Most corrections officers work for the government at the local, state, and federal levels in penal institutions and in jobs connected with the penal system. The majority of the approximately 434,300 corrections officers employed in the United States, work in state and local correctional facilities such as prisons, prison camps, and reformatories. Some are employed at city and county jails or other institutions. Others work for the federal government or are employed by private corrections contractors.
To apply for a job as a corrections officer, contact federal or state civil service commissions, state departments of correction, or local correctional facilities and ask for information about entrance requirements, training, and job opportunities. Private contractors and other companies—such as Core Civic and GEO Group—are also a growing source of employment opportunities. Many officers enter this field from social work areas and parole and probation positions.
Many officers take college courses in law enforcement or criminal justice to increase their chances of promotion. In some states, officers must serve two years in each position before they can be considered for a promotion.
With additional education and training, experienced officers can also be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions such as head corrections officer, assistant warden, or prison director. Officers who want to continue to work directly with offenders can move into various other positions. For example, probation and parole officers monitor and counsel offenders, process their release from prison, and evaluate their progress in becoming productive members of society. Recreation leaders organize and instruct offenders in sports, games, and arts and crafts.
Tips for Entry
Take classes while in high school to prepare for enrollment in a two- or four-year college degree program in criminal justice or a related field.
Take a training course in self-defense or martial arts through a private facility or your local parks department.
Take a class and become certified in the safe use and handling of firearms and other weapons.
Pursue part-time, volunteer, or summer work that may be available in psychiatric hospitals and other institutions providing physical and emotional counseling and services.
Consider obtaining a civilian job as a clerk or other worker for the police department or other protective service organization.