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Individuals with a passion for helping individuals convicted of crimes should consider working in corrections. Corrections agencies oversee prisons and community-based programs like parole and probation boards. Resilient individuals who handle adversity and process information quickly and accurately can major in corrections.

Correctional officers and bailiffs earn a median salary of $47,440 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects employment for these professionals to decline 7% from 2019-2029, but graduates can still tap into opportunities.

Graduates can also become deputy sheriffs and police who spend time guarding prisoners in correctional institutions. These individuals earn a mean salary of $47,600 per year, according to BLS data.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Corrections

  • Q. What can I do with a degree in corrections?

    Graduates who earn a degree in corrections can become correctional officers, probation officers, or substance abuse counselors. They may also work as parole officers or correctional treatment specialists. As professionals climb in the ranks, upper-level management positions as corrections facilities managers or supervisors become available.

  • Q. What are some types of degrees in corrections?

    Students can take many different paths toward working in corrections. They may pursue a degree in criminal justice, criminology, behavioral science, or psychology.

  • Q. What skills do correctional officers need?

    Correctional officers need the ability to resolve conflict and must exhibit a calm demeanor under pressure, good judgment, and excellent interpersonal skills.

Why Get a Degree in Corrections?

Many jobs in corrections do not require an undergraduate degree, but a growing number of positions require a bachelor’s degree in corrections or criminal justice. Students who earn a corrections degree often enjoy a rewarding career and make a difference in the community. A degree in corrections can offer a dependable salary, health and retirement benefits, and job security. Graduates can maneuver into many different career paths with this degree.

Correctional officers and bailiffs earn a median salary of $47,440 per year, according to the BLS. At an advanced level, they can move into roles as private detectives and investigators. Private detectives and investigators earn a median salary of $53,320 per year, according to the BLS. Most private detectives and investigators need several years of work experience, have at least a high school diploma, and must hold licensure.

Students who get an online degree in corrections can pay less than attending in person at a brick-and-mortar institution. Students can also get a jump start on their careers by working in corrections while advancing their degrees.

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How Much Does a Corrections Degree Cost?

Undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board cost about $17,797 at public institutions, $46,014 at private nonprofit institutions, and $26,261 at private for-profit institutions during the 2017-2018 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Students can get a degree in corrections online, which costs less than taking classes in person at colleges or universities. The cost of earning an online corrections degree varies depending on the institution. For example, Liberty University online courses cost $250 per credit hour for undergraduate classes and $275 per credit hour for graduate courses.

In general, colleges and universities charge more for out-of-state students, but online institutions usually charge flat tuition for online students, regardless of where they live. Military service and law enforcement personnel may benefit from reduced tuition. In addition to tuition, many online schools charge technology fees for distance learning courses and may charge additional student fees.

Additional Online Student Fees for Corrections

Online students save on housing costs like room and board. Online programs usually offer most of the class materials online. However, if students do need textbooks, e-textbooks and online rentals usually cost less. Online students also save on transportation costs, including parking passes and the costs of driving back and forth to in-person classes.

Online students might pay more in technology fees and tech support so colleges and universities can develop and improve the virtual environment for their instructors.

Students can cover these additional online student fees through financial aid to help cover expenses through grant and scholarship aid, which students do not have to repay. Students at private nonprofit four-year institutions received an average of $23,700 in grant and scholarship aid, compared with $8,100 at public institutions and $6,600 at private for-profit institutions, according to NCES.

Students may also need to pay for certifications after graduation. For example, certified jail officer training and certification can cost anywhere from $195 for a certified jail officer certification to $495 for certified jail executive certification.

How Much Do Corrections Majors Make?

Corrections graduates earn less in entry-level roles. However, graduates can increase their salary prospects with upper-management jobs in juvenile corrections, rehabilitation, and corrections administration. Graduate-level degrees may lead corrections graduates into careers as corrections officers, FBI agents, and other law enforcement personnel. These advanced degrees often equate to higher salaries due to developed skills that broaden candidate marketability. Administrative roles can also lead to jobs as correctional wardens, sergeants, or other positions that require upper-management or administrative-level degrees.

