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CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 12, 2014
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How to Become a Correctional Officer

Correctional Officer

Do you have the aptitude to handle a wide array of difficult circumstances when dealing with the criminal population?  Then you should consider becoming a correctional officer. These professionals are responsible for the maintenance of security and order in correctional institutions.

What Do Correctional Officers Do?

Duties for correctional officers include but are not limited to:

  • Controlling the inmates’ actions
  • Helping in the counseling and rehabilitation of wrongdoers
  • Inspecting amenities to ensure their conformity to the set standards
  • Searching inmates for illegal items
  • Reporting on the inmates’ conduct
  • Enforcing rules and regulations to keep order within prisons and jails
  • Maintaining security by preventing assault, disturbances and escapes
  • Ensuring the inmates’ whereabouts at all times
  • Settling disputes among inmates and enforcing discipline
  • Helping law enforcements in the investigation and search for escapees

Salary

On top of the typical benefits, professionals who work in the public sector are given uniforms or a clothing allowance to make their own purchases. A large number of departments also offer retirement benefits that are bound to vary with various factors such as the level of expertise and position.

 

 

Lowest 10 percentile

 

 

Median

 

Top 10 percentile

Annual salary

 

$27,000

 

$39,040

 

$69,610

Source: BLS

Skills

Serving as a correctional officer, you need to have the following important qualities:

  • Excellent negotiation skills to solve disputes and conflicts
  • Excellent monitoring skills
  • Physical strength to bodily subdue inmates
  • Quick decision making abilities since correctional officers are frequently faced with situations that require them to make quick sound decisions
  • Excellent interpersonal skills to be able to communicate with inmates effectively with an intention of maintaining order in courtrooms and correctional facilities
  • Self-discipline to be able to control their emotions when faced with unfriendly circumstances
  • Responsiveness in a self-disciplined and level-headed manner
  • Excellent report writing abilities to complete daily logs, reports and updating them

Qualifications

Entry requirements for correctional officers vary by type of facility and locale. However, in many cases, candidates need to have a clean criminal record, have a high school diploma and be at least 18 years old. Though not a requirement, many employers prefer applicants who have obtained postsecondary training. Once hired, correctional officers receive on-the-job training after completing a training academy. For better prospects, aspiring correctional officers might consider pursuing associate’s degree or bachelors programs in various specialties such as:

  • Law enforcement
  • Police studies
  • Criminal justice
  • Psychology
  • Counseling

These programs offer training in various important subjects including criminal investigations, peacekeeping and constitutional law. However, if the candidate has acquired enough military or law enforcement experience, postsecondary education requirements might be waived. Upon successful completion of this training, correctional officers acquire certification from various bodies such as ACA and AJA as a proof for eligibility and competence.

Candidates who don’t hold a bachelor’s degree are required to have at least three years of permanent practice in a related field. Correctional officers are supposed to complete in-service training to stay abreast of emergent procedures and developments. Depending on the organization, qualifying programs are available at various professional organizations, local colleges and officer training academies.

Career prospects

The BLS projects a 5% increase in job openings for correctional officers. This is slower than the average for other professions owing to the fact that there are expected financial constraints and a gradual decrease in crime trends. However, there are better prospects in the private sector since there is a rise of in the number of correction agencies that are utilizing private prisons.

If you would like to rehabilitate other individuals and change their lives for the better, this career is meant for you.

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