Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Correctional Officer Jobs

See all Correctional Officer jobs

Top 3 Bailiff Jobs

  • Relief Bailiff - City of Seattle, WA - Seattle, WA

    The Court adjudicates misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes, infractions, and civil violations. SMC is a highly innovative and progressive court

  • Deputy Sheriff - Lateral (Open) - County of San Mateo, CA - Redwood City, CA

    The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is seeking current peace officers for the position of Deputy Sheriff Lateral. The San Mateo County Sheriff's

  • Bailiff - St. Louis County Circuit Court - Saint Louis, MO

    The normal starting salary is $12.83 per hour. Examples of Duties 1. Maintain security by inspecting and securing the courtroom, surrounding

See all Bailiff jobs

What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do[About this section] [To Top]

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs, also known as marshals or court officers, are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms. Their duties, which vary by location, include enforcing courtroom rules, assisting judges, guarding juries, delivering court documents, and providing general security for courthouses.

Duties of Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Correctional officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce rules and keep order within jails or prisons
  • Supervise activities of inmates
  • Aid in rehabilitation and counseling of prisoners
  • Inspect facilities to ensure that they meet security and safety standards
  • Search inmates for contraband items
  • Report on inmate conduct

Inside the prison or jail, correctional officers enforce rules and regulations. They maintain security by preventing disturbances, assaults, and escapes. They must also ensure the whereabouts of all inmates at all times.

On any given day, officers search inmates for contraband, such as weapons and drugs, settle disputes between inmates, and enforce discipline. Officers enforce regulations through effective communication and the use of progressive sanctions, which involve punishments such as loss of privileges. Sanctions are progressive in that they start out small for a lesser offense but become more severe for more serious offenses. In addition, officers may aid inmates in their rehabilitation by scheduling work assignments, counseling, and educational opportunities.

Correctional officers inspect facilities periodically. They check cells and other areas for unsanitary conditions, contraband, signs of a security breach (such as tampering with window bars and doors), and any other evidence of violations of the rules. Officers also inspect mail and visitors for prohibited items. They write reports and fill out daily logs detailing inmate behavior and anything else of note that occurred during their shift.

Correctional officers may have to restrain inmates in handcuffs and leg irons to escort them safely to and from cells and to see authorized visitors. Officers also escort prisoners between the institution where they are held and courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations.

Correctional officers must report any inmate who violates the rules. If a crime is committed within their institution or an inmate escapes, they help law enforcement authorities investigate and search for the escapee.

Because prisoners typically stay longer in state and federal prisons than in county jails, correctional officers in prisons get to know the people in their charge.

Correctional officers have no law enforcement responsibilities outside their place of work.

Work Environment for Correctional Officers and Bailiffs[About this section] [To Top]

Correctional officers and bailiffs hold about 474,800 jobs. Correctional officers and jailers hold about 457,600 jobs. Bailiffs hold about 17,300 jobs. About 95 percent of correctional officers and bailiffs worked for federal, state, and local governments. The remainder were employed by private companies that provide correctional services to prisons and jails.

Correctional officers may work indoors or outdoors. Some correctional institutions are modern and temperature controlled, but others are old, overcrowded, hot, and noisy.

Correctional officers may be required to stand for long periods. Bailiffs generally work in courtrooms.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Every year, correctional officers are injured in confrontations with inmates and some are exposed to contagious diseases. As a result, correctional officers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Bailiffs work with prisoners, who may become violent.

The job demands that officers be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift. As a result, some officers experience anxiety.

Correctional Officer and Bailiff Work Schedules

Correctional officers usually work 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, weekends and holidays. Some correctional facilities have longer shifts and more days off between scheduled workweeks. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Correctional Officers and Bailiffs near you!

Correctional officers go through a training academy and then are assigned to a facility for on-the-job training. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require a high school diploma. Bailiff positions also require a high school diploma. Federal agencies may also require some college education or previous work experience.

