Prison Guard Jobs
By Eric Hammer
Prison guard jobs are typically offered to "correctional
officers." Correctional officers (a misnomer at times, but
there it is all the same) work for the Department of Corrections,
which runs prisons for either the city or state. In the case
of the federal government, you would be working for the Bureau
of Prisons if you want to get prison guard jobs, however your
title would still be "correctional officer."
In all cases, the work is not very glamorous and it entails
working odd hours. Typically, correctional officers work shifts
of 8 hours each. New York City correctional officers, to offer
an example, work 7AM-4PM, 4PM-11PM or 11PM-7AM. Double shifts
are commonly required when the prison is short staffed.
You also need to be able to act like a professional in spite
of working with people who are sometimes the worst examples of
humanity (though not always - many people in prison genuinely
do want to reform and start fresh when they get out). This means
keeping your cool in heated situations and resisting the ever
present temptation to accept bribes in exchange for offering
"favors" to the prisoners.
Typically, you will be required to take a number of tests,
starting with a written exam. The written exam is usually followed
by physical exams where your eyesight and general health are
examined. You will also be given a psychological evaluation and
you must pass a background check.
How Much Can You Make?
According to the bureau of labor statistics, the average salary
for prison guard jobs is $53,459. However, this amount is typically
how much you'll make after 5-10 years on the job. Starting salaries
can be significantly lower, sometimes as little as $25,300 per
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Correctional Officers are typically given a uniform allowance
as well as a travel allowance to get to and from work. Beyond
that, you can request to pull double shifts since you will get
time and a half for doing so.
After a number of years of work, you can also apply for promotions
in the department, to higher ranks such as lieutenant or captain.
You can also get into management positions by becoming an assistant
warden or warden.
Remember that prison guard jobs also come with the benefit
of being part of the law enforcement community. This means that
you are entitled to the "Officer/ Teacher Next Door"
program. The program allows you to purchase a HUD foreclosed
home in the same neighborhood you work in for 50% of the asking
Keep in mind that prison guard jobs are also fairly dangerous
work. You may be involved in altercations with inmates where
they could cut you with a "shiv" (an improvised knife
commonly made in prison) and when transporting inmates, you may
be subject to danger from breakout attempts.
Qualifications / Requirements
Different states have different requirements for prison guard
jobs, however in general, you will need at least a high school
diploma (some states and the Federal prison system also require
a bachelor's degree). You must also be in good physical health
and posses a valid driver's license. Many departments of corrections
also require that you pass a vision test, including a test for
Start by purchasing a copy of your local civil service newspaper
(in New York for example, it's called "The Chief")
and check for listings of correctional officer exams being given.
They are given sporadically and you must sign up to take them
when they are given as jobs are not usually offered on a rolling
basis. Take the test. If you pass with a high enough grade (to
give you an idea, a few years ago, New York City held a test
for correctional officers. About 5,000 people took the exam and
around 1,500 passed, however only the top 500 scorers were invited
for further testing) you will be called in for further testing.
Education Portal: How to Become a Correctional Officer
- A step by step guide which covers many of the basics of getting
prison guard jobs.