How Much Can You Make in a Corrections Career?
Graduates with an online corrections degree often find employment as correctional officers (supervising inmates in detention facilities) or as bailiffs (providing security in courts of law). They may also find employment in community-based corrections and rehabilitation, juvenile corrections, and corrections administration.
While a bachelor's in corrections does not guarantee employment, it gives graduates a competitive advantage in the job market. In addition to positions in local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies, graduates can find employment in the private prison industry and other businesses that require security and safety personnel.
- Security Guards
Security guards work in a variety of private settings, protecting property against theft, vandalism, unlawful entry, and other illegal activities while maintaining safety for employees and visitors. Daily duties may include monitoring building access, security checkpoints at entrances, and alarm systems and digital cameras. Security officers may investigate safety breaches and violations and respond to emergencies and suspicious behavior.
Median Annual Salary: $28,530
Job Growth (2018-2028): 4%
- Correctional Officers
Correctional officers supervise offenders in correctional and rehabilitative facilities, ensuring adherence to rules and regulations. They spend their shifts monitoring inmates, preventing disturbances and escapes, and inspecting facilities. They also check cells and other areas for unsafe conditions, contraband, security breaches, and other rule infractions. Corrections officers may escort prisoners between jail, courtrooms, and other points.
Median Annual Salary: $44,400
Job Growth (2018-2028): -7%
A bailiff maintains security in courtrooms, escorting judges, witnesses, defendants, and jury members to assigned areas. Their daily routine includes calling court to order, guarding sequestered juries, delivering documents and evidence, enforcing courtroom rules, and maintaining peace during trials. Bailiffs must maintain the neutrality of court proceedings, ensuring that attorneys and witnesses do not influence jurors.
Median Annual Salary: $45,760
Job Growth (2018-2028): -1%
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
These professionals help rehabilitate individuals released on probation or parole and work with offenders to fulfill the conditions of their release. Depending on the setting and conditions of release, their duties may include assessing the needs of probationers and parolees, providing resources like job training or substance abuse counseling, and testifying in court regarding an offender's background and progress through re-entry.
Median Annual Salary: $53,020
Job Growth (2018-2028): 3%
- Police and Detectives
While the duties performed by police officers and detectives vary, these professionals generally investigate crime scenes, obtain warrants, and arrest suspects. They may be assigned to a specific beat or patrol area and respond to emergency and nonemergency situations. In addition to these investigative responsibilities, police and detectives must write detailed reports on their cases, and they often testify in court.
Median Annual Salary: $63,380
Job Growth (2018-2028): 5%
Job demand and salary prospects vary by employer and location. The top-paying industries for correctional officers include private investigation and security services; federal, state, and local government agencies; and psychiatric and substance abuse treatment facilities. Protective services professionals find the highest levels of employment in California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. The District of Columbia, Alaska, and California offer the highest average salaries.
What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Corrections Degree?
An online bachelor's in corrections equips students with the general skills they need to enter a variety of careers. While requirements and electives differ by school, most programs introduce students to the U.S. correctional system, criminal and corrections law, correctional administration, and offender rehabilitation. The following table outlines common courses found in corrections programs, but students should research the curriculum of their prospective schools.
Students in this introductory course learn about the correctional system and its relationship to the courts and criminal justice system. This course connects theories addressing retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation to current corrections policies and best practices.
This course addresses probation, parole, halfway houses, boot camps, and other intermediate sanctions and post-incarceration issues. Students analyze supervision models, approaches to assessment, alternatives to traditional incarceration, and treatment versus punishment.
Designed for students interested in administrative leadership, this course covers correctional management models for staffing, security, safety, and treatment. Course content emphasizes the challenges of managing special offender populations.
This course examines rehabilitation program models, risk assessment, treatment methodologies, and outcome evaluations. Students analyze and critique the treatment models used in probation work, family intervention, counseling and self-help programs, and community service.
This course addresses the challenges of managing special offender populations, such as women and sexual offenders. Students learn to apply and evaluate models of punishment and treatment for these vulnerable groups.
How to Choose the Best Online Corrections Program
Before applying to any program, students should consider factors like course requirements and electives, online delivery formats, accreditation, and tuition costs. The following section answers common questions to help students find the best online corrections school for their goals and interests.
What strategies should I follow when choosing courses in my corrections major?