Correctional officers must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and must have no felony convictions. Many agencies establish a minimum age for correctional officers, which is typically between 18 and 21 years of age. New applicants for federal corrections positions must be appointed before they are 37 years old.

Correctional Officer and Bailiff Education

Correctional officers must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some state and local corrections agencies require some college credits. Law enforcement or military experience may be substituted for this requirement.

For employment in federal prisons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have at least a bachelor's degree; 3 years of full-time experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision to individuals; or a combination of the two.

Correctional Officer and Bailiff Training

Federal, state, and some local departments of corrections, as well as some private corrections companies, provide training for correctional officers based on guidelines established by the American Correctional Association (ACA). Some states have regional training academies that are available to local agencies. Academy trainees receive instruction in a number of subjects, including self-defense, institutional policies, regulations, operations, and custody and security procedures. Although most correctional officers do not carry firearms when on duty, they may receive training in the use of firearms.

After formal academy instruction, state and local correctional agencies provide on-the-job training, including training on legal restrictions and interpersonal relations. Trainees typically receive several weeks or months of training under the supervision of an experienced officer. However, on-the-job training varies widely from agency to agency.

New federal correctional officers must undergo 200 hours of formal training within the first year of employment, including 120 hours of specialized training at the Federal Bureau of Prisons residential training center. Experienced officers receive annual inservice training to keep up to date on new developments and procedures.

Correctional officers who are members of prison tactical response teams are trained to respond to disturbances, riots, hostage situations, and other dangerous circumstances. Team members practice disarming prisoners, wielding weapons, and using other tactics to maintain the safety of inmates and officers alike.

Bailiffs must undergo training in court procedures and the proper way to place someone under arrest, and they may also learn how to use a firearm.

Other Experience

Military experience is viewed as excellent preparation for becoming a correctional officer.

Advancement for Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Qualified officers may advance to the position of correctional sergeant. Sergeants are responsible for maintaining security and directing the activities of other officers. Qualified officers may also be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions, including warden. Officers sometimes transfer to related jobs, such as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.

Important Qualities for Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Good judgment. Correctional officers and bailiffs must use both their training and common sense to quickly determine the best course of action and to take the necessary steps to achieve a desired outcome.

Interpersonal skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must be able to interact and communicate effectively with inmates and others to maintain order in correctional facilities and courtrooms.

Negotiating skills. Correctional officers must be able to assist others in resolving differences in order to avoid conflict.

Physical strength. Correctional officers and bailiffs must have the strength to physically subdue inmates or others.

Self-discipline. Correctional officers must control their emotions when confronted with hostile situations.

Correctional Officer and Bailiff Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for bailiffs is $41,670. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,070.

The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers is $40,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,060.

In addition to receiving typical benefits, correctional officers employed in the public sector usually are provided with uniforms or with a clothing allowance to buy their own uniforms. Many departments offer retirement benefits, although benefits vary.

Correctional officers usually work 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, weekends and holidays. Some correctional facilities have longer shifts and more days off between scheduled workweeks. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, correctional officers have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union.

Job Outlook for Correctional Officers and Bailiffs[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to grow 4 percent through 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.;

Correctional officers will continue to be needed to watch over the U.S. prison population. Most states are projecting that they will have more prisoners in the future. However, changes to criminal laws can have a large effect on how many people are arrested and incarcerated each year.

Faced with high costs for keeping people in prison, many state governments have moved toward laws requiring shorter prison terms and alternatives to prison. While keeping the public safe, community-based programs designed to rehabilitate prisoners and limit their risk of repeated offenses may also reduce prisoner counts.

Bailiffs will continue to be needed to keep order in courtrooms.

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Job Prospects

Job prospects should be good as some local and state corrections agencies experience high job turnover. The need to replace correctional officers who retire, transfer to other occupations, or leave the labor force—coupled with rising employment demand—should generate job openings.

Employment projections data for Correctional Officers and Bailiffs, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers 474,800 492,800 4 17,900
  Bailiffs 17,300 18,100 5 800
  Correctional officers and jailers 457,600 474,700 4 17,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: