Steps to Become a Correctional Officer

Like all law enforcement occupations, becoming a correctional officer requires a detailed process with multiple requirements at each level. Let’s take a look at this process.

Steps to Become a Correctional Officer
Steps to Become a Correctional Officer

1 – Meet the Minimum Requirements

Before you begin the application process, it is important for you to meet the basic criteria. These requirements vary quite a lot according to the state you are planning to apply in; however, the federal standards are as follows:

  • All candidates must be US citizens
  • All candidates need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree OR three years of experience in fields such as counseling, emergency response or teaching
  • Candidates must not have any felony convictions
  • They should have a solid financial history
  • Candidates need to be within the age bracket of 20 and 37

State-wise requirements may vary from these, so make sure you conduct a thorough research before you begin the application process.

2 – Obtain a High School Diploma or a GED

Most jobs as correctional officers require candidates to possess a high school diploma or a GED. However, some particular employers or jobs might require higher education.

3 – Get a Bachelor’s Degree (If Required)

Some jurisdictions or employers may require candidates to have higher degrees. In addition to being a requirement in some cases, getting a bachelor’s degree or a higher qualification can greatly increase your chances of landing better employment with greater promotional opportunities. People with higher education may also have better opportunities to advance on to leadership positions. Majors you might choose for your bachelor’s degree can be criminal justice, psychology, sociology, criminology or any other law enforcement related field.

In some cases, military experience may qualify as a substitute for higher education requirements. Veterans may also be given preference in the application process since they already possess an advanced skill set as compared to other candidates.

Candidates with any law enforcement related experience might also be given preference in positions for correctional officers. This is because these individuals would already meet a lot of training requirements for becoming a correctional officer.

4 – Apply to Become a Correctional Officer

The application process will have multiple stages that will test the stamina of the candidate – both mentally and physically. Candidates will also have to pass a written exam, along with an extensive medical exam, background check, psychological test and a grueling interview. This long process is intended to ensure that the selected candidates are truly cut out for the arduous job of a correctional officer.

Tip: You are advised to train a lot for the physical aspect of the application along with a lot of practice for the interview. This prior training will come in handy once your application process starts.

5 – Complete Training Requirements at an Approved Training Academy

 The salary structures of correctional officers vary across the country. However, the average salary earned by correctional officers, according to O*NET OnLine is $62,500. This source groups the data for correctional officers in the category titled ‘First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers’. The biggest employer of correctional officers is the government.

Career Outlook for a Correctional Officer

 The salary structures of correctional officers vary across the country. However, the average salary earned by correctional officers, according to O*NET OnLine is $62,500. This source groups the data for correctional officers in the category titled ‘First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers’. The biggest employer of correctional officers is the government.

Summary

Correctional officers, also referred to as corrections officer are responsible for supervising people who have been arrested and are being held for trial. They are responsible for the maintenance of security in various local, state and federal correctional facilities, enforcing the law and working in collaboration with the entire prison administration.

With more than 2 million inmates being held across prisons in the US, there is an ever increasing demand for correctional officers to supervise and handle these individuals. To become a great corrections officer, you need to have good interpersonal skills along with a knack for solving complex problems effectively. A strong character and the willingness to learn and improve are also important traits for correctional officers to have.

The job of a correctional officer is quite tough; therefore the process to become one requires fulfilling a number of comprehensive steps. These include getting your education requirements in line, passing the entrance exam or any exam defined by your municipality, fulfilling the training requirements and gaining relevant experience. Bear in mind though that the exact requirements tend to vary across states.