Correctional officers must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. They then go through a training academy and then are assigned to a facility for on-the-job training. Qualifications vary by agency, but all agencies require a high school diploma or equivalent. Some also require some college education or work experience. Some corrections agencies require some college credits, but law enforcement or military experience may be substituted for this requirement.
Correctional officers may complete a variety of certifications that provide additional resources for their daily work. These certifications also are a means to further the officers’ careers because they may lead to promotions. Qualified officers may advance to the position of correctional sergeant, who is responsible for maintaining security and directing the activities of other officers. Qualified officers also can be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions, including warden. Officers sometimes transfer to related jobs, such as probation officer, parole officer, or correctional treatment specialist.
Correctional officers must determine the best practical approach to solving a problem. Officers must use both their training and common sense to quickly determine the best course of action and to take necessary steps to achieve a desired outcome.
Correctional officers must be able to interact and effectively communicate with inmates and others to maintain order in correctional facilities and courtrooms. They must be able to assist others in resolving differences to avoid conflict. They must have the strength to physically move or subdue inmates. They must control their emotions when confronted with hostile situations. Officers must be able to understand and learn training materials and write reports regularly. They usually must be at least 18 to 21 years of age and must have no felony convictions.