Corrections officers, because of the dangerous and stressful nature of their jobs, must be quick decision makers, vigilant, calm, and authoritative. Corrections officers handle people who have been arrested, which can mean any job from being a prison guard to transferring prisoners to being responsible for prisoners as they go to court. County jails, state and federal prisons, courthouses and juvenile detention centers are some of the institutions that employ corrections officers. During a typical day, a corrections officer must be alert at all times, and may have to manage one prisoner or an entire wing of prisoners at on time. They may have to be responsible for transferring extremely dangerous criminals or they might be in charge of filing reports for and monitoring juvenile detainees. In prisons and jails, corrections officers are in charge of keeping an organized, safe environment for themselves, visitors and for the inmates themselves. Sometimes, corrections officers are injured, verbally abused and have to break up fights or deal with other unpleasant behavior. Almost all corrections officers work 8-hour shifts, but their shift may fall on weekends, holidays or in the middle of the night. Corrections officers should be able to communicate with inmates, judges, other law enforcement officials, lawyers, and visitors to the prison respectfully and authoritatively.
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Corrections officers have plenty of opportunity for advancement in their careers and can be promoted to correctional sergeant, warden, and other positions management level and/or administrative positions. The job outlook projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for corrections officers is supposed to be very good, as there is always a need for physically fit, well-trained and mentally tough professionals in this field. The median salary for corrections officers in 2006 was $35,760, though this amount varies on the size of the prison, exact job duties and geographical location. Correctional supervisors earned between $38,920 and $67,820. Corrections officers should expect to receive a benefits package that includes paid vacation, health insurance and other standard benefits.
For lower level positions and smaller jails, corrections officers usually only need to have a high school diploma. Federal prisons, however, require that their applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree. A Master’s degree in criminal justice will increase your chances of being considered for the most sought after jobs that pay more, as higher education demonstrates a more in-depth knowledge of the concepts and practices that make up the United States judicial system. Previous experience in law enforcement or the military can also be a way to give yourself an edge over other applicants.