Correctional Officers (sometimes called prison officers) work in prisons and other correctional or detention institutions. They’re responsible for supervising and controlling the activities of inmates, as well as carrying out other functions such as educational and rehabilitation programs.
If you enjoy working with people, are able to remain calm and authoritative in any situation, and you’re looking for a career that’s different every day, working as a Correctional Officer could be ideal for you.
If you have these skills, you could make a great Correctional Officer
- Assertive, confident and resilient
- Fair and empathetic with good cultural awareness
- Great at teamwork, conflict resolution, and problem solving
- Can maintain a calm and professional front at all times, even in emergencies
- Able to think on your feet and react instantly
- Physically fit with lots of stamina
What tasks can I expect to do?
- Supervise inmates at all times, prevent disturbances and escape attempts
- Carry out routine or unplanned searches and inspections
- Implement prisoner activities including exercise, education, rehabilitation, or work programs
- Patrolling and moving prisoners between locations, e.g. court or other institutions
- Completing and filing paperwork and reports
- Respond to emergency situations and other incidents in-accordance with strict procedures
Where do Correctional Officers work?
Correctional Officers work in prisons, correctional centres, and rehabilitation facilities. You could find yourself working anywhere from community service centres to maximum security prisons.
What kind of lifestyle can I expect as a Correctional Officer?
You may have to work long shifts and work outside of normal business hours, including holidays. You’ll also have to work on site, with very few opportunities for remote work. However, there is also potential to be flexible with working arrangements, often with generous leave entitlements.
Most Correctional Officers can expect to earn an average salary throughout their career.
Some interactions with inmates could be highly rewarding, but it’s also likely that you’ll face challenging people and situations on a daily basis too. You could have multiple opportunities for career development and promotion.
How to become a Correctional Officer
Formal qualifications aren’t always a requirement to apply as a Correctional Officer. Pathways and requirements can change depending on your location, so you’ll need to check specifics in your county, state, or country before you apply.
Step 1 – Complete high school with good results in English and Maths. You might like to take Legal Studies and Civics as well.
Step 2 – Consider obtaining qualifications in a related field. This could boost your application, help you to apply for more senior positions, or become eligible for promotion in less time. Areas to consider include:
- Security operations
- Legal studies
Step 3 – Apply directly to the relevant justice department in your county, state, or country (or any private institutions in the industry) to begin the recruitment and selection process.
Step 4 – Obtain any licenses or checks required and undertake any tests, which could include:
- Driver’s licence
- Police check
- Fitness test
- Numeracy & literacy tests
- First aid certificate
- Medical test
- Psychometric or aptitude tests
Step 5 – Before you can start, you might need to complete a training and/or probationary period.
Step 6 – After working for a while, you can decide if you would like to undertake further training to specialise or be eligible for promotions, including:
- Offender diversion programs
- Prison industrial programs
- Dog squads
- Field supervision of offenders on worksites outside a prison setting
- Managerial roles
Find out more here:
- Probation and Community Corrections Officer’s Association of Australia
- Corrections Association of NZ
- The POA (UK)
- Prison Officers Association (Ireland)
- Office of Justice Programs (US)
- Union of Canadian Correctional Officers
- International Corrections and Prisons Association
Similar careers to Correctional Officer
- Police Officer
- Security Guard
- Youth Worker
- Court Officer
- Social Worker
Find out more about alternative careers.