How to Become a Correctional Officer

image of correctional officer handcuffs

Those that directly oversee and manage individuals being detained/incarcerated are known as correctional officers. As a correctional officer, you are responsible for different periods of detention. This can be before a court hearing (short-term), or as an officer that’s in charge of inmates serving out their prison sentences (long-term).
You may be curious as how you can start a career in this field. In this article, we’ll cover the steps necessary to begin a career in this line of work, including training and education.

Step 1: Earn a high school diploma (or GED)
The first step to becoming a correctional officer is to obtain your high school diploma or GED (General Education Diploma). For many jobs in local and county jails, this is the only requirement. This will allow you to qualify for any training programs that are necessary for the job.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (optional)
Higher-paying employers, such as the federal prison system, require a bachelor’s degree for those that want to work in the industry. A post-secondary degree can open up opportunities for career advancement in corrections that can supplement on-the-job training and experience. This can also help you earn the highest possible salary.

Step 3: Pass the Entrance Exam
Every jurisdiction and municipality will have their own set of requirements for new applicants; however an entrance exam will typically be required. This is to ensure that applicants are able to meet the physical and mental demands that being a correctional officer entails. There may also be a psychological evaluation to handle violent criminals, as well as provide for that are under extreme mental duress or have special needs (i.e. mental illness).

Step 4: Enter a Training Academy/Center
Depending on the employer, an individual that wishes to work as an officer without prior experience may have to attend a training academy or center to ensure that they develop skills that are relevant to their work assignment. Training programs of this nature may include firearms training, self-defense, crisis management, and other relevant courses before being hired. These skills are crucial as you will need to think fast and act on your feet when a problem arises.

photo of the outside of a large county jail

There you have it! This article is brief but straight to the point. If you or someone you know is looking at a career in corrections, this article will help you understand the general guidelines that you must follow to do so. Working in the jail or prison system can be tough, but it is very rewarding work.

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