Correctional Officers

Corrections Officers are charged with overseeing prisoners in prisons and correctional facilities as well as individuals awaiting trial after the arrest. These officers typically work for the federal, state, and local governments in the United States. Some may be employed in psychiatric hospitals as well as substance abuse facilities. To qualify to be a corrections officer under the state, county, and municipal level, a minimum high school diploma is required.

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College Degree

Applicants who wish to be correctional officers in the federal prison system must have a college degree.

Corrections officers at state and county jails that wish to pursue leadership positions as well as career longevity and a better salary, may require a college degree. Some of the bachelor’s degree that as a corrections officer may choose to pursue include:

  • Criminology or criminal justice
  • Other behavioral science courses

The benefits of having a college education as a correctional officer include:

  • Gain management skills
  • Ability to think critically
  • Knowledge of managing computer systems
  • Ability to write and communicate verbally

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Eligibility and Hiring Process

Requirements to be hired as a correctional officer:

  • Physical fitness: most agencies seek to hire candidates that are physically fit and have the capability of working under environments that are stressful. To ensure this, many agencies give candidates a series of physical assessments such as runs, sprints, flexibility tests, sit-ups, pushups, among others.
  • Training requirements: agree to attend a comprehensive training academy. Such training may span a couple of weeks or months, along with rigorous courses and physical conditioning. Recruits will then sit a practical exam and training on how to use firearms, which they must pass.  Successful applicants to the Federal Bureau of Prisons must complete a 200-hour training course.
  • Cognitive requirements: recruits must be a United States citizen and at least 18 years old. According to the United States Bureau of Prisons, recruits must be less than 37 years old. Normal hearing and vision, with or without correction, is also a requirement. Recruits are expected to complete a written test for basic skills to join the corrections department, math, writing, and reading at the high school level.
  • Psychological requirements: as a correctional officer, you must master the use of firearms. To be authorized to carry and use firearms, candidates are required to pass a psychological assessment before joining the academy for training. A background check is administered to make sure the candidate has never been convicted with a felony, which would lead to the prohibition to use and own a firearm. If allowed to use firearms, recruits are expected to demonstrate proficiency using both pistols and long-range firearms.

Occupational Outlook


Average Salary: $49,300

Highest paying States

The BLS also reported that the five top-paying states for correctional officers were California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Alaska.

Correctional Officer Exam Online

Correctional Officer Online Study Practice Course


  • Over 600 practice questions
  • Timed tests
  • Quizzes
  • Hundreds of pages of tutorials
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Written Test

The written test has the following:

Reading Comprehension:  Analyze written material, main idea and supporting details

Basic Math:  Arithmetic, fractions, decimals and percent

Verbal Reasoning:  English grammar and usage


Reasoning: Comparisons, number series, word problems