Requirements to Be a Corrections Officer

Oct 20, 2021

The education requirements to be a correctional officer vary depending on where you want to get a job. In some cases, a high school diploma or equivalent is enough, while a bachelor's degree may be necessary in other settings. A voluntary credential can also help increase a correctional officer's job status and ability to find employment.

Requirements to Be a Corrections Officer

The job duties of a corrections officer include overseeing and maintaining order within the general population of correctional facilities. Correctional officer job requirements include communication skills, self-defense, and the ability to work effectively in a high-stress and hazardous environment.

Required Education High school diploma or GED; bachelor's degree required for federal positions
Other Requirements Training academy and on-the-job training
Correctional Officer Age Limit Minimum age of 18-21
Correctional Officer Skills Communication skills, physical strength, self-defense skills
Projected Job Growth -8% from 2016 to 2026*
Average Salary (2018) $49,300 annually*

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Basic Correctional Officer Qualifications

Applicants must typically be at least 18-21 years old to be a correctional officer and hold a high school diploma or GED. An applicant's criminal record must be free of felony convictions. Some institutions seek applicants with armed forces experience, while others require some college training. In many cases, one may be accepted in place of the other. Some agencies, such as the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, have stringent requirements, including a bachelor's degree and relevant experience in supervising or counseling.

How to Be a Correctional Officer

Meet Mental and Physical Requirements

Because of the high risk of injury and the need to physically restrain inmates, corrections officers must be in excellent overall condition. Routine tests assess eyesight, hearing, and reading skills. Due to the stressful nature of the job, facilities also test mental health and run background checks. Applicants are expected to demonstrate good judgment and the ability to make decisions quickly.

Complete Correctional Officer Training Requirements

Correctional officers take corrections classes through local, state and federal corrections departments. These departments have correctional officer training requirements, which includes classes in communication, law and criminal rights, at a local academy. Students receive hands-on training in firearm use and safety, inmate restraint, prisoner transportation and use of force. New officers also receive on-the-job training, which can include instruction in facility policies and security procedures.

Federal corrections officers at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons usually need to complete a more intense training program than their state and local counterparts. The first year on the job consists of 200 hours of general institutional education, including 120 hours of skill-building, firearm safety, self-defense and endurance instruction, at the Glynco, GA, training center.

Consider Certification Options

The American Correctional Association (ACA) offers voluntary certification for those who want to demonstrate their aptitude in the field ( Becoming a CCO requires providing evidence of education and work experience, as well as successfully completing a qualifying examination.

The CCO credential is valid for three years, and officers can become re-certified by earning continuing education credit. Credit is given for participating in education courses, training requirements, and other activities approved by the ACA.

Career Outlook for Corrections Officers

The number of correctional officer and jailer jobs was predicted to decline 8% from 2016-2026. Budget cuts, as well as reform to sentencing laws, were factors that affected this decrease in employment. Correctional officers earned a mean wage of $49,300 annually as of May 2018.

Correctional officers must be able to work in a stressful and hazardous environment. Hands-on, classroom, firearms, and self-defense training are all part of a correction officer program, which is conducted by local, state, and federal corrections departments. A high school diploma may be all that is needed for some jobs, but other positions ask for a college degree or military training.

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