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Correctional Officer

Career Overview

Correctional officers are responsible for the oversight of individuals who are in custody and awaiting trial, or who have been convicted of a crime and are serving out time in incarceration. The job may involve moving prisoners physically through the adjudication process, escorting them from jail to the courthouse and back: correctional officers in this role are often called bailiffs. Correctional officers perform a similar function in prisons and penitentiaries, keeping the peace and moving inmates through the day.

Required Education

The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires their officers to have a bachelor's degree or three years in a counseling and supervisory role for individuals, or some combination of the two. Some state corrections departments require only high school graduation or a GED degree; some will accept experience in the military or a law enforcement role as sufficient preparation.

The federal government and many states have mandatory training programs for incoming correctional officers. Some jurisdictions require annual training hours as well. Correctional officers who hope to move into a supervisory role usually complete a bachelors program in a law enforcement related field.


There were approximately 500,000 correctional officers working in 2007. Sixty percent of them were in state facilities; the balance were scattered among federal facilities, county courts and private facilities.

Job Outlook

Job prospects are excellent, due to retirements, changes in sentencing law and the expanding prison population.

Salary Range

Correctional Officers/Jailers
Lowest 10%    $11.93  $24.820
Median Salary    $17.78  $36,970
Highest 10%    $29.92  $62,240  

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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