Career Detail


Correctional Officer
“Always on Guard”
Correctional officers, also known as detention officers, are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been convicted of a crime.
The Job
Regardless of the setting, correctional officers maintain order within the institution and enforce rules and regulations. To help ensure that inmates are orderly and obey rules, correctional officers monitor the activities and supervise the work assignments of inmates. Sometimes, officers must search inmates and their living quarters for contraband like weapons or drugs, settle disputes between inmates, and enforce discipline. Correctional officers periodically inspect the facilities, checking cells and other areas of the institution for unsanitary conditions, contraband, fire hazards, and any evidence of infractions of rules. In addition, they routinely inspect locks, window bars, grilles, doors, and gates for signs of tampering. Correctional officers usually work an 8-hour day, 5 days a week, on rotating shifts. Because prison and jail security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, weekends, and holidays.
Work Environment
Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and hazardous. Every year, correctional officers are injured in confrontations with inmates. Correctional officers may work indoors or outdoors.
College Majors
Criminal Justice
Minimum Qualifications
Qualifications vary by agency, but all agencies require a high school diploma or equivalent, and some also require some college education or full-time work experience.
Personality traits helpful for this career
Good judgment and the ability to think and act quickly are indispensable.
Quick Facts
  • The work can be stressful and hazardous.
  • Job opportunities are expected to be excellent.
Compensation and Outlook
Median annual wages of correctional officers and jailers were $38,380 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,660 and $51,000. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,110. Median annual wages in the public sector were $50,830 in the Federal Government, $38,850 in State government, and $37,510 in local government.
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