Recent BLS data shows that correctional officers and bailiffs earn a median salary of $47,440 per year. Those who work as correctional professionals at psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals can attain an annual mean wage of $53,560, according to the BLS. BLS data also shows that detectives and criminal investigators can earn a mean annual wage of $83,320.

Courses in Corrections

Corrections classes help students understand the criminal justice system in detail. They help develop students’ analytical skills through class discussions, instructor lectures, and projects.

Specialized courses ultimately teach students how to help inmates or those who need rehabilitation. Class discussions may use real-life examples to help students determine the best course and the most valuable tools for rehabilitation for specific inmate profiles. Those who desire positions in upper management can take leadership classes.

The courses listed below represent a sample corrections curriculum. Students may not find all classes listed below in every program, though aspiring corrections students commonly take introduction to criminal justice, human rights, and communities and crime.

Introduction to criminal justice, the cornerstone class for most criminology, corrections, and criminal justice degrees, offers a broad spectrum of diversified knowledge about the field. The course discusses terminology and classification systems. It also discusses current practices and theories of criminal justice. This course can help students understand the basics of what they will encounter in any correctional setting.

Human rights history underpins the emergence of modern human rights concepts. Through this class, instructors lead students through a multidisciplinary view of the violations and litigation of human rights through the centuries. The course expounds on philosophy and social sciences to explore crime and criminal rights throughout history. The course teaches students fundamental law, philosophy, and historical tenets and puts them in the context of human rights today.

This course helps students understand the underpinnings of crime in various communities in the United States. Students and instructors discuss criminological theories and the study of crime levels and factors that influence community-level crime rates. Students also learn how and why community characteristics influence criminal behavior and outcomes.

How to Become a Correctional Officer

Graduates who want to become correctional officers or bailiffs must attend a training academy and receive on-the-job training. Though qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require at least a high school diploma. Some federal agencies also require some college education or related work experience.

Prisons and jails operate based on federal, state, and local law. Each government branch has different hiring standards and practices. Federal standards require U.S. citizens to have a bachelor’s degree, no criminal convictions, and good financial history. State and local standards generally require U.S. citizens to have either a high school diploma or GED, have no criminal convictions, and a valid driver’s license.

Each state’s department of corrections outlines job requirements. Job candidates with a degree or at least a partial college education can access higher-paying roles. Students can pursue an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, criminology, psychology, sociology, counseling, or another type of behavioral sciences degree. Students may want to pursue graduate-level programs in social work, clinical psychology, or human services.

Certifications and Licensure for Corrections

Graduates who want to pursue certifications may increase their options for future employment. They may also enhance their salaries through certifications such as certified jail officer, certified jail supervisor, and certified correctional trainer through the American Jail Association (AJA).

Professionals can find certifications that match the right opportunities for beginners, mid-level professionals, and managers.

Certified Jail Officer

Front-line officers may take the certified jail officer certification. This certification proves general competency in local corrections operational practices. It demonstrates professional job experience and ensures continuing education and professional growth in the local corrections profession. Professionals can hold AJA certifications for four years.

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Certified Jail Supervisor

Mid-level supervisors and managers can take the CJS certification. Successful completion of the certification demonstrates supervisors’ general knowledge about management and professional issues. The certification also demonstrates key inmate management, communications, and support services knowledge.

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Certified Correctional Trainer

The CCT designation distinguishes correctional trainers with the highest accolades. Candidates need three years of experience as correctional trainers to qualify for the certification exam. They must also provide training for managers, staff, and/or volunteers of a correctional agency. After certification, trainers can deliver clear, engaging presentations and facilitate participant learning activities. They can also properly evaluate training effectiveness.

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