Career Guide: Warden

Prison wardens and jail administrators serve at the top of the administrative hierarchy in correctional facilities. Wardens oversee the operations of a prison while keeping guards, inmates, and the public safe. They supervise a variety of personnel, from guards to cooks to healthcare workers, taking responsibility for all operations within a prison. Wardens also manage prison budgets, policy matters, and educational programs offered to inmates.

Wardens work in minimum- and maximum-security facilities overseeing juvenile or adult populations.

Effective and efficient wardens demonstrate strong abilities in communication, management, and leadership. These professionals must understand the needs of prisoners and staff, while remaining in compliance with all local, state, and federal rules and regulations.

What Does a Warden Do?

Wardens handle prisons’ day-to-day operations and deal with comprehensive safety and security matters. They manage staffing to ensure employees receive appropriate training to work in prison settings. Prison guards, kitchen staff, maintenance workers, and custodians all report to prison wardens. Given the nature of their work setting, wardens often delegate to prison managers to more effectively communicate and maintain order.

Wardens work in minimum- and maximum-security facilities overseeing juvenile or adult populations. They also monitor budgets and expenses while supervising food, laundry, and healthcare costs. These professionals may handle disciplinary matters in prisons, conducting investigations and determining consequences in accordance with the appropriate rules and policies. In prisons with educational, re-entry, and rehabilitation programs, wardens work with fellow criminal justice professionals and counselors to provide human and social services that prepare inmates for life after incarceration.

Learn More About Warden Careers

To learn more about criminal justice, websites such as provide comprehensive information regarding job requirements and expectations. Criminal justice professionals need critical thinking, leadership, negotiation, and self defense skills, as well as business acumen.

Warden Job Description: What You’ll Do

Warden Salary and Job Growth

Prison warden salaries vary by location and experience. According to PayScale, their average annual salary exceeds $85,000. Prison warden jobs require prior work experience in a correctional facility, making the profession appealing for guards seeking career advancement.

Prison wardens may work in the private sector or for local, state, and federal government agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field will experience a 7% decline between 2016 and 2026

Learn More About Warden Salaries

Salaries and job growth for criminal justice professionals vary by state and facility, making it important to investigate different positions before embarking on your career. To learn more about earning potential and career advancement in the criminal justice field, visit our guides.

Warden Job Salary: What You’ll Earn

Take the Next Steps

Requirements for education, training, and experience for careers in corrections or criminal justice vary. Undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice, social and human services, and justice administration can prepare learners for entry-level and managerial roles in the field.

Explore Degrees in Corrections

Online bachelor’s degrees in corrections offer students comprehensive coursework in sociology, psychology, communication, and legal studies. For more information on the curriculum and expectations associated with corrections degrees, visit our guide.

Explore Other Careers in Criminal Justice

Undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice prepare students for many different types of careers. To learn more about the professional opportunities available in the field, visit our guide.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Wardens

Members of professional organizations and associations build connections with colleagues and enjoy access to training and advocacy opportunities. Professional organizations for wardens hold conferences to bring together experts and practitioners. They also provide criminal justice updates through publications and newsletters. Many associations offer certification programs and continuing education programs, helping members stay current and advance their careers. Organizations and associations may also provide scholarships and awards to acknowledge excellence in the corrections field.

  • North American Association of Wardens & SuperintendentsNAAWS builds relationships between wardens in Canada and the United States through newsletters, networking opportunities, and training programs. Members include active and retired wardens, superintendents, and jail administrators who can participate in conferences, advocacy initiatives, and peer interaction programs.
  • United States Deputy Wardens AssociationFounded in 1948, the USDWA provides correctional workers with access to field trends and news through conferences, networking, and award programs. The association also supports the kid’s bag program, honoring fallen corrections officers by donating items to children in need.
  • American Correctional AssociationACA holds conferences and webinars for members. It also offers newsletters, certification programs, and training programs throughout the year. Individuals and organizations can join, gaining access to the latest updates in the field and discounts on association activities.