What Kind of Jobs can I Get in the Corrections field?
The most obvious career path in the corrections field is becoming a correctional officer. Corrections officers may work in prisons, jails, or juvenile detention centers and be employed by local, state, or federal government agencies. The primary duty of a corrections officer is to supervise individuals who have been arrested or are awaiting trial as well as those who have already been sentenced. Correctional officers may be required to monitor inmates’ behavior, conduct searches of prisoners’ cells to look for contraband, oversee the day-to-day activities of inmates, or aid in their rehabilitation efforts.
If you’re not interested in working in a jail or prison setting, there are a number of other job opportunities available in the corrections field. Probation and parole officers, for example, work with offenders who have completed their sentence to make sure they’re adhering to the terms of their release. Social services specialists also work with individuals on parole or probation. They may help them get drug, alcohol, or psychiatric counseling, if necessary, or enroll them in a GED or equivalency program to complete their education or get job training to find employment. Youth services specialists work specifically with incarcerated juveniles to provide counseling, mentoring, and other services as needed.
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General Insights to the Corrections Degree
Correctional facilities are dynamic in all the different roles that they demand to function correctly. There might be a position located within the main Master Control Center that monitors activity throughout the day. You might see positions associated with the upkeep of the facility or the prisoners themselves related to laundry or keeping the facility clean.
At some point, you might be required to help in one of these many different roles at a correctional facility making the job dynamic. It shouldn’t surprise you that a degree related to Corrections is also dynamic. You’ll likely see common core classes (Psychology, Sociology) towards the beginning but dive into courses related to offender rehabilitation or correctional administration later. You should expect to learn things like different policies a facility can have, correctional facility management practices, and even different theories related to correctional management.
What Are the Educational Requirements for Becoming a Corrections Officer?
Correctional officers must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Depending on the state in which you live, you may also be required to earn a certain amount of college credits or complete at least a bachelor’s degree. Some states may also accept law enforcement experience as a substitute for required education. The federal government requires at least a four-year degree to apply for a corrections position. If you are planning to complete your degree, choosing a major in criminal justice can provide you with a key foundation. Policing, criminal law, criminal investigations, corrections, and juvenile justice are just a few of the courses you can expect to take. If you plan to work in another area, such as counseling or administration, you may also need an additional degree or certification, depending on what your state’s requirements are.
Common Corrections Degree Courses
We should preface that seeing these courses on every corrections related degree syllabus is not a guarantee. Try to take away the subject matter being taught rather than the specific course name itself to help you better understand what the degree will require from you.
- American Prison Systems: A course that will look at how correctional facilities are setup, what the prison experience can be like, and even reviews the unique populations that might be common within the facility.
- Correctional Facility History: Understand the current setup of correctional facilities is important but knowing how we arrived at the current setup is important too. You can expect to review and discuss topics around sentencing related to juveniles/women and the usage of capital punishment.
- Probation and Parole Policy: Overcrowding of prison systems is an ongoing challenge which has seen an expansion of the parole system to help combat that issue. This course aims provide an understanding of the parole officer’s role and areas of controversy within the parole system.
This is just a small sampling of the kinds of courses you might see but knowing what subject matter might come up in the course of earning a corrections degree is important.
Correctional Officer Job Outlook and Salary Information
There are several job opportunities within correctional facilities that range from healthcare all the way to management roles in running an entire facility. We wanted to provide insight on one of the common roles (Correctional Officer) to illustrate estimated future growth but want users to know that this isn’t the only job option within the field.
According to BLS data (source), the national 2016 annual median salary for a correctional officer is $42,820. The same BLS data shows nearly 475,000 current jobs as of 2014 and expect to see that number grow by 4% through 2024. Assuming that estimation is accurate, that would expand the base of current jobs by nearly 18,000.
It should be noted that those are national statistics and when you drill down to individual states, salary and job opportunity can vary significantly from state to state. A good example would be to compare Kansas to Missouri’s employment. Kansas has around 4,000 correctional officer jobs as of 2014 but their neighboring state (Missouri) has more than double that number at 8,320. It should also be noted that job growth and opportunity can be tied to political changes in budgets too.
Additional Requirements for Correctional Officers
In addition to meeting the educational requirements, you’ll also need to be able to pass the physical requirements, which are designed to test your strength, stamina, and agility. If you’re applying for a position with the federal Bureau of Prisons, you can expect the physical training and testing to be more intensive than at the local or state level. Positions that are above entry-level typically require you to have a certain amount of experience working in the correctional system, either as a paid employee, intern, or volunteer. Generally, you’ll need to have a clean criminal history, although each state sets its own guidelines regarding background checks.