Overview

A Correctional Officer works in a prison/jail and is responsible for the maintenance of rules among both inmates and those awaiting trial. It is a good position for someone with natural leadership and authority skills, but also for someone who is looking for a career that makes a difference.

Your typical day will be spent enforcing rules, searching inmates for contraband items, inspecting cells and other facilities, checking mail and filling in reports about occurrences during your shift. You must have good attention to detail, good information retention and the ability to spot things that may ‘feel’ wrong without being immediately obvious – after all, your key role is to keep prisoners safe and you can not do that effectively if you display poor judgement. You will also need to be resourceful, physically fit (in case of the need to restrain prisoners) and have great conflict resolution and negotiation skills.

It is not all about rules, though; you also have a unique opportunity to give something back by contributing to the prisoners’ rehabilitation through counselling and productive conversation. You are a role model and you must be aware always that you are a representative, not only for the correctional facility but for a wider society, where criminal activity is not the norm and into which the prisoners must one day reintegrate.

To be a Correctional Officer you must have a high school diploma or equivalent and a good level of literacy. However, be aware that for employment in the Federal Bureau of Prisons you will need a bachelor’s degree and up to 3 years’ experience of providing counseling or supervision. The role is limited in opportunities so you must display all the required qualities, but once you have secured a position there are good advancement opportunities, such as Correctional Sergeant.

Pay

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for correctional officers and bailiffs in America in 2016 was just over $40,000 per year. Salary aggregator Payscale put that figure slightly lower with a median salary of just over $37,000 per year.

Corrections Officer Salary Statistics

2016 Median Pay$39,700 per year
$19.08 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationHigh School diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNot Required
On-the-job TrainingModerate-term on-the-job Training
Number of Jobs, 2016474,800
Job Outlook, 2014-2024
+4%
Employment Change, 2014-2024+17,900
Sources: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics & Payscale

Given the high demand for correctional officers needed for the growing numbers of incarcerated Americans, many corrections officers are able to add significant overtime pay to their monthly income. When corrections officers work overtime, they can make anywhere between $15 and $40 per hour, which can greatly inflate median salaries.

Industry Forecast

As mentioned, the number of incarcerated persons in the United States is only increasing, and thus so are the number of prisons and jails required to house them. With more and more citizens in trouble with the law, the growth rate for jailers and correctional officers is positive for the foreseeable future through 2024.

Growth rates for Law Enforcement workers, Correctional Officers, and Jailers are all expect to increase at around 4% between 2014 and 2024. Growth rate for Bailiffs alone is actually slightly higher at around 5%.

Overall job prospects for these types of professionals are relatively peachy given most states in the country reporting and projecting higher numbers of prisoners, combined with the fact that there is a relatively high job turnover rate in this industry, meaning that the need to replace experienced correctional officers will continues to persist.

Factor in the number of professionals to transition into other types of work, or simply retire due to old age, and you have a relatively robust job outlook that should inspire any worker with a background in corrections or law enforcement to go out and a find good paying job.

Do not forget that experience in this field of work is highly transferrable; this means that a person with experience as a bailiff can easily transition into other type of law-enforcement work, just like jailers can easily transition into other correctional type of work.

This means that although the profession itself is not the most stable in the world, those who working it usually have a pretty easy time being able to find work relative to their experiences..

Types of Correctional Officers

There are two main types of correctional officers that are used when categorizing people working in law enforcement and courthouses.

One type refers to the level at which the professional operates, meaning he or she works at either the state level, federal level, county level, or city level. Additionally, some professionals can work outside of the federal government in privately-run companies that are often contracted by the government.

The second type of categorization for those working in the correctional field is the speciality type. The different types of correctional specialities are numerous and include:

  • Correctional officer
  • Correctional counselor
  • Correctional treatment specialist
  • Parole officer
  • Peace officer
  • Probation officer
  • Substance abuse counselor

These job titles can then be further refined by the level at which the professional operates. This means you can add “Juvenile” in front of any of the above-mentioned job titles to further define the focus of that professional if you works with children.

Likewise, you can add “state”, “local”, or “federal” to the beginning of any of the above bulleted job titles to specify the governmental level at which the professional has most experience.

Finally, there are many other career paths that overlap with that of a corrections officer. Corrections officers may have a background in, or may transition into positions such as:

  • Security officer
  • Police or Sheriff’s patrol officer
  • Security supervisor
  • Senior corrections officer
  • Police officer
  • Manager of police detectives

It is important to know your exact long-form job title when applying to work in the corrections field, as specificity is not just required for day today responsibilities, but it is also useful when trying to clearly communicate how are you might be a perfect fit for a position that is seeking a very specific type of professional.

Sample Resume Download

Below is an example of a professionally crafted correctional officer resume that you can download, print out, and take notes on when writing your own resume. While this resume is titled “correctional officer”, the formatting and style and even some of the bullet points can be used for other related professions mentioned briefly above.

The key thing is that you do not just copy it word for word, but include your own unique personal experiences and skill sets to stand out from the competition and land the job you are seeking.

View Large Version

How To Write Your Own

Writing a correctional officer resume is all about maintaining the standards and formatting that are expected of a professional resume. As a professional who is expected to “act by the the book” on a daily basis, correctional officers and jailers should understand the seriousness of the formalities required to craft a respectable and impressive resume.

So for starters, this means that your resume, from the very beginning, should adhere to standardized margins as well as standardized font size, standardized bullet points, and a standardized font selection, meaning something like Times New Roman or Arial.

