Correctional officers and jailers oversee people who are serving time in a secure, locked facility, either as they await release on bail, wait for an upcoming trial or hearing, or serve time as part of a local, state, or federal sentence. The job can be high-risk, but rewarding for those want to be part of the larger criminal justice community.
Correctional Officer Schools
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically needed to enter a career in corrections, although some agencies may require completion of some college credit. Individuals who are interested in a career working in the federal prisons usually have to have a bachelor's degree and/or three years of full-time experience in counseling, assistance or supervision. The following are five schools offering degrees for future correctional officers:
- Kaplan University: This online school offers an associate degree in criminal justice. The program offer foundational classes math, sociology, criminology, forensics, and psychological profiling.
- Penn State World Campus: The online campus of Penn State offers a bachelor's in criminal justice, taught by the same on-campus faculty who possess real-world experience.
- Southern New Hampshire University: This university offers an associate degree in criminal justice that allows graduates to seek entry-level work in the field. The program provides the fundamentals of criminal law and social science.
- Strayer University: This university offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice. The program offers 1 of 4 in-demand concentrations, including Computer Security and Forensics, and Homeland Security Technology.
- University of Maryland University College: This college offers a bachelor's degree in criminal justice which gives students key critical-thinking skills to solve for a wide range of challenges in the criminal justice environment.
Correctional Officer Education Requirements
Though the correctional officer education requirements vary from facility to facility, those hoping to pursue employment at a federal facility should attain a bachelor's degree. Candidates for a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, perhaps the academic field most relevant to work as a correctional officer, might find themselves studying arrest and control techniques, skills related to firearm use, basic first aid and defense tactics while unarmed. Common student admission requirements to criminal justice bachelor's degree programs include:
- A valid U.S. driver's license
- Good physical health
- Handgun, holster and fingerprint clearance for firing range work
- Satisfactory marks on institutional profile assessment
- No convictions for use or sale of narcotics or any felony offense
- A minimum age of 21 at graduation
Correctional Officer Training
Most correctional officer training occurs on the job. However, all agencies require correctional officer supervisors to have a high school diploma and some agencies require some college coursework or related work experience. A regional training program often needs to be completed before individuals are allowed to begin working. These programs give individuals training in specific procedures and policies and help them to understand their scope of responsibility when it comes to custody, law and security. Coursework at most academies cover topics such as:
- Laws of arrest and constitutional rights of law
- Rules and concepts of evidence
- Rights of the confined
- Use of force and restraint devices
- Cell and prison searches
- Prison gangs
Correctional Officer Certification and Licensing
After completing a program or academy, officers may become certified in specific skill sets or in Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), depending on the type of training they completed. They may need to recertify in specific areas in a given timeframe.
Individuals who have received training may receive some type of credential or badge, but this can be dependent on the scope and type of training completed.
Correctional officer supervisors typically receive most of their training on the job. All agencies require correctional officer supervisors to have a high school diploma and some agencies require some college coursework or related work experience. Most correctional officer supervisors began their careers as correctional officers.
Resources for Correctional Officers
- Correctional Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm
- Correctional Officers and Jailers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333012.htm
- Southern New Hampshire University, http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/associate/as-in-criminal-justice
- Strayer University, http://www.strayer.edu/degree/bachelors-degree/criminal-justice
- Kaplan University, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/criminal-justice/criminal-justice-criminology-associate-degree.aspx
- PennState Online, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/criminal-justice-bachelors/overview
- University of Maryland University College, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/bachelors-degrees/criminal-justice-major.cfm