How Much Do Correctional Officers Make?

Correctional officers are primarily responsible for overseeing prison inmates. Read on to learn more about how you can work as a correctional officer and what factors influence how much you can expect to make. Schools offering Criminal Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

As a correctional officer, you'll work in a jail or prison, overseeing those who have been sentenced to jail time or who are awaiting trial after being arrested. Your duties may include admitting new prisoners, supervising prisoners during their stay and releasing prisoners who have completed their sentences. You'll work to ensure that all laws, regulations and rules are followed by prisoners, other correctional officers and visitors.

In order to work in this position, you'll need a high school diploma. Some college coursework in criminal justice or a related field can be beneficial but is not likely to be required for entry-level positions. You'll probably need to pass a drug test and background check before starting work. Due to the challenging and stressful nature of working in a jail or prison, you'll also need to meet standards of both physical and mental health.

Salary Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), correctional officers and jailers earned a mean hourly wage of $20.94 as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov). This translates into mean annual earnings of $43,550. The median salary at that time was $39,040 annually. The highest 10% of earners commanded yearly salaries of $69,610 or more, and the lowest 10% of earners commanded salaries of $27,000 or less.

Higher salaries are available to correctional officers in supervisory or managerial roles. Such positions are available to those professionals with experience and outstanding performance. Those working in these positions earned a mean annual salary of $60,970 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.

Salary by Employer

According to May 2012 BLS figures, correctional officers and jailers employed by the federal executive branch reported the highest salaries, with average earnings of around $25.67 an hour, or about $53,400 a year. State government paid an hourly average wage of $21.24, which totaled $44,180 a year. Local government had the third highest average wage of $20.50 an hour, which equaled $42,650 a year.

While state and local government had the highest employment levels, the facilities support services industry also employed many of these professionals. This industry's mean wage was $17.65 an hour, which was $36,710 annually.

Salary by Location

The BLS reported in May 2012 that Texas, California, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania had high correctional officer and jailer employment levels. Workers in the states made average wages of $34,720, $66,930, $61,140, $41,090 and $46,400, respectively. In addition, New York and California were included in the top five states for high wages. Other states with high average pay included New Jersey ($69,310), Massachusetts ($60,700) and Rhode Island ($58,690). Those employed in states that included Indiana, New Mexico, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina made lower average salaries of $26,210-$32,570.

Salary by Years of Experience

According to January 2014 data from PayScale.com, correctional officers and jailers made $28,225-$35,819 if they had less than a year of work experience. With 1-4 years of experience, they made $24,658-$43,475. Salaries continue to rise to $26,028-$51,377 with 5-9 years of experience.

Job Outlook

The BLS reports that job growth for correctional officers is expected to be slow. Overall employment of five percent is expected from 2012 to 2022. This increase can be attributed to a need to replace correctional officers who leave the field or who retire. You should be aware, however, that reductions in mandatory minimum sentencing statutes will temper the need for additional correctional officers.

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