Correctional Assistant Career Guide
A correctional assistant assists in duties within a correctional facility that do not require inmate contact. Correctional officers often require assistance to maintain jails and prisons and correctional assistants fulfill those responsibilities. Find out more about the duties and jobs that a correctional assistant may face here.
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. Correctional assistants perform security functions limited to areas without inmate contact. Correctional officers are the next step above correction assistants.
Correctional assistants work in capacities that do not need 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, such as 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 will 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.
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 start a career in corrections.
However, qualifications can vary by state and agency. Generally, correctional officers must have high school degrees. The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires a bachelor’s degree in an area such as criminal justice, as do many state and local employers.
Once hired, correctional officers go through training. Length of 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.
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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 observation skills. Many harmful encounters or serious events will come without obvious warning. Having observational skills can help an officer 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 career to become correctional officers. These skills are good to have no matter the level of involvement in a correctional facility.
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 Salary.com, 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. These include education, certifications, other skills, and 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.
Where Do Correctional Assistants Work?
Organizations across all levels of government employ correctional officers. Cities and counties operate jails that house individuals awaiting trial and serving short sentences. States and the federal government employ correctional officers to work in prisons, where inmates serve longer sentences. Private prisons also employ correctional officers.