Correctional Officer: What Type Education is Needed?

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing those individuals who are awaiting trial or serving time in a prison facility or reformatory. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are expected to be favorable through 2018 for correctional officers, sometimes called “detention officers”. The high turnover rate results in many of those job openings. Depending upon various factors, a college degree may be required in the field of corrections.

Job Description

Correctional officers must maintain security in the jail facility. The job includes the prevention of disturbances, assaults and escapes. Correctional officers are accountable for the prisoners. They maintain order and make sure inmates abide by the rules. In high-security situations, computer systems are set up in control rooms for the purpose of monitoring prisoners. In addition, correctional officers inspect the building, the incoming mail, and the prisoners’ visitors. They report on their findings. Correctional officers often aspire to positions in a courtroom.


A high school diploma or its equivalency is the least requirement for employment as a corrections’ officer. Depending upon the position, some state and local systems want applicants to have a number of college credits. Many states even mandate at least an associate’s degree. Law enforcement or military experience can sometimes be substituted for college credits. The Federal Bureau of Prisons stipulates that entry level correctional officers have at least a bachelor’s degree. They also call for a minimum of three years experience in a job that involved counseling or the supervision of adults. Federal, state and several local systems provide training that is based on the guidelines of the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association.

Degree Options

One of a potential correctional officer’s main reasons for pursuing a degree might be that it is required by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. However, the education is invaluable, even at the state or local level. Acquiring a degree can enlarge an individual’s arena of job possibilities. Four-year degrees will include liberal arts’ classes such as English and math. Classes will progress, ultimately focusing on courses pertinent to the field of corrections.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is one of the most common degrees sought by potential correctional officers. This degree provides the recipient with broad-spectrum knowledge in the criminal justice system, law enforcement and the courts. It educates participants on forensics and the technology used in criminal justice.

Another popular degree for correctional officers is a Bachelor of Science degree in corrections. Courses taken for this degree might include criminal procedures, legal issues in law enforcement, and offender treatment methods. Students will learn general security procedures, policies and regulations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in March of 2009, the median salary of a federal correctional officer was $53, 459.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Correctional Officers
Education-Portal: Bachelor of Science Corrections Degree Overview