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Build a Career as a Correctional Officer
A career as a correctional officer can be incredibly rewarding. Through just a few years of training, you could begin working as a correctional officer in your own community. Correctional officers are responsible for the transportation and incarceration of individuals who have been accused or convicted in criminal activity. They work directly with the populations of federal and state prisons.
Correctional Officer Training and Certification Requirements
Every state has different certification requirements for correctional officers. Some cities and states require that you go through specific training at their own facilities. Others require that you hold a certificate or degree from a general correctional officer training school or college. To gain employment in a federal prison, you will need to hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Many states require that you pass a certification exam before you can apply for work as a correctional officer within the state. It is important to have some specialized training before seeking employment in most areas.
Common Training Elements
Correctional officer training consists of many different types of lessons. You will learn how to negotiate with people during tense situations. A large part of an officer's work is talking with people who are upset or agitated. Your training will help you learn specific methods to calm people down so that they will cooperate more easily. You will also gain an in depth knowledge of the legal rights of individuals who have been incarcerated. Physical training is also a part of correctional officer courses, and you will learn how to protect yourself with and without weapons.
Schools That Offer Correctional Officer Training
There are several resources for correctional officer training throughout the United States. Many vocational or technical schools offer generalized officer training that can prepare you for the certification exam. Some states or cities operate schools that are specifically designed to train people to work in their prison facilities. Any accredited four year college will give you a degree that qualifies you to work at the federal level. State prisons are not as strict about educational requirements, and will accept two year degrees or certificates from technical and vocational schools. Although online training is available for correctional officers, there are many aspects of the work that require physical training. An online course is a good supplement for an on-site program, but shouldn't be the only way that you receive training.
What Does a Correctional Officer do?
A correctional officer is charged with keeping prisons safe for inmates and the general public. Correctional officers are not police or highway patrol, and they do not pursue criminals. Officers act as guards within and without the prison cell blocks. They also transport prisoners from one location to another when necessary. The correctional officer works to maintain peaceful cooperation within the prison population at all times. Officers are also responsible for the fair treatment of prisoners while they are in the prison.
Occupational Choices for a Correctional Officer
The majority of work available for correctional officers is in federal and state penitentiaries. The work within each penitentiary can be very diverse, however. A correctional officer may choose to work as supervisors within different divisions of the prison. Officers are needed to oversee the activities of prisoners during meal times, work times, and physical activity times. Some officers man the front offices and escort visitors to see prisoners. Other officers work as administrators who oversee the workings of the prison as a whole. Some correctional officers work with prisoners who have caused problems within the prison population.
The Current Demand for Correctional Officers
There are many opportunities for correctional officers at this time. Prisons are always looking for qualified individuals who have the necessary skills to maintain order within the prison. The work can be demanding, both physically and emotionally, which means that there are almost always open positions within each prison system. Correctional officers tend to retire earlier than other employees, which also creates a higher level of demand for new officers. Prison populations have been on the rise in recent years, which has created more opportunities for employment as a correctional officer at both the state and federal level.
Average Correctional Officer Salaries
Correctional officers earn anywhere from $23,000 to $50,000 per year. Your earnings are based in large part upon your level of education and training. Experience is also an important aspect in how much money you earn per year. Officers who hold higher certification and degrees will make more money than those who entered the workforce with nothing but a high school degree. The average correctional officer brings home about $35,000 per year. Most prisons offer incentives and hazard pay for those who are willing to take on more dangerous assignments within the prison. Salaries will also vary depending on the location of the prison.