Prison Guard Education Requirements

Prison guards are responsible for maintaining control over state and federal prison populations. Guards are assigned to different cell blocks, and they supervise the inmates in those locations. Since they often move and restrain inmates, guards require physical strength and stamina. The ability to handle dangerous situations is also vital for this career.

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Educational Requirements for Prison Guards

Students who want to work as prison guards in the federal prison system usually require a bachelor's degree, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (www.bop.gov). State and county prison systems do not always require guards to possess a bachelor's degree, but these institutions usually require some college-level training along with job experience. The experience need not be in corrections if it required instructing or persuading others, exercising authority and responding to emergencies.

Relevant undergraduate education for prison guards may include a degree in criminal justice. Undergraduate coursework includes constitutional law, criminal law, judicial process and criminology. Some programs offer a concentration in corrections, which provides additional training for those who plan to work in the adult or juvenile prison systems. Corrections coursework includes corrections reporting, prisoner rehabilitation, prisoner supervision and penology theory.

Along with degree requirements, prison guards are normally required to complete additional training programs at the prison or central facilities. The federal prison system requires prison guards to complete prison guard academy training programs, including a 3-week course in Glynco, Georgia. Some state and county prison systems also require prison guards to complete academy programs. Academy training programs include coursework such as firearms training, prisoner rights, prison gangs, crisis management, mental health issues and officer safety.

Career Information

Also called correctional officers, prison guards monitor prisoners in state and federal facilities. Guards supervise inmates and make sure that each inmate obeys the rules at all times. If an inmate refuses to follow the rules, or he or she is caught with contraband, a prison guard must administer proper punishment, such as placing the inmate in solitary confinement or temporarily revoking the inmate's privileges.

Prison guards must fill out reports to document prisoners' daily activities. Some reports help guards verify if prisoners are completing their work detail assignments. Guards also file reports to keep track of each inmate's prison affiliations, such as gang ties. Many of these reports can be used in probation and early release trials, so guards must make sure that the information is documented in accordance with state and federal law.

Other than directly watching over inmates, prison guards are responsible for keeping the facility secure. To maintain control over the facility, some prison guards stand watch in guard towers so that they can keep an eye on the entire prison. Other guards inspect the perimeter to make sure inmates cannot escape. Prison guards also search visitors to prevent them from giving contraband items to inmates.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that correctional officers will have a 5% job growth in the years 2010-2020. Jailers and correctional officers earned $39,040 as a median annual wage in 2012, according to the BLS.

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