Federal Prison Correctional Officer: Job, Outlook and Education Info

Research what it takes to become a correctional officer for a federal prison. Learn about the education and law enforcement training required to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Federal Prison Correctional Officer?

As a federal prison correctional officer, you'll protect and monitor inmates and ensure that they follow federal prison rules and regulations outlined by the Department of Justice. General duties may include pat downs and cell searches in order to prevent the infiltration of contraband. These officers may also be involved in rehabilitation pursuits or educational activities, such as scheduling job training programs. Also, like most jobs, there is paperwork that may need to be filled out when reporting on inmate conduct.

The following chart provides an overview of this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree or 3 years of experience in a related field
Training Required 200 hours within your first year on the job
Education Field of Study Criminal justice, counseling, social work
Key Responsibilities Monitoring inmates, enforcing rules, conducting searches
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (slower than average) for all correctional officers and jailers*
Average Salary (May 2015) $53,560 for federal correctional officers and jailers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Will My Duties Be as a Federal Prison Correctional Officer?

Federal prison correctional officers are in charge of criminals who are awaiting sentencing or trials, or who are serving time in a federal prison. As a correctional officer, your duties include enforcing rules and regulations, maintaining order and monitoring the activities and work assignments of inmates. You may conduct periodic or random searches of inmates' items and personal areas. You'll look for weapons, contraband or indications of gang affiliations, plots against other inmates or escape plans. You'll also look for property tampering, unsanitary conditions or fire hazards.

You'll likely keep a log of any disturbances or irregularities during your watch. Plenty of contact with inmates requires patience and a level head for difficult situations. You may transport convicts from different cellblocks and defuse inmate fights and riots. When not guarding the inmates, you may screen visitors or packages that are brought in for inmates.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for correctional officers and jailers should increase 4% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, correctional officers and jailers made an average yearly salary of $45,320. The BLS also reported that the five top-paying states for correctional officers were New Jersey, California, New York, Massachusetts and Alaska. Additionally, federal correctional officers made more than their counterparts in state and local governments, with an average salary of $53,560 versus $45,880 and $44,860, respectively.

What Will I Need to Become a Correctional Officer?

The BLS reports that entry-level correctional officers looking to work in federal prisons must have bachelor's degrees, at minimum. You may also need experience working with individuals who are overcoming a societal problem. The bachelor's degree should be in criminal justice, counseling or social work. You must also be between the ages of 18-37 to be eligible for federal positions.

Once you've been accepted as a federal corrections officer, you'll need to complete a 200-hour federal training program. You can seek the American Correctional Association's professional certification for correctional officers after one year of work as a federal corrections officer (www.aca.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include police officers and detectives. Entry into this field typically requires a high school diploma or associate's degree along with some kind of police academy training. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists need at least a bachelor's degree. They work very closely with individuals who've been sentenced to probation in an effort to help them get the services they need to avoid committing additional crimes and ensure they become fully rehabilitated. Security guards and surveillance officers in gaming casinos need a high school diploma along with a security company's training. They help prevent theft and ensure a facility remains safe.

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