Corrections Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a corrections degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of an associate degree and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Corrections: Degrees at a Glance

Degree programs specifically focusing on corrections are rare. However, criminal justice degree programs focusing on corrections are available. These programs train you to supervise parolees, about the justice system, correctional facilities, prisoner probation regulations and the rules for handling inmates.

Careers in corrections are available at local and county jails, state penitentiaries, federal prisons, juvenile detention centers and Indian affairs corrections facilities. Advanced education, training and experience is usually necessary to work for state or federal corrections institutions. Many corrections careers require you to complete additional training through local, state or federal law enforcement training academies.

Associate Degree Bachelor's Degree
Who is this program for? Individuals interested in careers in corrections Individuals interested in working with imprisoned inmates and parolees
Common Career Paths (with approx. median annual salary) - Corrections officer ($40,000)**
- Senior corrections officer ($46,000)**
- Bailiff ($39,000)*
- Probation officer ($48,000)*
- Parole officer ($50,000)**
- Correctional treatment specialist ($48,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Core classes in criminal justice or law enforcement
- Coursework in corrections concentration
- Internship
- Core criminal justice courses
- Coursework in corrections concentration coursework
- Internships
Prerequisites - High school diploma
- High school diploma
Online Availability Some programs available Several programs available

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (2012 figures)

Associate Degree in Corrections

Some associate degree programs in corrections are designed to prepare students for transferring to bachelor's degree criminal justice programs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that many local and county corrections employers prefer candidates who have completed post-secondary courses related to criminal justice.

Courses in these degree programs discuss social issues concerning corrections facilities, protocols for handling prisoners, completing legal paperwork and the standards and practices for guarding prisoners. Several programs teach students counseling techniques and rehabilitation strategies that are used to help parolees.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many program faculty members have worked as professional corrections officers, which means that you are provided with an education based on direct experiences of working in the field
  • Several programs offer night classes to accommodate busy schedules
  • Employment is available at both publicly and privately funded corrections facilities

Cons

  • The majority of corrections careers require applicants to have a bachelor's degree*
  • Corrections officers often work in high-stress environments*
  • Budgetary problems at government corrections facilities could lead to fewer job openings and less job security*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In a criminal justice degree program with a concentration in corrections, you complete core classes in law enforcement or criminal justice, as well as classes discussing state or local government structures, court procedures, criminal justice ethics and general psychology. Some programs may require you to complete an internship at a corrections facility. Additional courses cover topics like:

  • Corrections case management
  • Correctional facilities procedures
  • American prison systems
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Prisoner supervision

Online Degree Options

Online associate degree programs in corrections or criminal justice with a concentration in criminal justice are available. Although the curriculum of online programs is the same as in-person programs, many online programs do not include internships. Note that the BLS states that applicants with law enforcement experience may have better chances with finding employment at corrections facilities.

Stand Out with This Degree

To make yourself stand out to potential employers, you can choose electives that help you build the skills you need for careers in corrections. For instance, the BLS states that corrections officers need to be able to resolve conflicts and negotiate difficult situations. Criminal justice courses in interpersonal communications may help improve your skills in these areas. Some colleges also offer special topic law enforcement courses. Although these special topics change each semester, some topics could include information about handling conflicts between inmates or strategies for n dealing with prison riots. Having this type of specialized skills may make you more attractive to employers.

Bachelor's Degree in Corrections

Most bachelor's degree programs related to corrections and law enforcement are designed to train students for careers as parole or probation officers. Several programs also prepare students for careers as correctional treatment specialists. These specialists design rehabilitation programs that help paroled prisoners assimilate back into society.

Many degree programs provide students with training in working with adult or adolescent offenders. Students in these programs also learn about the social programs designed to help decrease crime by rehabilitating criminals. The majority of programs additionally allow students to learn through hands-on internship opportunities at law enforcement agencies and corrections institutions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Between 2010 and 2020, job opportunities for parole and probation officers are expected to increase 18%*
  • Overcrowded prisons are causing more inmates to be released on probation or parole, which means that employers will likely hire more probation and parole officers to meet their need*
  • Internships may help you meet hiring managers in the corrections industry, which could lead to gainful employment

Cons

  • Parole officers and corrections treatment specialists tend to be assigned large caseloads, which can make professionals feel as if they are under a large amount of pressure*
  • Stress in this field tends to be high, especially since professionals often have to work with uncooperative parolees and family members*
  • Professionals in this field spend a large amount of time traveling to meet with parolees and to attend court trials*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

Several programs require students to complete fundamental courses in criminal justice during their first two years of college. Corrections coursework is begun during the junior and senior years of study. Core classes in criminal justice may discuss topics such as policing strategies, criminal law and court procedures. Internships are usually also required in these programs. Upper-division coursework in corrections may include:

  • Corrections paperwork
  • Crime theory and victimization
  • Defensive tactics
  • Penology
  • Conflict management
  • Correctional clients

Online Program Info

Online bachelor's degree programs related to corrections are available. Some programs are available fully online, but do not usually include internships. Hybrid programs are also available. Students in hybrid programs can select to complete internships at corrections institutions or rehabilitation centers.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To impress potential employers, one of the best ways to get ahead while still in a degree program includes acquiring a large amount of work experience. While employers may want applicants who hold bachelor's degrees, the BLS shows that the majority of employers prefer to hire applicants who have worked in the corrections industry. Most degree programs require students to complete one or two internships, but you may be able to participate in more internships, depending on your program. You may also want to gain internship experience at different institutions so that you can show potential employers you've handled clients in multiple settings. Possessing hands-on technical experience gained through working in the field can help you resume stand out to employers.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology

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American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Yuba College

Xavier University