Correctional Officer Certification & Training Schools Guide

Approximately 434,300 corrections employees are working in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Five percent of corrections officers are employed in facilities that provide support services, while four percent work in federal government agencies. Correctional officers are employed in the highest numbers within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Corrections officers may be able to get into this career as long as they hold a high school diploma, and corrections officers working in federal agencies are the most likely to hold college degrees. Students who are interested in getting into corrections as a career should do two things to improve their chances. First, they should earn a degree in corrections. This doesn’t have to be a four-year degree. Earning a two-year degree from a trade school or community college might improve their chances enough to get their foot in the door. Next, they might want to begin a regular physical fitness training regimen. After all, corrections workers and police officers must be able to pass their fitness tests to keep their positions.

What Programs are Available for Corrections?


Students interested in training programs for corrections officers are able to enroll in trade schools or community colleges as well as regular four-year programs, where they will major in a criminal justice or similar program that teaches them the basics of what they need to know to begin working in this field. Rather than earning a four-year degree in corrections, a trade school program teaches them the nuts and bolts of the different procedures that an employee of a correctional facility or law enforcement agency will use regularly.

Another option future students have is to go to a community college Corrections and Detention program, where they can earn a two-year degree, such as an Associate in Applied Science in Corrections and Detention. A program like this was created to prepare students for a career in juvenile corrections, adult corrections, or detention. Current corrections officers can get into this program to upgrade their skills and prepare them for promotions or advanced positions.

Students who choose this option will develop the skills they need to work with juveniles or other inmates; they will also learn how to handle the problems they may experience with these individuals. Some classes specialize in management skills, ethics, conflict and crisis management skills, theories of childhood and adolescent development, and security procedures.

Other two-year programs, such as the Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, prepares students to move right into a specialized criminal justice position. Corrections officers provide a large amount of the safety and freedom in our society. Criminal justice professionals should acquire the broadest education. They may also be highly trained in firearms training, officer training, and regular physical fitness opportunities. These programs may also offer a homeland security specialization, a relatively new option, and graduates who choose this option may be able to find a position in federal corrections.

  • Fox Valley Technical College Corrections
  • Maricopa Community College Corrections and Detention
  • Valencia College Criminal Justice

What Will You Learn in a Corrections Program?


Students enrolled in a correctional science program have the opportunity to enter into one of a variety of career specialties. During the degree program, students learn how to demonstrate their understanding about the workings within the correctional system—; they will apply definitions, concepts, and principles to both courts and correctional settings.

They may also learn how to use critical thinking for research and evaluation as they analyze and synthesize the correct procedures for the collection of evidence and data in preparing criminal cases. Students could also learn how to develop, organize, and write a report that is objective and will meet the legal requirements of correctional institutions.

Students may be able to choose between a certificate in correctional science or they may prefer to earn an Associate of Science in Correctional Science. Another degree program might be called an administration of justice degree and may end in an Associate of Science degree. Many of these types of degrees are meant to prepare students to transfer to a four-year college. These programs are also suitable for individuals who are already working in a criminal justice, administration of justice, or a corrections agency. They offer training that helps these employees advance in their careers.

Graduates are ready to work in correctional offices, private security, probation, as game wardens, in state parks, as county deputy sheriffs, or as municipal police.

Skills Needed


  • Communication abilities:
    Whether it’s written or oral, correctional officers have to be able to communicate clearly to prisoners, supervisors, and fellow officers. Their communications should be direct but diplomatic.
  • Problem-Solving Skills:
    Corrections officers who have this skill quickly assess what is happening, analyze the situation, and decide what needs to be done.
  • Teamwork:
    Officers must understand that they need to work with each other and support each other. They also know that they can help keep morale high by working as a member of a team.
  • Resilience:
    Everyone experiences setbacks and disappointments. Correctional officers who have had a setback must be able to cope with that experience so that they can get back to work having learned more about themselves.
  • Open-Minded:
    Corrections officers who are able to think flexibly are able to adapt more easily to changes; they do this by keeping their minds open to new ways of looking at things.
  • Physical Fitness:
    It’s much easier for corrections officers to carry out their daily roles when they are in top physical condition. Maintaining good conditioning may mean the difference between serious injury and completing a workday without being injured or even incapacitated.