Students should confer with a faculty advisor for help with course selection. During their first two terms, students should choose courses that serve as prerequisites for their desired upper-division classes. Learners should devise a program of study that includes the foundational courses and major requirements they need to graduate while leaving time for electives that interest them.
What do I need to know about the online program format?
Self-paced learners may prefer a program that offers courses in an entirely online, asynchronous format. Students who prefer programs with more faculty support and peer interaction might choose a program that relies on a hybrid or synchronous delivery format. Some programs include on-campus attendance for orientations or labs; online students should ensure that they can meet all on-campus requirements.
Should I look for a specific curriculum focus?
Students should choose a program that offers electives and concentrations aligned with their career goals. For example, specializations in juvenile justice, correctional administration, and community-based corrections and rehabilitation correspond to specific careers. Programs that include elective courses in criminal justice and other social sciences can also expand employment prospects and prepare students for advanced study in a graduate program.
What do I need to know about the faculty?
The best online bachelor's degrees in corrections offer the same rigor and expert faculty as campus-based programs. Faculty should possess strong research and teaching records in criminal justice and social sciences, as well as professional backgrounds in correctional administration, policy, and practice.
What does accreditation mean and why is it important?
Accreditation confirms a school's academic quality and financial stability. It also influences a student's ability to transfer credits, receive federal financial assistance, gain employment, and attend graduate school. Technical, vocational, and for-profit schools usually hold national accreditation, while four-year, degree-granting schools typically hold regional accreditation. Regionally accredited institutions offer the top-rated online bachelor's degrees in corrections.
Can I transfer credits from another school?
Most programs limit the number of transfer credits they accept, but policies vary by school. Many four-year schools hold articulation agreements with community colleges, enabling the seamless transfer of up to 60 credits into bachelor's programs. Some schools also award college credit to adult learners, working professionals, and police and military personnel for pertinent training and life experiences.
How long will it take to earn my bachelor's degree in corrections online?
A corrections degree generally requires 120 credits; most students graduate after four years of full-time study, enrolling in two semesters or three quarters each year. Students in accelerated online programs may graduate faster, while part-time students may take five or more years to graduate.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Corrections Programs
Students should explore financial aid opportunities, including scholarships and loans, to help pay for their bachelor's in corrections. Scholarships and grants, unlike loans, do not require repayment, and students can often renew these awards each year. The following table outlines several scholarship opportunities for corrections students.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Criminal Justice Scholarship
The American Correctional Association awards this $1,000 scholarship to minority nominees who demonstrate financial need and a willingness to pursue a college education related to a career in corrections or another criminal justice-related field. Candidates must provide evidence of financial need, academic achievement, and acceptance or enrollment in a four-year undergraduate program. The application also requires a 250-word essay that counts for 30% of an applicant's overall rating.See Scholarship
- American Criminal Justice Association Lambda Alpha Epsilon Scholarship
This merit-based scholarship program provides $100-$400 awards for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in law, legal services, criminal justice, corrections, or the social sciences. Applicants must be members of the Lambda Alpha Epsilon honor society. They must also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and have completed at least two semesters (or three quarters) of coursework at an accredited institution. All candidates must submit a statement describing their career and education goals.See Scholarship
- Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association Scholarship
HAPCOA provides annual scholarships worth $2,500 to support graduate and undergraduate students from Hispanic backgrounds who are seeking careers in law enforcement, corrections, or other criminal justice-related industries. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and a documented record of co-curricular activities and community service. They must also submit an essay outlining their educational and career plans, financial need, and any other special achievements or circumstances.See Scholarship
- Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship
Crimcheck — an employment background screening service — awards a $500 annual scholarship to support students planning to enter a criminal justice-related career. Applicants can be full- or part-time students enrolled in a postsecondary institution, high school seniors, or recent high school graduates planning to study a criminal justice field at the college level. Candidates must also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a short essay explaining how this scholarship will help them achieve their long-term goals.See Scholarship
- Women in Federal Law Enforcement Scholarship Programs
WIFLE awards several $2,500 scholarships that recipients may renew each year. Applicants must be U.S. citizens majoring in corrections, criminal justice, criminology, or a related social science. They must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and attend an accredited four-year college or university or an accredited community college with the intention of transferring to a four-year degree. The application includes a 500-word essay describing a candidate's involvement in a community project and the impact of that project.See Scholarship