A job as a corrections officer provides a key service to society by helping to monitor and regulate individuals within numerous prisons and jails across the country. Working for both state, local and federal detainment facilities, these individuals provide work both with adult and juvenile offenders.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual earnings of a correctional officer is approximately $38,380. Those in the middle section of earnings received anywhere from $29,660-$50,000 per year. The highest pay earned was at or above $64,110, while the lowest paid was at or below $25,300 for entry-level positions. Positions in facilities run by the federal government pay approximately $50,830, while facilities run by state governments paid on average $38,850. If an individual works in a local county facility, the pay starts at approximately $37,510.*
Corrections officers working in a courtroom have an average annual salary of $37,820. The range of salary for this type of position goes from $26,730 up to $51,470. The lowest paid was at or below $18,750, with the highest average annual earnings at or above $61,500. Those working in a supervisor position as a correction officer have the lowest earnings at or below $32,300, while the highest earnings in this field were at or above $86,970. State government supervisor positions paid at least $57,050, while the same position in the local government paid approximately $57,300.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
This position provides benefits such as health insurance and retirement. Retirement system allows officers to retire once they reach 50 years of age after working for 20 years, or an individual can retire after 25 years of service regardless of how old are he or she is. If an individual works for the state or federal government, they may receive an additional stipend to cover uniform expenses. The officers receiving the highest wages and benefits oftentimes are members of unions.
Job Description and Outlook
Working as a corrections officer involves dealing with individuals who are detained imprisons in prisons and other correctional facilities. The officer is responsible for maintaining discipline, enforcing rules and monitoring prisoners to prevent problems from occurring. They also handle inspecting of cells for cleanliness and illegal items, such as drugs or various weapons. Corrections officers also help to maintain order with prisoners, keeping paperwork regarding their daily tasks and reporting problems or rule violations to the proper authorities.
The work environment for a corrections officer can be hazardous, have a high level of stress at times and requires working throughout the year and at varying times of the day or night. The normal work schedule is five days a week with an eight hour shift each day, but overtime may be required. These individuals provide an extremely important function in society and also help maintain order in courthouses and courtrooms during trials.
Becoming a corrections officer has several advantages in steady employment and good benefits that are offered. There are expected to be numerous job openings in the future as people retire from current positions and the need to in this area grows. Having to work various shifts, being employed in a rural area and lower annual salaries are aspects that potential candidates should consider.
Training and Education Requirements
The applicant must have at least a high school diploma or GED to apply. If working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, applicants must have a minimum of a four year degree, three years work experience supervising, working as a counselor or assisting others, or combined experience of the previous two. State and county positions may also require college credits, depending on the position and area. The applicant must also be a minimum of 18 years old, able to work legally in the United States and have no prior felonies on his or her record. Physical health requirements, standardized testing, drug screening and a thorough background check are also part of the application process.
Once hired, the individual will go through formal training that is based on the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association’s established criteria. This includes training in self defense, use of firearms and related areas. This training can vary depending on the location and hiring agency. Those working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons have around 200 hours of training during the first year on the job and complete 120 additional training hours in the agency’s training center in Georgia.
Those wanting to move up the ladder can achieve the rank of correctional sergeant, and then on to positions as a supervisor or administrator. This is done through additional training to qualify as a candidate for advancement.
The American Correctional Association offers the Correctional Certification Program that offers additional training that results in certification in categories such as Corrections Nurse/Manager, Corrections Officer/Juvenile and in a variety of other areas. The American Jail Association also offers its members access to certification programs as well.