A Career as a Corrections Officer in the Criminal Justice System Can Offer You Lucrative Earning Opportunities
A career as a corrections officer can give you the chance to keep your community safe and help people make positive changes in their lives. Corrections officers working in jails, prisons, and detention centers typically supervise inmates in day-to-day activities. Those in administrative positions generally maintain less direct contact with inmates, spending much of their time with prison records and office upkeep.
Community corrections provides alternative criminal justice careers, working with offenders released on probation or parole and facilitating their transitions from prison into society. While salaries vary by position, the most experienced corrections officers earn an average annual salary of over $51,000. This guide can help you learn more about career and salary prospects for corrections officers.
How Much Do Corrections Officers Earn?
Compensation for corrections professionals varies considerably by education level, location, and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), top paying states for corrections officers include California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Alaska.
Urban areas in and around New York and New Jersey, Phoenix, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, and Chicago offer the highest levels of employment for corrections officers, with median annual salaries ranging from $53,000-$69,000.
Compensation for corrections professionals varies considerably by education level, location, and experience.
State and federal corrections centers require more rigorous educational credentials, but also offer higher salaries than local facilities. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons offers corrections officers one of the highest salary rates in the industry, but applicants need a bachelor's degree for consideration.
Many corrections professionals increase their salaries by earning specialized certifications or by staying with the same employer for several years. Professionals who acquire advanced degrees in administration or management may advance their careers and salaries by moving into supervisory and warden positions.
What's my earning potential as a corrections officer?
The job outlook for corrections professionals remains healthy despite anticipated state and local budget constraints, fluctuations in the arrest rate, and overall size of the prison population. While the BLS projects employment of corrections officers to decline 7% from 2016-2026, corrections graduates entering the field can continue to find employment as officers retire or leave the labor force.
Many states have begun transitioning to alternatives to prison, including community-based rehabilitation programs that offer interesting work and competitive compensation for corrections professionals with specialized training. However, job experience is one of the most important factors affecting salary levels, as indicated below.
How Do Corrections Officer Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?
The median corrections officer salary levels fall below those of law enforcement careers. However, many variables affect earning potential in the field. Federal- and state-run detention facilities offer significantly higher salaries for corrections officers. Geographic location also affects salary, with the highest paid corrections officers found in major metropolitan areas and in the most populated states.
Corrections officers receive salary boosts for acquiring certifications in juvenile corrections, behavioral health, or the control of security threat groups and gangs.
Despite the projected decline in the employment of corrections officers, graduates entering the field can expect to find openings replacing officers retiring or moving up. As many states adopt alternatives to conventional prisons, officers with specialized training can find well-compensated jobs in community rehabilitation facilities designed to reduce recidivism. Opportunities may increase for community-based correctional specialists who work with parolees and offenders released on probation.
Corrections officers receive salary boosts for acquiring certifications in juvenile corrections, behavioral health, or the control of security threat groups and gangs. A corrections degree can also prepare you for criminal justice careers beyond institutional and community corrections. Law enforcement, criminal investigation, and security positions experience growth at or above the national average for all occupations.
|Position||Median Annual Salary||Projected Growth Rate|
|Police and Detectives||$63,380||7%|
|Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers||$28,530||6%|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$53,020||6%|
|Private Detectives and Investigators||$50,090||11%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Take the Next Step Today
The following links include educational requirements for corrections and law enforcement careers. Degree holders in corrections and related fields can not only choose from a diverse selection of employment opportunities, but may also receive benefits, opportunities for promotion, and competitive salaries.
- Explore Law Enforcement Degrees This overview gives you an idea of what to expect from an online bachelor's degree in law enforcement program, including opportunities for financial assistance and information about the career paths graduates can pursue.
- Learn How to Become a Corrections Officer This resource describes the different kinds of online corrections degrees available across the country. Use this guide to learn about the most popular careers, state-specific employment prospects, and training requirements for professionals in corrections.