How to Become a Correctional Officer | Compare Programs & Colleges

Correctional Officer: Job Overview and Training

Daniel Martuscello III

Featuring expert advice from Daniel Martuscello III, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Correctional officers supervise individuals who have been arrested and are in jail awaiting trial or have been sentenced to jail or prison time. Daniel Martuscello III from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision explains that being a correctional officer entails much more than supervision alone: “Rehabilitation and successful reentry are goals of department and to attempt to return every offender to the community to be successful and productive members of society.”

If you are looking for a career where you can make a difference in the lives of inmates and the communities where they live while earning a solid living, a job as a correctional officer may be the right fit for you. While some education is required, you may not need a four-year degree to get a job as a correctional officer.

Correctional Officer Job Description

Correctional officers oversee inmates, look for suspicious or illegal activity, and may write daily reports on the environment of the facility, inmate conduct, and security threats.

You may work alone on a cell block or with another officer. Although most correctional officers are unarmed, you will likely carry a communications device so you can communicate with coworkers and call for reinforcement should an emergency arise.

As a correctional officer, you may work in a local or state prison or a tactical response team that responds to gang activities, hostage situations, riots, suicide attempts, and other dangerous events. You might go with inmates on prison work assignments, accompany them to counseling sessions, or oversee other activities such as classes inside the facility.

While working as a correctional officer in a jail or prison can be stressful and sometimes dangerous, being part of inmate rehabilitation is something many correctional officers find extremely rewarding. During your workday, you may interact with not only inmates and other correctional officers but also bailiffs, lawyers, family members of inmates, police officers, social workers, nurses, parole officers, and other personnel who work toward a common goal of rehabilitation and reentry. Martuscello, of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, describes this dynamic as “a community inside the walls” for their offender population and an essential component of the department’s success.

Most correctional officers work 8-hour shifts, though the hours may vary. Since correctional institutions require 24/7 coverage, you may work nights or a swing shift. Some officers may work extended shifts and have more than two days off in between workweeks. Night, weekend, and holiday work is common, as is paid overtime.

How to Become a Correctional Officer

If becoming a correctional officer sounds like an exciting and fulfilling career, you will need to be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or a GED. Some agencies require applicants to be 21 years old and have some college or work experience.

While the requirements for employment will vary based on the facility you want to work for, the path to employment at the Federal Bureau of Prisons includes:

1. Meet the Age and Education Eligibility Requirements
You must be at least 18 and have a high school diploma. Having an A.A. or B.A. in areas like criminal justice may be beneficial, particularly for supervisor positions.

2. Submit to a Background Check
This may cover your criminal record, a credit check, and inquiries with previous employers and references.

3. Take a Drug Test
Most jails and prisons have zero tolerance for illegal drug use, so you will likely take a drug test. If you take prescription drugs, you may be required to provide documentation.

4. Medical and Physical Exam
This may include a review of your medical history and a physical exam to ensure you can perform the job.

5. Take a Physical Abilities Test (PAT)
A correctional officer’s job can be physically demanding, and you may be required to complete a physical abilities test to ensure you can perform specific tasks. This includes standing and walking for an hour or more, lifting, carrying, and dragging objects, climbing a ladder, and running a quarter mile.

6. Specialized Correctional Officer Training
In addition to the physical test, you may also take courses in firearms, self-defense, communicating with inmates, policies, and procedures.

7. Take a Written Test
This test will verify that you have learned the content taught in specialized training courses and can successfully perform your duties as a correctional officer.

While many facilities do not require a college education, earning a criminal justice B.A. can make your application more competitive, which may be critical in a profession that is not currently experiencing growth. Many criminal justice B.A. programs can be completed online, and you may even be able to pursue your degree while employed as a correctional officer.

Traits of a Successful Correctional Officer

There are many other traits that can help you succeed as a correctional officer:

Physical Fitness
The job of a correctional officer can be draining. You may need to walk, run, climb, and even restrain inmates, so being in top physical condition is likely beneficial.

Calm Under Pressure
Emergencies, stress, and difficult situations are part of the job as a correctional officer. To be successful, you must be able to make the right decision in high-stress situations and remain cool under pressure.

