How To Become A Correctional Officer

Correctional officers are also known as prison guards. Their main task is to provide a therapeutic and safe living environment for the inmates of reformatories, prisons and jails. The job profile includes reporting on inmate conduct, searching inmates for contraband items, ensuring that prison cells meet the established standards, supervising activities of the inmates and enforcing rule and order within the facilities.

Become A Correctional Officer

Many times, these tasks turn out to be very stressful and even dangerous. Therefore, choose it as a career option only if you are genuinely passionate about protecting the rights of jail inmates as well as the safety of the general public. Following are some of the basic steps to follow to become a correctional officer.

Tips To Become A Correctional Officer

Educational Requirements

The minimum educational requirements vary depending upon the type of facility you want to work in. For example, if you want to work as a correctional officer in federal prisons, you must possess at least a bachelor’s degree (in law enforcement, criminal justice or other related subjects) and three years of full-time experience in any job that requires you to provide supervision, assistance and counseling to a large group of individuals. For employment in other facilities, you must possess at least a high school diploma, preferably with a few years of military or law enforcement training.


The next step is to join a training academy. It can be a private academy or an academy accredited by the ACA (American Correctional Association). Some agencies take direct admissions on the basis of your academic performance and work experience while others require you to pass an entrance test.

How To Become A Correctional Officer

Once you enroll in this program, you first receive a formal training in various related areas like security and custody procedures, operations, regulations and institutional policies.

After this, you are provided with an opportunity to get on-the-job training in specific areas that include self-defense, firearms proficiency, interpersonal relations and legal restrictions. All the trainees are supervised by an experienced senior officer.

You can also choose to specialize in a specific field. For example, if you want to work with a prison tactical response team, you will have to enroll in a training program that trains you on how to respond to potentially dangerous confrontations like hostage situations, riots and disturbances in a prison facility.

You are trained on how to ensure safety for both prison officers and jail inmates by using certain tactics to wield weapons and to disarm prisoners. In general, you must get at least 200 hours of formal training and at least 120 hours of specialized training to become a correctional officer.


The first year of employment is considered to be the probation period. You do not need a certification during this period. You are granted a certification only after you complete the probation period successfully. The type of certification varies depending upon the type of facility you are working in. Private agencies usually offer in-house certifications while the state and federal agencies offer a certification through the American Correctional Association.

correctional officer

You must also posses certain basic skills to ensure a bright career as a correctional officer. For example, you must have the ability to control your emotions and to take good judgment even during the most hostile situations. Physical strength will be a great plus, as you may have to move some inmates physically. Negotiation and critical thinking skills are also important.