Financing and Scholarships


Going to a trade school or community college is an investment in the future for any student. However, it’s also a major investment. When students know they want to go to school and earn either a certificate or associate degree, one of the first things they should do is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can provide them with access to federal funds, both those that will not need to be paid back and those that do.

  • Pell Grant

    The U.S. government awards these grants to students who have been able to prove exceptional financial need. Community college students have access to these grants, which do not have to be paid back except in certain circumstances. The amount of the grant relies on the student’s level of need, combined with their overall school costs.

  • KMCCA Scholarship

    The Check and Credit Card Association award scholarships to “outstanding” second-year criminal justice majors. Students must hold a 3.0 GPA and they must also go to the annual fall meeting the KMCCA association holds in the year they receive their scholarship; this is so they can be recognized by members.

  • Ferrell Robinson Family Fund

    Two scholarships of $1,000 are awarded each year to African American students enrolled part-time or full-time in criminal justice programs. Students must demonstrate financial need, but the scholarship is renewable.

Choosing a Corrections Program


Online vs. On-Campus


Whether it’s a certificate program or an Associate of Criminal Justice program, an on-campus degree program helps students to reach their goals. An associate degree program may work similarly to an officer training program and it gives students the knowledge and tools they need to carry out their official duties after graduation. An on-campus Certificate of Completion in Corrections is suitable for those students who plan to pursue careers in a variety of areas within the criminal justice field: prisons, parole, jails, and probation.

An online corrections degree program may be nearly identical to its on-campus counterpart, offering some of the same foundational knowledge as academy training programs provided by states. Once students graduate from their criminal justice or corrections program, they are eligible to begin working in correctional officer jobs. They will usually meet the same training requirements that graduates of criminal justice academies meet.

Job Placement Assistance


Students who are about to graduate from their certificate or associate degree programs should visit their career services offices. The professionals here are able to help students with resumes and cover letters, help them find internships, and find positions for which they want to apply.

Job placement centers help students learn about the minimum requirements of each position they may be interested in. They also help them to note any relevant work experience they may have so they can include it in the documents they send to law enforcement agencies.

Employers in this field may also be interested in any firearms or similar training that students possess. Have students had training in the field? What areas of criminal justice are they the most interested in? Have they taken part in a practice investigation, for instance, as they develop their skills? Job placement assistance specialists can help you figure out how to include all the training you’ve acquired into your resume, cover letter, or other documentation you send out as you look for a job.

FAQs


How long does it take to complete a corrections program?
Students who are interested in enrolling in a criminal justice or corrections degree program should know that, at the associate level, it will take two years, approximately, for them to complete their degree program and graduate. An Associate of Applied Science program requires students to take general education courses such as math, reading and writing skills, English, and a humanities course.

For programs focused on getting students a certificate, there are likely to be fewer general education courses. Because of this, these programs may take less time, from 12 to 18 months to complete, instead of a full two years.

How much does a corrections program cost?
Tuition charges for corrections degree or certificate programs vary by state; they also vary between each trade program and community college within a state. Community colleges and trade schools may be less expensive than four-year universities, but students should remember that costs for undergraduate degrees are going up everywhere.

At one community college, in-state tuition, with activity fees and technology fees, is $1,262 per semester and out-of-state students pay $4,334 per semester.

Is there specific accreditation for corrections?
Students should verify the accreditation status of each school they are interested in. Employers and the Federal Department of Education do keep track of which programs are accredited or not. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) reviews and accredits criminal justice degree programs in the U.S. and internationally. This is called programmatic accreditation and, while it indicates a particularly quality school, general regional accreditation can be just as meaningful.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation has approved several accrediting agencies which cover regions of the United States.

These include:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) – Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

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