The U.S. Criminal Justice System is an intricate institution that keeps Americans safe. One of the most important components of this system is corrections, which oversees those who are incarcerated for a wide range of crimes, including the most serious offenders who are on death row.
We rely on the brave individuals who choose to pursue a career within the correctional system. These individuals are responsible for keeping order within prisons, and also helping to rehabilitate prisoners. When you think of a corrections officer, you may picture the standard guard at a prison. But the truth is, there are many different career paths within this field. Read on, as we highlight some of the different types of correctional officers that are in demand.
1. General Corrections Officer
We’re starting off with the most obvious one here. A correctional officer is given the important task of supervising those who have been imprisoned. They are responsible for maintaining order and safety among inmates within prison walls. This role is good for someone who enjoys a challenge — as inmates are known to become violent or act out unpredictably. Aspiring correctional officers should also have strong interpersonal skills, negotiation skills, and the ability to resolve conflict should one arise.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, correctional officers, on average, earn over $45,000 per year. Learn how to become a correctional officer here.
2. Corrections Counselor
The role of the corrections counselor may appeal to those more interested in the rehabilitation and recovery of inmates. As its name suggests, a corrections counselor offers therapy or counseling services to those who are serving time in prison. This role involves:
- Writing up reports assessing the likelihood of an inmate repeating convicted crime
- Making suggestions for treatment
- Preparing inmates for life outside of prison
- Offering assistance in post-prison job placement
- Helping with mental health or substance abuse issues
- Working with some inmates’ families
According to Payscale.com, a correctional counselor can earn upwards of $73,000 per year. Typically, counselors within the corrections field require at least a bachelor’s degree, but this varies by employer.
3. Corrections Administrator
The role of a corrections administrator is one that blends clerical and leadership skills in a prison or jail. This is perfect for someone looking to make a real impact within the corrections field, while taking charge of the overall operation of said institution. Your job as a corrections administrator may include budget planning as well as overseeing the safety and daily routines for the prison inmates.
4. Probation Officer
A probation officer supervises and assists those who are placed on probation after — or instead of — serving time. This is an important role as it often keeps former convicts, who are returning to civilized life, in check. Some of the important duties of a probation officer include:
- Interviewing parolees and their family and friends to assess progress
- Evaluating clients to determine best course of rehabilitation
- Providing former inmates with valuable tools, such as job training
- Carrying out investigative reports and background checks
- Testing former offenders for substance abuse
- Writing and updating reports to track progress or issues
A bachelor’s degree is sometimes required of probation officers, but this varies by jurisdiction and many probation officers have earned other degrees and gained valuable job experience to land their roles.
5. Activities Specialist
Here is a job that has fun built in the title! The job of the corrections activities specialist is to plan and lead recreational activities for inmates. They also coordinate recreational facilities, such as gyms, basketball courts, and libraries. They may lead some planned activities, such as sports, book clubs, music, and more. These activities are important for the physical and mental health of the inmates.
6. Substance Abuse Counselor
As the name suggests, substance abuse counselors work with detainees who are recovering from — or struggling with — substance addiction. The requirements for this role can vary, based on the prison or state, but many programs accept candidates with a high school diploma and some postsecondary education. This is a great position for anyone who has struggled with addiction — or had a loved one who struggled with substance abuse — in the past, as they can better relate to the inmates.
7. Juvenile Corrections Officer
Juvenile corrections officers oversee the safety and civility among adolescents (under the age of 18) inside a detention center. Since the inmates here are youth, corrections officers also need to look out for the health of these inmates. This job can be stressful, as many adolescents detained struggle with mental illness, trauma, abuse, and addiction. At the same time, this is also an incredibly rewarding career, as officers oversee children who have made mistakes but are recovering and rehabilitating. Many of these young inmates are working to make real changes in their lives for a brighter future.
8. Local Corrections Officer
There are also many types of correctional officers who work at the local, state and federal level. Local corrections officers work in city or county jails. The difference between a jail and a prison is that, in jail, a person has just been arrested, is awaiting trial, or is serving a sentence of less than one year. An easy rule to remember is that jail means less than a year, and prison is for sentences lasting longer than one year.
Local corrections officers help local police officers bring in those who have just been arrested, and transport inmates to wherever they need to go — such as court hearings, state or federal facilities, or counseling centers.
9. State Correctional Administrator
The role of a state correctional administrator is to oversee the daily operations of a state prison. Some of the responsibilities include:
- Manage finances
- Oversee the training of officers
- Ensure maximum security is maintained at all times
- Regulations are followed
- Adjust internal procedures as needed
Because of the status and responsibilities of this managerial role, state correctional administrators typically have a criminal justice degree and years of experience as a corrections officer under their belt. The salary of a state correctional administrator can be upwards of $126,000.
10. Federal Correctional Case Manager
Federal correctional case managers work with inmates (in groups and as individuals) within the federal prison system. They plan and design programs that help offenders, from fostering growth in life skills to counseling services. This role is a more experienced career that suits someone with a degree in criminal justice as well as years of experience in the field of corrections.
Many of these careers listed above require some postsecondary education in criminal justice. Those that do not are still better suited for those with a degree than those without. This is where the associate degree in Criminal Justice can help. Graduates of Goodwin’s criminal justice program are prepared for an exciting, challenging, and rewarding career in the corrections field. Classes are taught by industry professionals — such as police commanders, detectives, state troopers, military veterans, attorneys, and other experts — with years of experience.
Are you ready to get your career as a corrections officer started? Contact Goodwin today to learn more about our program. Call 1-800-889-3282, or visit us online to request more information.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.