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Career profile Correctional Officer

Also known as Correctional Officer, Correctional Sergeant, Corrections Officer (CO), Deputy Jailer, Detention Deputy, Detention Officer, Jail Officer, Jailer, Jailor

Correctional Officer

Also known as Correctional Officer, Correctional Sergeant, Corrections Officer (CO)

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$32,830 - $81,940 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Speaking
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Active Listening
Knowledge Areas
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Law and Government
  • Administrative
Core tasks
  • Conduct head counts to ensure that each prisoner is present.
  • Inspect conditions of locks, window bars, grills, doors, and gates at correctional facilities to ensure security and help prevent escapes.
  • Monitor conduct of prisoners in housing unit, or during work or recreational activities, according to established policies, regulations, and procedures, to prevent escape or violence.
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What does a Correctional Officer do?

Correctional Officers guard inmates in penal or rehabilitative institutions in accordance with established regulations and procedures.

In addition, Correctional Officers

  • may guard prisoners in transit between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point,
  • includes deputy sheriffs and police who spend the majority of their time guarding prisoners in correctional institutions.

What kind of tasks does a Correctional Officer perform regularly?

Correctional Officers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Conduct head counts to ensure that each prisoner is present.
  • Inspect conditions of locks, window bars, grills, doors, and gates at correctional facilities to ensure security and help prevent escapes.
  • Monitor conduct of prisoners in housing unit, or during work or recreational activities, according to established policies, regulations, and procedures, to prevent escape or violence.
  • Search prisoners and vehicles and conduct shakedowns of cells for valuables and contraband, such as weapons or drugs.
  • Maintain records of prisoners' identification and charges.
  • Record information, such as prisoner identification, charges, and incidents of inmate disturbance, keeping daily logs of prisoner activities.
  • Guard facility entrances to screen visitors.
  • Use weapons, handcuffs, and physical force to maintain discipline and order among prisoners.
  • Take prisoners into custody and escort to locations within and outside of facility, such as visiting room, courtroom, or airport.
  • Conduct fire, safety, and sanitation inspections.
  • Serve meals, distribute commissary items, and dispense prescribed medication to prisoners.
  • Settle disputes between inmates.
  • Provide to supervisors oral and written reports of the quality and quantity of work performed by inmates, inmate disturbances and rule violations, and unusual occurrences.
  • Use nondisciplinary tools and equipment, such as a computer.
  • Participate in required job training.
  • Issue clothing, tools, and other authorized items to inmates.
  • Counsel inmates and respond to legitimate questions, concerns, and requests.
  • Assign duties to inmates, providing instructions as needed.

The above responsibilities are specific to Correctional Officers. More generally, Correctional Officers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others
Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

What is a Correctional Officer salary?

The median salary for a Correctional Officer is $47,410, and the average salary is $52,340. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Correctional Officer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Correctional Officers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Correctional Officers earn less than $32,830 per year, 25% earn less than $37,950, 75% earn less than $63,290, and 90% earn less than $81,940.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Correctional Officers is expected to change by -7.2%, and there should be roughly 34,000 open positions for Correctional Officers every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$32,830 - $81,940
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Correctional Officers?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Correctional Officer are usually higher in their Realistic, Enterprising, and Conventional interests.

Correctional Officers typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Correctional Officers typically have strong Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Lastly, Correctional Officers typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Correctional Officer tend to value Support, Relationships, and Independence.

Most importantly, Correctional Officers very strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Correctional Officers strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Lastly, Correctional Officers moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Correctional Officers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, stress tolerance, and self-control.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Correctional Officers, ranked by importance:

Job requires being honest and ethical.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.

What education and training do Correctional Officers need?

Working as a Correctional Officer usually requires a high school diploma.

Correctional Officers need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Correctional Officers

  • 0.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 30.9% completed high school or secondary school
  • 34.6% completed some college coursework
  • 14.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 16.0% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.4% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Correctional Officers

Correctional Officers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as public safety and security, law and government, or administrative knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Correctional Officers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Law and Government
Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Correctional Officers

Correctional Officers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Correctional Officers need abilities such as oral comprehension, oral expression, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Correctional Officers, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
Speech Recognition
The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.

Critical Skills needed by Correctional Officers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Correctional Officers frequently use skills like speaking, social perceptiveness, and active listening to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Correctional Officers, ranked by their relative importance.

Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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