Ability Handle Confrontation
Part of your job as a correctional officer may include interacting with individuals who are prone to anger or violence. You must be able to remain calm while maintaining control of the situation.

Interpersonal Skills
During a regular workday, you may interact with inmates, fellow correctional officers, and other people in the criminal justice field, such as lawyers and bailiffs. The ability to communicate and interact respectfully with other people is paramount to your success and safety.

Self-Discipline
As a correctional officer, you must adhere to a variety of rules and policies designed to ensure the safety of inmates and staff. A strong sense of self-discipline and desire to follow the rules can be key to success and promotions down the road.

Observation
Much of your day may be spent supervising inmates, including watching for suspicious or illegal activity. Careful observation requires patience and the ability to stay focused for long periods of time. With time, you may also learn to notice when inmates display unusual behavior that could indicate a larger problem.

Computer Savvy
While much of your job may be interpersonal, correctional officers often file reports, access facility systems, and use computers to monitor inmates. A solid understanding of computers could be helpful.

“It can be a very rewarding career to see you take an offender from intake to release or to supervision in the community, and they leave with skills such as a GED or a college degree or things of that matter and become successful members of society,” says Martuscello. But he also notes that the job can be stressful and demanding. Due to the often dangerous conditions, applicants with previous military experience may have a leg up in the application process.

Salary and Career Outlook for Correctional Officers

Your income as a correctional officer may depend on a few factors, such as where you work, the state you live in, your seniority, and your education. For example, a correctional officer with a B.A. degree and several years on the job is likely to earn more than a newly hired correctional officer.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual wage for correctional officers is $44,330, as of May 2018. The job outlook for correctional officers is forecasted to decline by 7% between 2018 and 2028, with a total loss of 31,500 jobs over that time.

This change may be a result of a declining prison population, which impacts state and federal budgets for correctional officers. If you are considering a career as a correctional officer, additional education may help make your application more competitive.

Resources for Correctional Officers

Helping turn inmates into happy, productive members of society can be a fulfilling but demanding job. The following resources provide training, employment information, and networking opportunities.

  • American Correctional Association: A membership group dedicated to championing the cause of corrections and correctional effectiveness by offering annual events, training resources, and networking.
  • Corrections.com: An online community for corrections personnel providing industry news, forums, and support.
  • National Correctional Industries Association: A membership organization dedicated to correctional best practices, training events, and a national conference.
  • Women’s Prison Association: This organization works with women through all stages of the criminal justice system, including during and after incarceration.
  • Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators: A nationwide, non-profit organization committed to improving juvenile correctional services and practices to help youths succeed when they return to their communities.

Juvenile Court Register | Education & Career Info

Juvenile Court Register

Properly processing juveniles, sending them to the place that can most benefit them, and ensuring that they are treated fairly can keep them from becoming adult prisoners and help them get on the right path. A juvenile court register ensures the juvenile court system runs properly and meets the needs of the populace. If this kind of career sounds good to you, contact schools with campus or online criminal justice programs today to request information.

Juvenile court registers fill a wide variety of roles in the court system. They may play an important role in the filing of paperwork, the supervision of staff, and the coordination of efforts between branches of staff. You may work quite a bit with the public as well as with juvenile delinquents. Of course, as a result, you can also expect to spend quite a bit of time working with the families of those going through the juvenile court system.

If you’re interested in changing the lives of adolescents through your work, consider becoming a juvenile court register. Discover what it means to be a juvenile court register and how you can get started on this path.


Juvenile Court Register Job Description

Much of a juvenile court registers job involves ensuring compliance. Many statutes govern the handling of juveniles and youths, and if those statutes are not followed, the justice department could be in legal trouble. At the end of each day, you may check over your staff’s work to make sure it is compliant. You may also prepare your department for cases as part of your job. This tends to involve looking at evidence, marking exhibits, and maintaining files on the delinquents assigned to you. For repeat offenders, you may maintain guardianship records and ensure that they are being properly cared for once they are out of the juvenile court system. Management is often required in this position. Whether you’re supervising office staff or legal clerks, you may be responsible for everything that happens in your office.

How to Become a Juvenile Court Register

In many cases, becoming a juvenile court register is a fairly involved process that can take several years. However, by planning ahead and getting the experience you need to qualify for this job, you can be ready when your dream job becomes available. It’s likely you’ll want to start with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. This is a four-year degree that encompasses different areas of the justice field, including corrections, courtroom procedures, and policing. Some schools offer programs that focus on juvenile justice, so you may want to choose a school with this concentration. It can allow you to take extra courses in juvenile justice that may help you prepare for a career as a juvenile court register.

Some of the core criminal justice electives you may take as a juvenile justice student include Drugs and Society, Police Methods and Organization, Methods of Criminal Justice Research, and Criminal Procedure. You may take courses that focus on the juvenile system like Introduction to Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Corrections, Family Law, and Ethics in Juvenile Justice. Depending on which school you end up attending, you may also be able to complete an internship in a juvenile justice agency or organization. This invaluable experience can help you start making connections in your local community.

Before you can accept a position as a juvenile court register, you may need to get some experience in the juvenile justice department of your local criminal justice agency. This may include working as a juvenile clerk or a juvenile corrections officer. With several years of related work experience under your belt, you may be able to take on the responsibility that comes with being a juvenile court register. Advanced leadership experience in another criminal justice department may also suffice for this requirement.

Below, CriminalJusticePrograms.com speaks with Franklin Cruz, part of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. Cruz discusses the difference between the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice field.

Career Outlook and Salary Potential

As you look at the job outlook for juvenile court registers and others who work with juvenile delinquents, you may find that job openings are not expected to increase significantly in coming years. Through 2026, O*Net expects an average increase in corrections-type job openings throughout the country compared to other jobs. However, you may benefit from a great job outlook in certain parts of the country. In Texas, for example, a 17% increase in jobs is expected through 2024. O*Net anticipates an 8% increase in jobs in California during the same period.

As you gain experience and seniority in this position, your salary potential may increase accordingly. Across the country, the average salary for a corrections officer, a position close to a juvenile court register, is $51,410 per year. The average salary for this position in Illinois was $63,320 annually in 2017. Similarly, in New York, juvenile court registers earned an average of $67,820 per year in 2017 (O*Net, 2017).

Becoming a juvenile court register may be the right decision for you if you want to help some of America’s most disadvantaged youth. Ready to get started? Look at our criminal justice school listings for more information!

Correctional Counselor Degrees & Careers | Explore Colleges

Correctional Counselor

Correctional counselors help criminal offenders get on their feet and back into the real world after prison. Also referred to as correctional treatment specialists or case managers, they play a huge role in rehabilitating former inmates, providing them with counseling, and creating unique treatment plans to help former prisoners adjust to life after incarceration.

Correctional Counselor Job Description

Most correctional counselors or case managers find themselves working in parole agencies, probation offices, jails or prisons. Daily work for a correctional counselor might include holding interviews with inmates and their families, conducting psychological evaluations and designing educational or job training programs for inmates to pursue after prison.

While working with each inmate, a correctional counselor is responsible for taking detailed notes concerning the case. These notes will aid the correctional counselor in creating a unique rehabilitation plan for a particular inmate. In addition to general services, correctional counselors may also be required to provide anger management, substance abuse and/or sexual abuse counseling.

How to Become a Correctional Counselor

The job of a correctional counselor requires a cool head, positive attitude, loads of patience and, above all, compassion and a genuine desire to help inmates piece their lives together again after having spent time in prison. Educational requirements for correctional counselors vary, but, in most cases, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a field like criminal justice, psychology or social work is necessary. A master’s degree in the above disciplines is common as well. Most correctional counselors also undergo a one-year, on-the-job training program before they are permitted to handle cases on an independent basis.

Correctional Counselor Curriculum

To become a correctional counselor, you will need to study a variety of topics to develop a strong foundation of skills to succeed. Here are some courses that may be an essential portion of the curriculum in your program. If these courses sound interesting to you, you can find criminal justice schools on our Corrections Officer page and learn more about the curriculum of their programs.

General Psychology

General Psychology is the introductory psychology course that’s necessary for the basic understanding of the mind that every correctional counselor will need. The course is an overview of everything related to psychology. From social psychology to abnormal psychology, students will learn the basis of everything that they’ll need to know throughout their collegiate and employment career as a correctional counselor. The course also offers an overview of the history of psychological science and how the human mind behaves.

