a corrections officer you will have access to excellent benefits, such as paid leave, as well as health and dental insurance.

Once you are qualified you have excellent job security.

Job opportunities in this field are good, and there are usually plenty of positions available.

The skills you learn in one job are easily transferable to another, so no matter where you are living in the country you should always be able to find work.

Starting out as a corrections officer, you will work completing some or all of the tasks mentioned above.

With time you may be promoted to a position such as corrections sergeant, who oversees the management of a prison.

Some correctional officers go on to work in other parts of law enforcement, such as a parole officer, or a probation officer.

The median salary for a corrections officer is $38,000 a year.

The median for managerial or supervisory roles, such as a corrections sergeant, is $57,000 a year.

Some similar roles to that of corrections officer include:

If you’re looking for a secure job in law enforcement, then a career as a corrections officer might be right for you.

There are good opportunities, benefits, and salary available for interested candidates.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Hampshire$51,380
New Jersey$73,490
New Mexico$39,170
New York$71,160
North Carolina$41,520
North Dakota$48,510
South Carolina$40,620
South Dakota$42,160
West Virginia$42,270
Puerto Rico$26,620

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $81,170.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $81,170
New Jersey - $73,490
Massachusetts - $72,260
New York - $71,160
Oregon - $68,790
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Correctional Officers and Jailers, OCC Code 33-3012, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Corrections Officer?

Corrections officers are responsible for keeping order in correctional facilities and supervising the activities of inmates and for overseeing people who have been arrested and await trial.

They also have to write reports that detail inmate behavior during their shift.

Corrections officers usually work in shifts full-time, including weekends and holidays.

Working in a jail or prison can be dangerous. Corrections officers sometimes become injured in confrontations with inmates, they have one of the highest rates of injuries of all occupations.

Corrections officers must have good decision-making and interpersonal skills.

They also need physical strength, negotiating and communication skills and self-discipline.

How much does a Corrections Officer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for corrections officers and jailers was $44,330 in May of 2018.

How much a corrections officer makes depends on his or her level of experience, the region, and the employer.

The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,140 a year, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,760.

How much does it cost to become a Corrections Officer?

The educational requirements vary by state, but all corrections officers need a high school diploma or GED.

Corrections officers also attend a training academy.

Some federal agencies may also require corrections officers to hold a bachelor’s or associate degree in criminal justice or experience in the law enforcement field.

The cost for bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice varies depending on the college you choose.

The average annual cost for out-of-state students is around $32,000.

In order to make sure that you receive the best possible education, you should choose to complete your education at an institution that is accredited by government institutes.

What is the demand for Corrections Officers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for corrections officers is expected to decline 7 percent from 2018 to 2028.

However, the number of job openings for corrections officers depends on the state and government budgets and the number of inmates.

Change to criminal laws affects how many people are incarcerated each year.

Many state governments have moved towards laws requiring shorted prison terms and alternatives to prison in order to reduce costs.

How long does it take to become a Corrections Officer?

The answer to this question depends on the job you are targeting and the employment requirements.

While a high school diploma and completing a training academy may be enough in some cases, some federal agencies require college education or previous work experience.

How long will it take before you complete your correctional officer training depends on the academy you choose, some academies can be completed in as little as 3 or 4 weeks, while others can be as long as 20 weeks.

The minimum age for corrections officers is usually between 18-21 years.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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