Unlike some more artistic type professions that can get away being a little more creative with the design of the resume, correctional officers and bailiffs are expected to present very boringly formatted documents.

This is not to say the profession itself is boring; it is just that for a law enforcement related resume, the actual experiences and certifications the professional holds are what make the greatest impression, as they are the most important part when hiring a new Officer, Jailer, or Bailiff.

Try your best to keep your resume to one page, as it should be a condensed biography of your professional worklife, only including the most important and topically relevant experiences and skills for the specific job being applied for.

To put it more bluntly, you cannot just change the dates on the resume used to get the job you had 10 years ago and think that will be a competitive resume in today’s job market. Ideally, you update your resume every year to include impactful experiences and new required skills before you forget them.

However, if you are like 99% of people, you probably have not updated your resume in a while, And that is  fine; it just means that you have to sit down and spend a good solid couple of hours writing a brand-new resume for that job transition or promotion you are pursuing.

Finally, try to numerically quantify your achievements in your resume whenever possible. This means stating the size of the population of the prison you managed and kept orderly in number terms. State how your organization or facility stayed within budget in dollar terms of percentage terms.

We like to include numbers on a resume as they help to accent bullet points and pull the reader into the body of the resume. If you can get HR to spend more than five seconds on your resume, they are likely to spend more time reviewing you as an applicant, thus increasing the likelihood of you getting the job.

Sample Bullet Points

Below is a selection of sample bullet points relevant to law enforcement  professionals that you can use for inspiration when writing your resume. Again, do not simply copy, but modify them to reflect your own unique  experiences.

Useful Correctional Officer Bullet Points

Conduct head counts to ensure that each prisoner is present.
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.
Inspect conditions of locks, window bars, grills, doors, and gates at correctional facilities to ensure security and help prevent escapes.
Record information, such as prisoner identification, charges, and incidences of inmate disturbance, and keep daily logs of prisoner activities.
Search prisoners and vehicles and conduct shakedowns of cells for valuables and contraband, such as weapons or drugs.
Use weapons, handcuffs, and physical force to maintain discipline and order among prisoners.
Inspect mail for the presence of contraband.
Guard facility entrances to screen visitors.
Maintain records of prisoners' identification and charges.
Process or book convicted individuals into prison.
Settle disputes between inmates.
Conduct fire, safety, and sanitation inspections.
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.
Participate in required job training.
Take prisoners into custody and escort to locations within and outside of facility, such as visiting room, courtroom, or airport.
Serve meals, distribute commissary items, and dispense prescribed medication to prisoners.
Counsel inmates and respond to legitimate questions, concerns, and requests.
Drive passenger vehicles and trucks used to transport inmates to other institutions, courtrooms, hospitals, and work sites.
Use nondisciplinary tools and equipment such as a computer.
Assign duties to inmates, providing instructions as needed.
Investigate crimes that have occurred within an institution, or assist police in their investigations of crimes and inmates.
Issue clothing, tools, and other authorized items to inmates.
Arrange daily schedules for prisoners including library visits, work assignments, family visits, and counseling appointments.
Search for and recapture escapees.
Supervise and coordinate work of other correctional service officers.
Sponsor inmate recreational activities such as newspapers and self-help groups.
Source: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3012.00

Career Objective

The career objective of a corrections officer or bailiff focuses first and foremost on the number of years of experience that the professional has that are relevant to the job being applied for.

If you are an entry level candidate, you want to focus on internships and educational experiences. Do not worry about this section  being overly impressive, as the reader will know ahead of time that you are an entry-level applicant and thus they will know what they are getting in terms of lack of experience.

If you are transitioning from a related field like security officer, you will emphasize the years of experience you have that are applicable and can be transferred into the field of correctional officer work.

Keep the career objective to just a few sentences in length, as you want to be assisting interact as possible communicating why an organization should hire you. This means besides focusing on the experience, you want to focus on one hallmark skill or treat you have that will help differentiate you from other applicants.

The whole goal of the career objective is to pique the interest of the reader, not sell the reader on asking you in for an interview, That is the job of the body and educational sections of the resume.

Consider your current objectives to be your elevator pitch of your resume. This means you should be able to get out in the few seconds that you are in an elevator in a way that will make the listener want to ask you more about yourself as a professional.

Additional Skills & Certifications

There is a wide variety of additional skills that are highly sought in correctional officers. These include things like communication skills, teamwork skills, and problem solving skills.

Additionally, given the high turnover in this industry, employers want someone who is resilient, someone who is dependable and self-sufficient when required. Think about it, and in an industry with high turnover, the more stable you can make yourself appear, the more attractive you will be as a candidate.

In terms of industry-specific certifications, the more of these you can obtain, the better, as it shows  that you not only possess the skills and knowledge required to perform your duties, but you have also been tested on them by a third-party who also approved of your skill and knowledge levels.

One certification you can pursue is that of the Jail Officer Training Program. This is a program developed by the national sheriffs’ association (NSA). This certification includes basic training, liability education, correctional law education, personnel management, planning and preparation skills, and jail operations education. The whole certification can be done online.

There are also certifications offered by the American Correctional Association (ACA) including things like Ceritified Corrections Officer (CCO) Certification to Certified Corrections Supervisor/Security Threat Group (CCS/STG) certification, to things like Certified Corrections Nurse (CCN) certifications and Certified Behavioral Health Certifications (CBHC).  For a detailed list of specific certifications you can visit the American Corrections Association’s official website: www.aca.org

Additional Resources