If you're interested in criminal justice and corrections, a career as a correctional officer or jailer may offer the scope and responsibilities that you're after. You'll need a professional demeanor, outstanding negotiation and decision-making skills, and a great deal of self-discipline. With the right personal qualities and a strong education, you may find a satisfying career waiting for you in this field.
Correctional officers and jailers are responsible for ensuring the security of inmates in correctional facilities. These institutions have an established set of regulations that are designed to protect the inmates, the correctional officers, and others working inside the jail. The jailers, guards, and other officers employed within the facility uphold these rules, enforce all regulations, and ensure that standard daily procedures are followed.
Throughout the day, this may include guiding and supervising a number of activities, from meal time to recreational activities. The correctional officers may escort inmates to and from court hearings, move them to other jails or prison facilities, or transport them to work sites. Though their job responsibilities are primarily supervisory, jailers and correctional officers must also be prepared to enforce rules in a disciplinary manner when necessary. This may involve using physical force, handcuffs, or weapons to subdue and secure prisoners in potentially dangerous situations.
It is essential for correctional officers and jailers to have a calm demeanor and the ability to work well under pressure. This is a high-stress job and it is crucial that these professionals not rise to provocation. They must have outstanding conflict resolution skills to manage situations between multiple inmates as well as between inmates others who are visiting or interacting with them in another capacity.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for correctional officers and jailers are expected to decline over the 2016 to 2026 decade. Over this period, employment is expected to decline 8 percent for these professionals. The high costs of maintaining individuals in prison and rehabilitation facilities are moving many legislations to shorter prison terms.
Community-based rehabilitation programs are also increasing in popularity. This may further contribute to the decline in job openings for jailers and correctional officers. Though there is no expected job growth in this area, job seekers may still find openings as a result of those who transfer to other occupations, retire, or otherwise leave the labor force.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 54 percent of correctional officers and jailers work for the state government. Another 37 percent are employed by the local government. Just 5 percent work in facilities support services, and 4 percent work for the federal government. The states with the highest number of correctional officers and jailers are Texas, California, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. However, the highest concentration of workers per thousand jobs is found in Mississippi, Arizona, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Louisiana.
Correctional officers may work in county jails, state prisons, or federal prisons. They may also provide supervision in certain rehabilitation facilities that serve criminal offenders.
The requirements for a correctional officer or jailer vary by state and jurisdiction. Most facilities maintain their own training program for employees. This is a rigorous academy-style training experience that helps prepare applicants for the rigors of this high-stress position. This training program typically lasts for a period of several months.
Many employers prefer to hire candidates with some college education. A program like the AAS Criminal Justice Studies at Bryant & Stratton College is a well-rounded option that can prepare job seekers for a position as a correctional officer or jailer. This program includes several relevant courses including Security in the 21st Century, Criminology: Exploring Criminal Behavior, and Foundations of Criminal Law & Procedure.
Along with a solid education in criminal justice, it's also beneficial for prospective correctional officers and jailers to demonstrate strong decision-making skills, interpersonal skills, self-discipline, and physical strength. Many agencies also require jailers and correctional officers to be at least 18 or 21 years of age.
An AAS Criminal Justice Studies degree will prepare you for a variety of careers. These can go by many names. When you're conducting your job search, keep an eye out for the following titles:
These titles all refer to positions similar or identical to those of a jailer or corrections officer.
Students interested in the Criminal Justice Studies Associate Degree program must first successfully complete the Criminal Justice and Security Services Diploma. Completion of either or both programs does not guarantee a student has met all of the requirements for employment in the criminal justice field. The Bryant & Stratton College’s programs are educational programs and the college makes no representations regarding whether a particular program will qualify a graduate for employment in any specific position, is necessary for attaining any such position or whether potential employers may require additional training or education.* Before enrolling in a program, potential students are encouraged to consult any relevant agency with which the student may wish to seek employment for a complete list of position requirements and pre- requisites. All applicants should be aware that criminal justice employers may consider numerous factors when determining eligibility or suitability for employment including but not limited to: criminal background screening, citizenship, state residency, physical and psychological health, age and military discharge information. A criminal conviction and or record of certain other conduct may prevent or hinder a graduate’s employment as a law enforcement officer or other positions in security, corrections and others depending upon the requirements in various jurisdictions.
*Virginia residents should be aware that neither program will provide the required training for entry level positions in law enforcement, corrections, armed security, certain unarmed security and other careers requiring certification, licensure, or registration with the Virginial Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Students who complete these programs in Virginia will be required to obtain certification through DCJS- approved training facilities to meet minimum requirements for those positions.
Please note that all statistical data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is intended to provide general averages only. This is not a guarantee of job opportunities or future employment. However, it can help you get a general understanding of the job outlook in a particular field as well as the most advantageous places to focus your job search.
For more insights into the criminal justice field, check out the criminal justice studies section of our blog. You'll find valuable resources to help you plan your future education and career.