Also known as detention officers, correctional officers have stressful jobs with one of the highest rates of workplace injuries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Federal correctional officers comprise the largest part of the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons. The BOP website states that its penal institutions routinely have job vacancies for federal correctional officers.
Federal correctional officers enter at grade levels of GS-007-05 or GS-007-06. According to the BLS, the annual median wage of an officer in 2009 was $50,830 and the average annual wage was $53,459. The annual salary of a correctional officer may be higher in some places to reflect local wages. The BOP states that correctional officers who work an evening shift earn regular pay plus a shift adjustment percentage. For example, officers who work on a Sunday earn 125 percent of their base rate. Unionized federal corrections officers generally earn higher wages.
The BOP provides its correctional officers with work uniforms or with an allowance to purchase uniforms. Officers have 10 paid Federal Government holidays annually, 13 sick days per year and a minimum of 13 vacation days per year. Those with seniority or military service may accrue more vacation days. The BOP provides its officers with a choice of health insurance plans where an officer pays 28 to 40 percent of the premium cost. Other benefits include life insurance, a Thrift Savings Plan to save for retirement, retirement benefits under the Employees Retirement System and a commuter subsidy of up to $230 per month when an officer uses public transportation.
Education and Training Required
To work as a federal corrections officer, an individual should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. In lieu of a college degree, an applicant may have at least three years of full-time experience working in a position that involved guiding and directing others. Experience in counseling, emergency response, supervisory duties or teaching are other considerations. A candidate is more attractive, however, if he has earned at least 14 credit hours from a graduate school in the fields of law, social science, criminal justice or criminal science. Desirable work experience also includes working in a mental health or correctional facility full-time for a minimum of one year. The BOP states that part-time, unpaid or volunteer hours may count as acceptable experience in some instances.
The BLS states that all institutions require applicants to be at least 18 to 21 years old to be a federal correctional officer. However, a new applicant must be appointed before she is 37 years old unless she has worked in a civilian law enforcement position previously. Federal correctional officers must also be U.S. citizens, have a criminal history that does not contain any felony convictions, be in good health and meet physical fitness standards.