Federal Correctional Officer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
What are the pros and cons of becoming a federal correctional officer? Get real job duties, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a federal correctional officer is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Federal Correctional Officer

A federal correctional officer is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of prisoners and enforcing rules in a federal correctional facility. Federal correctional officers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree or three years of related work experience to begin their careers.

Pros of Becoming a Federal Correctional Officer
May only need 3 years of related work experience to begin working in the field*
Advancement to supervisory positions possible*
Federal employees receive extensive job benefits**
Typically earn higher salaries than local or state corrections officers*

Cons of Becoming a Federal Correctional Officers
Work in stressful, physically demanding settings*
Slower-than-average career growth (5%) expected between 2012 and 2022*
Occupation experiences high on-the-job illness and injury occurrences*
Often required to work on nights, weekends and holidays*

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Essential Career Information

Job Duties

A federal correctional officer ensures that federal prison inmates abide by the prison's rules and regulations. They supervise prisoners and the prison, search for banned items, report violations, assist in prisoner rehabilitation and discipline when needed. They are responsible for breaking up fights and sometimes mediating inmate disagreements. Federal correctional officers often work with prisoners who are incarcerated for long periods of time, so they may get to know the specific needs of particular inmates and alter their supervision to meet those needs.

Salary and Career Outlook

As of May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that on average, correctional officers earn about $21.32 an hour, and about $44,350 annually (www.bls.gov). The BLS expects job opportunities in the field to grow 5% during the 2012-2012 decade. This slower-than-average growth can be attributed to the slight decline in the amount of crime in recent years. However, the need to replace officers who have left the field due to retirement or the physical and mental strain of the occupation may generate new job openings.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

Aspiring federal corrections officers are required to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university or at least 3 years of relevant work experience. Examples of related work include careers in counseling, teaching, rehabilitation and social work. Working as a security guard or an air traffic controller is also acceptable.

What Do Employers Look for?

Correctional officers must have a commanding demeanor and be able to enforce the rules of their facility. They must be able to supervise others and appropriately and effectively react to emergency situations. For supervisory positions, employers seek candidates with experience in law enforcement, park surveillance or corrections. All federal correctional officers must be in good physical and mental health to perform regular job requirements. According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, applicants must younger than 37 unless they have approved federal law enforcement experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

If you are looking to enter the workforce, you may benefit from first earning a bachelor's degree. Because there are no universal education requirements to work as a federal correctional officer, you may further advance your skills by studying a subject approved as relevant career experience.

Additionally, according to USAjobs.gov, employers favor candidates with experience in the armed forces. Therefore, to stand out against the competition, you might consider joining a branch of the military or joining as a reserve.

Alternative Career Choices

If you are interested in a law enforcement career, but do not want to become a federal correctional officer, you may be interested in a career as a police officer. Police officers are responsible for enforcing the laws and regulations of a particular town, city or municipality. Typically, a police officer is required to have a minimum of a high school degree and complete cadet training. According to the BLS, in 2013, police officers earned a median wage of $28.23 per hour. The BLS predicts that police officer positions are expected to grow at a slower-than-normal pace (5%) between 2012 and 2022.

You might also consider a career as a security guard. Security guards are responsible for reviewing recorded tapes, overseeing premises, monitoring alarms, writing incident reports, interviewing witnesses and performing security checks. Normally, employers seek candidates with a high school diploma. According to the BLS, security guards earned a median hourly wage of about $13 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • Master: Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Corrections
      • BSCJ: Juvenile Justice
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
      • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
      • Master of Public Administration - Emergency Management and Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Corrections
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Arts in Law and National Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
  • Campus Locations:
    5. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma in Law Enforcement Foundations
  • Richmond, KY

    Eastern Kentucky University

  • Chula Vista, CA

    Southwestern College

  • Iowa City, IA

    University of Iowa

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • BS in Corrections
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Corrections
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Diploma in Law Enforcement Foundations

What year did you graduate high school?

Southwestern College