What Is a Correctional Officer?

In charge of overseeing inmates within a detention center, correctional officers ensure that the inmates are safe and behaving in an orderly way. They provide surveillance of the facility and inspect areas for safety, cleanliness and contraband. Correctional officers also inspect mail and visitors for any prohibited items.

Responsibilities of a Correctional Officer

Correctional officers supervise individuals who have been charged with a crime and are awaiting trial and those who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail or prison. They maintain order in a detention center while adhering to the facility’s rules and enforcing regulations to ensure that those detained are safe and act in an orderly manner. They may also have to settle disputes between inmates, implement disciplinary actions and perform inspections of the facility.

Additionally, correctional officers may have to:

  • Inspect areas including inmate cells for unsanitary conditions, contraband and other violations
  • Investigate mail and visitors for any prohibited items such as drugs or weapons
  • Fill out daily logs and write reports detailing inmate behavior and anything important that may have occurred during their shift
  • Restrain inmates in handcuffs and escort them between cells and to see visitors
  • Escort inmates to court or medical facilities

The career is stressful and dangerous at times, and correctional officers may be injured while on duty. They typically work full time on rotating shifts, sometimes including weekends and holidays or overtime.

Want to become a Correctional Officer?

SEU's online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree will give you the skills you need to pursue a career as a Correctional Officer.

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Correctional Officer Salary

The median annual salary for correctional officers was $43,510 as of 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Wages may vary, however, depending on the institution of employment. Those working in a federal corrections facility earned a median salary of $55,660 per year, while correctional officers at the state level earned $42,510 per year. Unfortunately, the BLS reports that employment is expected to decline by 7 percent through 2026, as there have been changes to criminal laws that largely affect how many individuals are incarcerated each year.

Education Requirements

While requirements may vary depending on the agency, the typical minimum requirement for becoming a correctional officer is a high school diploma. However, if a candidate wishes to work for a federal institution, a bachelor’s degree is required, along with one to three years of full-time experience in a field that offers counseling, supervision and assistance to individuals. Correctional officers must additionally complete training at an academy.

Become a Correctional Officer

Southeastern University’s online bachelor of science in criminal justice gives students a solid understanding of the criminal justice system as a whole, including law enforcement and the courts. It prepares students to succeed in criminal justice careers by teaching practical skills, critical thinking and advanced research. The program is fully online and is taught by faculty who have real-world experience.