Job description

Correctional officers enforce rules and regulations inside prisons and ensure that everything is kept in order. This position entails guarding, supervising and monitoring inmates, as well as assisting in the rehabilitation process of any prisoner who has been sentenced by a court of law to an established amount of time or is waiting for their trial date.

Duties

    • Maintain security by preventing disturbances and settling disputes between prisoners
    • Ensure order by effectively communicating the requirements of every inmate
    • Impose sanctions involving a wide variety of punishments, primarily through the loss of privileges
    • Supervise daily activities of inmates and make sure they are following the rules
    • Monitor the whereabouts of all prisoners during the entire shift
    • Escort convicts between courtrooms, medical facilities, institutions and other places
    • Look for contraband items, like drugs or weapons, either on inmates or in their jail cells
    • Inspect cells and other parts of the prison to confirm they meet basic standards
    • Determine if cells and other areas have been tampered with that could create a security breach
    • Report to higher-ups on inmate behaviour
    • Complete daily logs detailing the conduct of specific convicts
    • Assist in the rehabilitation of inmates back into society through counselling and training
    • Help other law enforcement employees who have been requested to visit the prison

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Communication
Physical stamina
Responsiveness
Negotiation
Teamwork
Decision making
Problem solving
Leadership
Dedication
Resilience
Emotional intelligence
Good memory
Respectfulness
Judgement

Working hours and environment

Average working hours

40hweek

Typical schedule

Shift Work

On a rotation

The industry typically employs rotating shifts, particularly the 7-3 and 7-4 rotation. This involves working seven days on a single shift and then taking three days off, followed by another seven-day shift and four days off. Because this is a 24-hour job, the shifts do vary, but most of the start times for veterans are 7am and end at 3pm. Those who are new to the position will work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays.

Working in a prison can take a toll on physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Not only are correctional officers required to take verbal abuse, but they also endure one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses in any industry, which happens when confronting inmates.

Salary

Bottom 10%

$31k

Median

$44k

Top 10%

$77k

Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

High school

DVM / VMD degree

Study time

N/A

Correctional officers are only required to have a high school diploma or a GED equivalency and meet an age requirement. Also, this position mandates that all correctional officers sign up for a training academy, such as the American Correctional Association (ACA) or the American Jail Association (AJA). After basic competency education, enrollees will perform on-the-job training.

For other jobs inside a correctional facility or at a different prison, a governing body might require some college education, similar work experience or additional training.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.

-8%

No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.

-34.5k

Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

60%

Career progression

Correctional officers will begin their careers as officers to supervise, monitor and manage inmates. After several years on the job, these positions could evolve into specialties, including implementing correctional programmes, managing surveillance, maintaining records and classification, participating in tactical or critical incident response teams, or advancing to the role of correctional sergeants.

With more experience, correctional officers could find employment in the police force or as probationary officers.