Online Corrections Degree

Learn more about online degrees in corrections. Find information on corrections careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in corrections and case management.


There is no question that the United States has a large, and growing, prison population. A constant stream of some 13 million people are arrested and sent into various local jails each year, where some 800,000 inmates can be found at any given time. On the state and federal penal level, there are about 1.6 million incarcerated individuals. Watching over all of these offenders are correctional officers.

Correctional officers are responsible for maintaining order in a prison facility. They constantly monitor their charges to ensure that assaults, disturbances or escapes do not happen. Corrections officers supervise work details for prisoners, recreational activities, meals, and even maintain vigil while inmates are supposed to be sleeping. Regular inspections of prisoners and their cells, checking for illegal contraband items such as drugs or weapons, plus inspecting incoming mail or visitors such items are a regular part of an officer’s duties. Correctional officers have no police responsibilities outside of their work environment (they are not police officers), but they do work with law enforcement to investigate crimes committed inside a prison facility. Corrections officers must keep detail written records of activities inside the prison. Correctional officers are in constant communication with each other, as many times a single officer will be responsible for a much larger group of inmates. As a result of all of this, corrections officers have one of the highest rates of nonfatal workplace injuries.


Any individual seek a career in the corrections field must hold at least a high school diploma, although many employers prefer a Bachelor’s Degree or military experience. Potential recruits are then provided with academy training based on guidelines set forth by the American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association. Detention officers are those individuals who work at pretrial detention facilities, places of short-term incarceration for those not yet sentenced to full prison terms. Correctional officers are those working at state or federal prisons, where inmates are housed on a long-term basis. Some correctional officers train to be members of a prison’s tactical response team, a highly trained group responsible for responding to emergency situations such as riots. Bailiffs, also called court officers, are those individuals who maintain order inside the courtroom.

Experienced corrections officers may advance to the supervisory position of a correctional sergeant, who is responsible for managing a team of officers. Officers with long-term career aspirations may advance through the ranks all the way to warden, the overall supervisor of the entire prison facility.


The annual median wage for correctional officers in 2008 was $38,380, with most earning between $29,600 and $51,000. This ranged from a low of less than $26,000 for the bottom ten percent of workers to high of over $64,000. Officers in the federal prison system averaged $53,459 per year. Corrections officers in management positions, such a sergeant or first-line supervisor, averaged $57,380 in annual pay. Bailiffs, on the other hand, generally earned lower salaries, coming in at $37,820 median income for 2008.

In addition to salary, corrections officers have several key benefits, including uniforms or a uniform clothing allowance. Officers in the Federal system are covered by the Civil Service Commission, which allows officers to retire at the age of 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age with 25 years of service. Additionally, many corrections officers are part of a union, which typically push for higher wages and benefits than nonunion jobs.

Job Outlook

The rate of job growth in the corrections industry is expected to be on par with the national average over the coming decade, about 9 percent. Increased demand through the expansion of the US prison population should provide numerous openings. As these increased incarceration rates continue to strain state, local and federal budgets, many municipalities are turning towards privately run corrections facilities. Both the federal government and many states are using private prisons more for their inmates. It should also be noted that working in a correctional facility has the potential to be a high stress and occasionally dangerous environment, leading to frequent turnover in the ranks. Numerous job openings as a result of retirement or workers leaving the industry will be the norm. Many local and state correctional facilities have had a difficult time in the past attracting and retaining qualified correctional officers do to low pay, difficult working conditions and the rural location of many prisons.

Recommended Schools

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