Correctional officers monitor and guard prisoners in correctional facilities or rehabilitative institutions. Amongst their many duties, correctional officers are responsible for enforcing rules and maintaining order amongst inmates, inspecting facilities, and searching prisoners for prohibited items. Being a correctional officer can be stressful and potentially dangerous, which means that correctional officers need to remain vigilant and attentive on the job. They need to possess both social perceptiveness and critical thinking skills to succeed in their positions.
In order to become a correctional officer, candidates must have at least a high school diploma. Some employers require college credits, while federal prisons require more experience, either in the form of a bachelor’s degree or full-time experience. New hires are trained based on the guidelines provided by the American Correctional Association, during which correctional officers will learn self-defense methods, prison regulations, and basic procedures. Training rigor varies across local, state, and federal institutions. Federal correctional officers, for instance, must undergo 200 hours of on-the-job training during their first year.
Three pre-employment tests are most commonly used by employers seeking to hire correctional officers. The first test, the Criteria Attention Skills Test (CAST), assesses a candidate’s ability to concentrate and sustain focus while avoiding distractions, an important ability for correctional officers who must remain alert throughout the duration of their shifts. The second test, the Criteria Basic Skills Test (CBST), evaluates how trainable a candidate will be for an entry-level position by testing basic math, grammar, and language skills. One final test many employers administer to correctional officers is the Workplace Productivity Profile (WPP), a personality assessment that evaluates a candidate’s integrity, trustworthiness, and rule-adherence. This test is particularly relevant for correctional officers because they have to ethically enforce rules without abusing their power.
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Median wage in U.S.:
Expected growth rate 2014-2024:
Number employed (2014): 474,800
Education level of Correctional Officers: