Inside Correctional Officer Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Technology Keeps Me On My Feet...
It is not as risky as it seems to be on national media. A very laid back type of job. Never had any problems with criminals and for the most part everyone seems amicable." (Correctional Officer; 2013)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Rutgers in New Jersey; completed Bachelor degree in 1998

"Working In A Prison Will Test You But It Is Not As Horrible As I Thought It Would Be...
It is NOT like you see on Lockdown on TV. Most of the time it is really boring. Well, it depends on what unit you get but even the unit I go in to, which is some of the most obnoxious and out of control, it can be terribly boring. I am stuck in the pod with the inmates for 12 hours a day. I get a break for lunch and maybe a small break here and there during the day, if a Rover comes by to relieve me, but other than that, I'm in prison, in the pod, just like the inmates. Inmates like to push and push. It's almost like working with small children or even teen agers. They will make comments, talk nice to you, cause distractions, hide things just to test you. They will constantly test you. It is non stop testing. They want to see what distracts you. They want to see what upsets you. They want to see how thorough you are. And just like children, when you lay down the rules, they get very upset. But, what I've discovered is that even though they are upset, that IS how you gain their respect. You don't treat them badly or talk to them badly but you uphold the rules and expect them to follow them. You follow through with consequences if they do not follow rules. They will get up in your face, threaten, scream, wish your death upon you, call you every nasty name in the book but, if you continue to uphold the rules, they learn quickly how to act when you are there and they do it. They may groan that you are their pod officer for the day but they follow the rules when you are there because they know you mean it. If you go in trying to be too nice, they will walk all over you, take advantage of you and it is harder to take any control back after you have done that. It's so much easier to take the abuse in the beginning, uphold the rules to the letter and slowly lighten up as time goes on than it is to be nice and then start trying to be hard. It's the most exhausting, mentally and physically, job I have ever had. I truly do not think it pays enough for what we do. At the same time, I am finding it to be a rewarding job in many ways. Each person will have to find their own rewards. For me it's, at least thinking I do, anyway, that maybe I can lead by example and help them see that there are other ways to react, other ways to handle situations that are less than pleasant and that they don't have to fight and argue over everything. What also surprised me a great deal was how very, very respectful some of the inmates are. Some of these guys are in for murder and they are the model inmate. They are very respectful, always do their jobs, never have contraband and are very helpful with information. It's absolutely amazing." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Maine, female
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Husson University in Maine; completed Associate degree in 1993

"It Is A Different World...
How different of a world it is in a prison. It has it's own sets of rules in there." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, male
School: at Silverdale in Tennessee; completed Certificate degree

"Health And Attitudes Of Inmates...
I was surprised jut how many of the jail inmates have serious mental or physical health illnesses. The nurses give Prozac out like it was candy. But the juveniles, charged with very serious crimes, surprise me the most. Few have ever expressed any remorse for their actions." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

Career: 25 years of experience, currently based in Oklahoma, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Community College Of The Air Force in Oklahoma; completed Associate degree in 1984

"Private Security, Not Just A Desk Job...
Private Security is not as "Paul Blart" as is suggested by the movies and media. You deal with real situations and real people - all of whom have a problem that wants solving. Every situation is different and has a different solution. Sometimes it's stopping a shoplifter, sometimes it's helping somebody find a car when they've forgotten where they parked. It's always the same, and at the same it it's always different." (Security Director; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in South Carolina, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Midlands Technical College in South Carolina; completed Associate degree in 2011

"Nothing Like What I Learned...
How much more I learned through work than I ever did in school. Textbooks cannot really prepare you for what will really happen." (Corrections; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Connecticut, female
School: Studied Private Security at Lewis University in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Compensation Needs To Be More Comparable To What Tuition Costs Are In Order To Be Able To Pay Them Off...
Being a correctional officer does not pay nearly enough in comparison to what I have paid in tuition costs." (Correctional Officer; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Sanford Brown in Missouri; completed Associate degree in 2005

"More Mellow Than TV Portrays...
I am surprised at how tedious this line of work is. This line of work is rarely like what you see on TV. It is low intensity, and generally quite easy going." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Penn State University in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2000

"Hollywood Knows Nothing About Inside Of Prisons...
The only idea that most people have about working in prisons is what they have seen in movies. They would be surprised in just a few hours spent observing the real world of correctional officers how far from the truth the silver screen presents the profession. They would also be amazed at the level of how mundane, basically babysitting, most of the normal daily activities are." (Correctional Officer; 2014)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Secondary Education at Central State University in Oklahoma; completed Bachelor degree in 1980

"In the work field that I am currently in isn't the field that I want to be in however I love helping people and being more of a mentor or a life changer in some way to someone and helping them. I find that with being a correctional officer is a field where patience is very much needed in all of the areas that the prison has I learn something new everyday however it is a dangerous job dealing with many different people from different backgrounds." (Correctional Officer; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in South Carolina, female
School: Studied Family And Consumer Sciences/Business at South Carolina State University in South Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2008

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Correctional Officer: "The worst part of my career is the danger I face everyday. I have been attacked by inmates in the past, but luckily I have never been hurt. Each correctional officer carries pepper spray which I have used before, which is a deterrent to attacks by inmates. I have seen officers get attacked and receive serious injuries. The best part of my job is the camaraderie and the relationships I have developed. I work with several people and we have each other's back." (2011)

Career Background

Correctional Officer

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

Get an internship since you'll learn in the field." (Corrections; 2014)

"Correctional Officers Need To Notice The Smallest Of Details...
Someone considering a career as a correctional officer should become accustomed to noticing details in normal everyday activities. What may seem like a trivial event could be the trigger to an emergency. The correctional officer needs to take notice of everything going around in his area, even though he is so bored that staying awake is sometimes a chore." (Correctional Officer; 2014)

"Stay Alert...
Always keep your guard up and be alert! Anything can happen on the spur of the moment." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

"Relating To Inmates...
Get to know the various types of mental illnesses, and how to react to a person exhibiting symptoms." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

"Don't Waste Your Money...
Don't waste your money on going to college for it. You can get in without a degree." (Correctional Officer; 2013)

"Don't Overspend Getting Overeducated...
I would say only go to school if you are taking engineering. I could have gotten my job without a degree, but I thoroughly enjoyed the college experience. I have no remorse, as I have no debt, but it was a luxury." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

"To Help You Understand Inmates And Yourself, Take Several Psychology Courses...
Narrowing it down to one will not be easy but one of the most important tips I can offer someone who is interested in this field is to take several psychology courses. You need those courses not just to better understand people/inmates and their behavior, but to understand your own and if you will be able to handle what is thrown at you." (Corrections Officer; 2013)

"Don't Deviate From Mediation...
to be a good officer, you need to be a great mediator and don't let emotions get the best of proper judgment" (Correctional Officer; 2013)

"Observation Is Key...
Effective Security Officers are observant - that's the first part of your job, is to observe and be vigilant. Not everything is an emergency, but everything requires attention to detail." (Security Director; 2013)

"Instructors Wisdom Could Be Life Saving...
I would say the best advice is that while in the academy, listen to the instructors like your life depends on it, because it might. They have your best interest at heart and have a lot of experience. They are trying to impart their wisdom and to teach you policy. It is imperative that you learn policy. It tells you everything that you can and can't do. It also tells you everything an inmate can and can't do. Listen to the instructors because they will not lead you astray." (Correctional Officer; 2011)