Become a Federal Prison Correctional Officer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a federal prison corrections officer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, hiring requirements, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Federal Corrections Officer Do?

Federal corrections officers maintain order amongst inmates within a federal prison environment. They must enforce rules, security and safety standards and write reports of inmate conduct. They're also responsible for preventing violence and escapes and aiding in prisoner rehabilitation. Read the chart below to get more information about the job.

Degree RequiredHigh school diploma
Education Field of StudyCriminal justice
Training Required120 hours specialized training at U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons
Hiring RequirementsU.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, no felonies, physical exam, background investigation, drug tests
Job Growth (2014-2024)4% for correctional officers and bailiffs *
Annual Mean Wage (2015)$40,580 for correctional officers and bailiffs*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Federal Corrections Officer?

As a federal corrections officer, you'll guard inmates who have been incarcerated for a year or longer. Your job will involve supervising the activities of inmates to ensure they obey the institution's rules. You'll likely have specialized duties, like overseeing inmates during work and recreational activities. You may also resolve conflicts and enforce disciplinary regulations. Your work schedule as a federal correctional officer will vary, because inmates must be monitored at all hours.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

You will need at least a bachelor's degree to work as a federal corrections officer, and one option is a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree program. Such a program typically includes courses in corrections, court systems and criminal law. You'll also take general education requirements in the 4-year curriculum.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Prior to applying to a position as a federal corrections officer, you might want to consider acquiring 1-2 years of job experience. Having a previous job record demonstrates stability to federal institutions. You may work in law enforcement or corrections, although these fields aren't required for employment consideration.

Step 3: Fulfill Hiring Requirements

You must meet several requirements in order to become employed as a federal corrections officer. For starters, you have to be a United States citizen with no felonies and be at least 18 years old, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( You'll be required to pass physical examinations to ensure that you're healthy, with good hearing and vision. You may be given standardized tests to gauge your qualifications, in addition to a required written exam. You'll also undergo background investigations and drug tests as part of the job application process.

Step 4: Undergo On-The-Job Training

Within 60 days of employment, you'll need to report to Glynco, Georgia, where the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons residential training center resides. Here, you'll fulfill 120 hours of specialized training. You'll also need to complete 200 hours of formal training during your first year on the job. Your on-the-job training will cover firearm and self-defense skills, policies, procedures and operations.

If you become a tactical response team member, you may be specially trained to deal with situations such as hostage standoffs and prison rioting. As you progress through the training program, you'll work under the supervision of more experienced officers. Training can be completed in a matter of weeks or months, depending on the correctional facility.

Step 5: Seek Opportunities for Career Advancement

You may be promoted to supervisory positions, such as that of correctional sergeant, with good job performance and experience. You can then work towards becoming a prison warden. If you're willing to undergo additional training, you might also be eligible to bid on special assignments in correctional counseling, correctional health or other areas. Joining a police department is another viable job option.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Security guards and gaming surveillance officers work to prevent illegal activity from happening at establishments. These professionals must also have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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