The course may seem as if its glossing over important subjects that will be necessary within the field of correctional counseling, but it’s imperative to remember that all of these subjects will be examined more deeply in future specialized courses. General psychology is a necessity for those hoping to go into correctional counseling because it lays the groundwork of everything they’ll learn related to the field of psychology. Additionally, this course is a prerequisite to all upper-level psychology courses.

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Much like the General Psychology course is a prerequisite to higher level psychology courses, Criminology is an introduction to the necessary knowledge related to the law and criminal behavior that correctional counselors will need to know to effectively perform their jobs. Students will gain a basic understanding of the criminal justice system, crime in general and law. Explores how the legal system works to keep individuals living peacefully within the social community around them. The course also delves into how the criminal justice system works in a punitive manner to discourage potential criminal acts.

Criminology will present students with a basic introduction to theories which explain why crime happens and how the legal system works proactively and reactively in dissuading criminals. Future correctional counselors will need this course if they hope to understand the major theories that they’ll learn in their upper-level courses. Additionally, it will help future correctional counselors understand what could have led inmates to commit their crimes and what can be done to prevent recidivism.

Social Psychology

The social psychology course presents an introduction to how social influences and contexts can shape an individual’s present and future behavior. It also focuses on how individuals interact with other people and within group settings. Various topics are covered throughout the student’s coursework. These topics include, but are not limited to, group processes, conformity, social perception, social cognition, obedience and interpersonal attraction. Prejudices and stereotypes are also likely to be covered.

This course provides a necessary understanding of how social contexts may influence an inmate’s behavior, so it is an essential course for those hoping to start careers in correctional counseling. This understanding will allow a correctional counselor to recognize the factors in an individual’s life which may have led them to criminal behavior. Additionally, a correctional counselor’s job includes accessing the chances that an inmate will recidivate, so being able to understand a person’s social influences and their effect on the inmate is essential.

Offender Rehabilitation

The offender rehabilitation course provides the perfect combination of psychology and criminal justice knowledge that every correctional counselor will need to effectively perform their job. It focuses on providing the student with a sound foundation in understanding correctional interventions that can help inmates effectively rehabilitate and reintegrate into normal society. It also provides theories and methods which underlie treatment programs that exist within correctional settings.

Students will learn classification systems related to various types of offenders, application and theory related to providing therapy to offenders and topics which focus on effective rehabilitation and intervention. Subjects may vary from drug treatment to reintegration techniques. This course is the holy grail when it comes to working in the correctional counseling field. Students will need this understanding if they hope to help inmates return to the outside world without re-offending. This is usually an upper-level course which students will not see until they’ve completed core psychology or criminal justice courses.

Correlates of Criminal Behavior

Course reviews the correlates of several factors, including family-level and individual, that have an effect on a person’s likelihood of engaging in criminal acts either as a child, adolescent or adult. The course goes further than simple speculation, such as the belief that video games lead to violent crime, and delve into a biopsychosocial model to understand and explain what causes criminal behavior and its sometimes persistent reemergence throughout a person’s life cycle.

Topics such as brain injuries, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, the effects of the family, substance abuse and several other psychological models are likely to be covered. This course is usually offered later in a person’s educational career and is a vital course in correctional counseling. Students will learn to recognize the catalysts to their patients’ criminal behavior. This understanding is absolutely essential in creating and implementing a solid rehabilitation plan that will actually help the offender recover and improve their life.

Correctional Counselor Salary and Career Outlook

Those interested in a career as a correctional counselor will be happy to hear that job prospects are projected to grow six percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reported in 2017 that the median annual salary for correctional counselors is $51,410.

Below, we speak with Jon Candea, Correctional Advisor at Johnson County Department of Corrections of Kansas, about his career at the Adult Residential Center.

Increased demand for correctional counselors can be attributed in part to growing prison populations. In some states, prison policy is being reexamined in light of budget concerns. There is potential for an increased emphasis on rehabilitative services, and in turn, counselors, as states try to decrease the expenses of holding offenders in prison for longer than necessary. In either case, correctional counselors are a needed resource within the correctional system.

Correctional Counselor Resources