How to Become a Corrections Officer

Corrections officers work in a variety of correctional settings, which may vary according to the specific job that they have. If you want to become a corrections officer, you must meet the educational and other requirements of the job.

Corrections Officer Description and Job Duties

Corrections officers supervise inmates awaiting initial court appearances or trial dates in local jails and other institutions, as well as inmates who have been convicted and are serving time in a correctional setting. Corrections officers may work for local, state or federal departments of corrections. They ensure order and safety of all staff and inmates.

Corrections officers transport inmates to various locations throughout the institution, such as to and from meals, work sites within the prison, or to the medical area. They observe on-going actions of inmates, looking for potential signs of illegal activity and signs of potential disruption or danger to staff or other inmates. Corrections officers conduct routine inspection of inmate living areas, looking for contraband. If found, contraband is confiscated and disciplinary action taken. They are responsible for inmate counts when inmates must physically report to a designated area so it can be documented that all inmates are present and accounted for.

They write details in a daily shift log and write reports related to any incidents or conflicts. Some corrections officers observe inmates from a tower or centralized area where technology such as cameras, DVRs, computers, and other equipment is utilized for observation and documentation of inmate activity. When corrections officers have to restrain an inmate, a detailed report is written by each officer involved and any who witnessed the events. The job is potentially dangerous so officers must be able to work in a stressful environment.

Educational Requirements

Corrections officers must usually be at least 21 years old and have completed a criminal justice degree or training academy program. They must possess exceptional communication skills and be able to diffuse stressful situations. Salaries vary and are higher for those who become corrections supervisors, through experience and advanced corrections education.

Working with inmates requires skills such as the ability to work in a high-stress environment, good communication skills and self-defense skills. Requirements to become a corrections officer vary per state, but typically include for applicants to be a minimum 18-21 years of age. Applicants also must hold a high school diploma or GED. Some facilities require that applicants have law enforcement experience or military experience, while others look for applicants with criminal justice degrees.

You will also be expected to pass a Civil Service Exam, your physical and mental status will be assessed, and you can also expect a criminal background check, along with drug testing during the application process. Considering the hazards to ones safety in working with prisoners, physical and mental wellness and agility are of high-importance.

What Training Can Help Prepare You to Become a Corrections Officer?

You can train to become a corrections officer through an actual correctional officer training program, law enforcement experience that you have already gained through either the completion of a police academy program, military experience, or a criminal justice degree program with the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. You can train to be a corrections officer on campus or online with a good criminal justice degree program.

What Career Path Can You Expect with Corrections Officer Training?

As a correctional officer, you have the option of working for your local sheriff’s office in the county jail, or you can work at a state or federal prison. The job duties of a corrections officer may include: booking prisoners, guarding and watching prisoners, transporting prisoners to and from court, working closely with new arrests, preventing fights and riots, searching prisoners, inventorying possessions of new inmates, and working closely with convicted felons and serious misdemeanors.

Working in the corrections field provides a decent and stable salary, with health and long-term retirement benefits. It’s a risky job, but if you’re up for the challenge and think you have what it takes physically and mentally, then all you have to do next is to choose a school and program that is tailored to your educational needs.