How to Become a Correctional Officer: All you need to know

Correctional officers are men who work at prisons, but different position clutches different tasks, mainly having the responsibilities of helping rehabilitate criminals. This is a career dealing with prisoners, with some danger, which requires courage and patience also professional training.

This article will introduce you on how to become a correctional officer by 6 easy steps, starting your career from now on!

Step 1: What's a correctional officer and its responsibilities

Correctional officers are people who are engaged in prison management, execution of punishments and reform of criminals according to law, maintaining order within a detention facility and dealing with affairs of detainees. Their responsibilities mainly include:

  1. Responsible for transporting prisoners commuting from court to prison.
  2. Monitoring inmates all the time, prohibiting incidents from happening.
  3. Managing the visits of families.
  4. Settling down violent activities in prison and giving counsels to inmates
  5. Responsible for monitoring other officers
  6. Responsible for some administrative work involving local, state and federal officers.

All the above tasks depend on the specific position of a correctional officer, some getting along with prisoners, while some not.

Step 2: Think before you do: whether is it worth to be a correctional officer

Before choosing a career, you would better consider the suitability to yourself, whether it is your ideal career or not. The following are the pros and cons of being a correctional officer.

The pros side

  1. Wages are higher. Generally speaking, prison polices are more paid than ordinary polices, and benefits will be better in the future.
  2. Social status is acceptable, not as good as popular jobs but much stronger than some others.
  3. The promotion opportunity is great. You are deemed to get promoted if you work hard, which will not disappoint you.
  4. Working hours are fixed, which you can manage your personal time at advance.
  5. There is a great demand for correctional officers, so it's not so much competitive.

The cons side

  1. The working environment of correctional officers is relatively closed, which is to manage things within the high wall and there is no much contact with the outside world, which holds no benefits to the development of personal connections.
  2. Police officers who directly manage criminals are working under big pressure, holding high risk, and having limit rest time.
  3. Your family will worry about your safety all the time, but comforting them is part of your work, too.

Step 3: Education and exam

For a correctional officer, a high school diploma or equivalent is available, but if you want to get more promotions such as working at the federal level, a bachelor's degree is recommending. Often it requires some relevant knowledge for being a correctional officer, which is better to take some related majors, like counseling or psychology, corrections, criminal justice or a related degree, aiming at being trained as a rehabilitation expert.

Besides earning a degree, it's also helpful to pass the exam to get a certification. Commonly, the exam includes a physical test, which guarantees the testers to have the ability to deal with disturbances and other inmate activities, a written examination that tests your legal knowledge, as well as a psychological examination dealing with mental and emotional issues.

And different exams have different certification as:

Certified Corrections Manager

Certified Corrections Supervisor

Certified Corrections Officer

Certified Corrections Supervisor – Security Threat Groups

Certified Corrections Executive

You can choose on your own as convenient as possible.

Step 4: Get some training

It's necessary to get some professional training and on-job training which the prison system can give you before starting work, such as joining an academy or training center, where you can get firearms training, legal training, in-service training, procedural training, rehabilitative methods training, basic fitness training and so on. Besides, vocational and trade schools or a community college also provide knowledge and training on self-defense, weapons, officer safety, inmate handling, physical conditioning and crisis management.

Take every opportunity to add more experience on this career to benefit your promotion in the future, which you have a long way to go.

Step 5: Prepare relevant skills and requirements for a correctional officer

Correctional officers are managers of prisons, and how to do this job successfully, some special skills making you approach it.

  1. Physical strength

    Having a good quality of the body is a basic requirement for a correctional officer whose daily job is overseeing criminals to prevent incidents or crisis in prison.

  2. Good observation skills

    Learning to observe is another necessary skill because monitoring detainees requires patience and carefulness.

  3. Good judgment

    A correctional officer needs to identify the incidents that happened in prison quickly and give solutions as soon as possible.

  4. Great communication

    A correctional officer also possess a duty of rehabilitating inmates, which is a good communicational skill to achieve.

  5. Emotional strength

    It's a job of danger, bored and depresses in daily getting along with inmates who commit all kinds of crimes.

Step 6: Find relevant jobs, and apply for it

Join the job as soon as possible to accumulate your working year in prison for future promotion so that you can stand on the top position at a pretty much young age. Find a job in your ideal city or your hometown such as a local jail or federal prison where requires correctional officer a bachelor's degree basically.

Important Tools for a successful correctional officer

The followings are tools that correctional officers need to learn to manipulate:

  • Firearms
  • Riot gear
  • Body armor
  • Less-than-lethal weapons
  • Handcuffs
  • Leg irons
  • Flashlight
  • Two-way radios
  • Security cameras

Develop your career path

There are several positions in prison relating to correctional officers, such as probation officers, bailiffs, security guards, police officers that all you can choose. Besides, if you major in management, psychology and communication during school, the administrative area of a prison or detention part can be your right choice. You can firstly apply for a state correctional officer, then a federal correctional officer, finally a warden, but you shall know that being a federal officer requires at least a bachelor`s degree or three years of related working experience, so further education is also important in giving a space of a great promotion. Make a plan of your career path before you start a step into a job society and choosing majors also matters your future life, which needs consideration.

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