Correctional Officers and Jailers: What You Need to Know

Correctional Officers and Jailers: What You Need to Know

Correctional officers and jailers are responsible for overseeing and managing individuals who have been incarcerated in jails, prisons, or other correctional facilities. These professionals ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff, enforce rules and regulations, and facilitate rehabilitative programs. Let’s take a closer look at this essential job, the education and training required to become a correctional officer or jailer, and how to progress through the ranks.

Examples of the Job

Correctional officers perform a wide range of duties depending on the type and size of the facility they work in. Some of the common job duties include:

  • Supervising inmates in their cells or living quarters
  • Conducting routine searches for contraband items such as drugs or weapons
  • Responding to emergencies such as fights, medical emergencies, or fires
  • Transporting inmates to and from court appearances or medical appointments
  • Enforcing rules and regulations and issuing disciplinary actions for rule violations
  • Preparing reports and maintaining accurate records on each inmate

Education and Training Required

Most correctional officers and jailers are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some agencies may require some college coursework or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.

The next step is to complete a training program, either through an agency or a private training provider. The training program typically includes classroom instruction on topics such as defensive tactics, first aid, crisis intervention, legal issues, and interpersonal communication skills. In addition, candidates undergo physical fitness assessments and must pass a written examination to demonstrate their knowledge of the material.

Progressing Through the Ranks

Entry-level correctional officers typically begin as trainees or probationary officers and then advance to higher level positions within the organization. These steps usually involve additional training or education, as well as demonstrated competence in the job duties. Some of the career advancement opportunities available to correctional officers and jailers include:

  • Supervisor
  • Middle Manager
  • Chief of Security
  • Lieutenant
  • Warden

How to Get Into the Field

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a correctional officer or jailer, there are a few steps you can take to get started:

  • Research the requirements for becoming a correctional officer or jailer in the state or jurisdiction you wish to work in
  • Complete the necessary education and training requirements
  • Gain experience in a related field, such as law enforcement or security
  • Apply for an entry-level position in a correctional facility or agency
  • Be prepared to undergo a thorough background check, physical fitness assessments, and a written examination to demonstrate your competence in the role.


In conclusion, correctional officers and jailers play a critical role in ensuring the safe and secure operation of correctional facilities. These professionals must be well-trained and equipped to handle a wide range of duties, from supervising inmates to responding to emergency situations. By completing the necessary education and training, gaining experience, and demonstrating competence, aspiring correctional officers and jailers can pursue a rewarding career in this essential field.

Job Level Salary (National Average) Salary (Union) Salary (Nonunion) Salary (Full-time) Salary (California) Salary (Mississippi)
Entry $38,126.40 N/A $39,457.60 $38,729.60 N/A N/A
Intermediate $52,416.00 N/A N/A $52,540.80 N/A N/A
Experienced $63,668.80 N/A N/A $63,003.20 N/A N/A
Level 04 $39,187.20 N/A N/A $39,124.80 N/A N/A
Level 05 $52,416.00 N/A N/A $52,540.80 N/A N/A
Level 06 $63,003.20 N/A N/A $62,129.60 N/A N/A
Level 07 $67,828.80 N/A N/A $67,828.80 N/A N/A
Not able to be leveled $45,448.00 N/A $43,638.40 $45,468.80 N/A N/A
All levels (Union) $66,955.20 $66,955.20 N/A N/A $87,776.00 N/A
All levels (Nonunion) $42,515.20 N/A $42,515.20 N/A N/A $30,825.60
All levels (Full-time) $54,350.40 N/A N/A $54,350.40 N/A N/A
Time-based pay (All levels) $54,412.80 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
California (All levels, Union) N/A $87,776.00 N/A N/A $87,776.00 N/A
Mississippi (All levels, Nonunion) N/A N/A $30,264.00 N/A N/A $30,825.60

Correctional officers and jailers are responsible for maintaining order and security in jails and prisons. The salary data shows that the highest-paid level for this occupation is Level 07, with a national average salary of $67,828.80. The lowest-paid level is Entry, with a national average salary of $38,126.40.

The effects of unions on this job are significant. Unionized correctional officers and jailers have a higher national average salary of $66,955.20 than their nonunion counterparts, who earn an average of $42,515.20. In California, where the majority of correctional officers and jailers are unionized, the average salary is significantly higher at $87,776.00. In contrast, Mississippi, where correctional officers and jailers are mostly nonunion, has a significantly lower average salary of $30,825.60.

Overall, it is clear that unionization has a positive impact on the salary of correctional officers and jailers. However, the impact varies depending on the location and level of experience of the worker.