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Correctional Assistant Career


What is a Correctional Assistant?


Correctional assistants perform routine duties according to established policies, regulations, and procedures in correctional facilities. Correctional officers maintain order and provide security in jails and prisons, while correctional assistants perform security functions limited to areas without inmate contact. Correctional officers are the next step above correction assistants.


What Does a Correctional Assistant Do?

Correctional assistants work in capacities that do not require contact with inmates. Correctional officers maintain order within a detention facility, such as a local jail or federal prison. Inmates can be incarcerated for any number of reasons, from awaiting a court hearing for a minor offense to serving on death row. 

Duties can vary for correctional officers and staff. Some take prisoners to and from court. Some rarely have contact with prisoners and work in the administrative areas. Others supervise inmate activities, search through cells for contraband, oversee visits with family, and escort inmates to the infirmary.


What Education Does a Correctional Assistant Need?

A formal degree is not required. A high school diploma or GED with focused training (on-the-job and at special academies) is usually enough to begin a career in corrections. 

However, qualifications can vary by state and agency. Generally, correctional officers must have high school diplomas. The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires a bachelor’s degree in an area such as criminal justice, as do many state and local employers. A bachelor's degree in educational studies may also be a good option.

Once hired, correctional officers go through training. The length of the training varies based on the state and employer but can last several months. Employers do not put new correctional officers on duty until those officers are properly trained. Most employers also require ongoing training and professional development.

For many correctional officer jobs, a high school diploma is all that is required to start. Some employers might demand higher education, which can be important for advancement. A bachelor’s degree is useful for those who want to work at the federal level. Additionally, a master’s degree in a program such as educational leadership can be a good idea for those who want to move forward in leadership roles in this kind of profession.

Best Degree for Correctional Assistants


Educational Studies – B.A.

These online, non-licensure educational studies degrees prepare you to...

These online, non-licensure educational studies degrees prepare you to make a difference in a field that interests you.

Based on your career goals and interests, you can choose an educational studies program in one of 10 content areas that meets your needs while working toward employment in school settings, corporate training, or instructional design. These programs do not lead to a teaching license.

  • Time: Completion time varies depending on the specialty track you choose.
  • Tuition: $3,825 per 6-month term.
  • This bachelor's degree allows students to learn about education but does not include student teaching and it does not lead to a teaching license.

Focus areas of this educational studies degree program include:

  • Elementary Education
  • Elementary and Special Education
  • Mild to Moderate Special Education
  • Secondary Biology Science Education
  • Secondary Chemistry Science Education
  • Secondary Earth Science Education
  • Secondary Physics Education
  • Middle Grades Science Education
  • Secondary Mathematics Education
  • Middle Grade Mathematics Education

Educational Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a...

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a school or district leadership position, like principal, vice principal, or administrator.

  • Time: 60% of grads earned this degree within 23 months.
  • Tuition: $4,125 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 13 total courses in this program.

This program is for licensed teachers who are ready to take the next step in their education career.

Skills for your résumé included in this program:

  • School Law
  • School Financial Leadership
  • People & Talent
  • School Operations and Management
  • Leadership Ethics

Put your leadership skills to good use—in the service of America's children—with this education master's degree. 

States that do not accept this program: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.

How Much Does a Correctional Assistant Make?


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $47,410 in May 2020. According to, the average correctional officer salary in the United States is $46,456 as of May 27, 2021, but the range usually falls between $41,363 and $51,554. Pay can vary depending on factors such as education, certifications, other skills, and the number of years in the profession

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of correctional officers is projected to decline 7% from 2019 to 2029. State and local budgets and prison population levels will determine how many correctional officers are necessary. However, growth in educational leadership is expected to rise 4% in the next 10 years, making it a viable option for those looking to pursue higher education after becoming a correctional assistant.


What Skills Does a Correctional Assistant Need?

Correctional officers deal with stressful and dangerous situations. They must have a set of skills to allow them to do their job effectively.

  • Good judgment. Correctional officers work in settings where a normal event can become an emergency if the right steps aren’t taken. 
  • Good observational skills. Many harmful encounters or serious events will come without obvious warning. Having observational skills can help a correctional assistant spot these events before they happen.
  • Physical strength. Correctional officers keep inmates under control. There will be times when a correctional officer’s physical strength will be needed to keep inmates in check.
  • Emotional strength. Correctional officers often have to deal with hostile situations and inmates who are trying to antagonize them. They must always maintain discipline and composure.
  • Communication skills. Correctional officers frequently communicate with colleagues and inmates. They must be able to convey directions and orders, especially in stressful situations.

Correctional assistants may progress in their careers to become correctional officers. These skills are good to have no matter the level of involvement in a correctional facility.

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No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

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Interested in Becoming a Correctional Assistant?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.