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Correctional Officer (County Jail): Educational Requirements

Careers in corrections and detention can be challenging. County jail correctional officers book, supervise and transport prisoners being held by the county. They typically undergo a period of training either before or after they're hired, and certification is required.

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Job Description

Correctional officers work in all types of incarceration facilities including federal prisons, county jail and state penitentiaries. These officers all have the same underlying job, which is to keep an eye on inmates and maintain order within the institution. Correctional officers have law enforcement privileges, but this right usually does not extend beyond the border of the facility where they work, except under special circumstances. For example, corrections officers may need to escort inmates to locations outside of the compound for trials, medical attention or community service.

Educational Requirements

While all correctional agencies require officers to be at least 18-21 years old, they can have different educational and training requirements. In many county facilities, correctional officers receive on-the-job training supplemented by firearms and self-defense courses. They also receive training on legal guidelines and communication. In some cases, the county may send new correctional officers to a regional academy that teaches them about institutional policies and custody procedures.

Some agencies may require candidates to have corrections or military experience, and others require some college credits. Correctional officer training programs take about four weeks and cover firearms tactics and basic criminal law. Hands-on training and discipline are emphasized, and trainees learn how to write reports, fingerprint and recognize substance abuse problems. These programs usually qualify candidates for state certification. Candidates can usually apply before beginning their job search, but many are sponsored by their hiring agency.

Job Duties

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that most correctional officers work in state or county jails (www.bls.gov). They are also sometimes called detention officers if they work in a facility that detains alleged offenders before they go to trial or to prison to serve a sentence. High turnover rates of inmates are common. Someone must be on duty at all times to monitor inmates; thus, correctional officers usually work rotating shifts that may contain inconsistent schedules like nights one week and days the next.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, the number of positions for corrections officers could increase by five percent from 2010-2020, which is slower than the average for all U.S. occupations. Many of these jobs are located in rural areas, and turnover can be high because of the shift work. The BLS reported an average salary of $42,650 for correctional officers who were employed by local government agencies as of May 2012. Some corrections officers advance to administrative and supervisory positions. They may also transfer to related positions, like those of probation officers or correctional treatment specialists, reported the BLS.

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