Correctional officers, probation officers and administrative staff interact daily with prison inmates. Some advantages to working in a prison are job security and opportunities for advancement. However, working in this environment is also know for being a stressful job, especially when inmates refuse to follow regulations. Correctional officers typically supervise inmate transfers, search prison cells for contraband, supervise recreational activities and oversee visitation hours.
One advantage to working in a prison is the respect you gain because you're fulfilling a civic duty. Your job helps ensure community residents that they can come and go as they please, without fearing that convicted lawbreakers are roaming the streets. Correctional and probation officers help maintain order by monitoring prisoners, so that offenders pay for their crimes and get rehabilitation assistance, according to their sentences. Your ability to enforce prison regulations and aid in the rehabilitation of inmates, along with searching prisoners for drugs and weapons and overseeing daily operations, is a huge act of community service.
Job Security and Benefits
Another advantage to working in a prison system is the job security. Nearly all regions need correctional officers, probation officers and prison staff to ensure the safety and security of their communities. Most public prison workers join powerful unions that negotiate salary contracts, fight for acceptable working conditions and protect workers from exploitation. Many prison workers receive allowances to purchase uniforms and qualify for state-issued retirement benefits. You can also rise through the ranks the longer you stay. Further, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that correctional officers have a higher median annual wage than the average for all occupations. In 2012, correctional officers' median annual salary was $38,970, while the median pay for all workers was $34,750.
A disadvantage to working in a prison is the security risk. Inmates might hide weapons they've made or confiscated, putting officers and staff in potential danger. Prison staff can get injured when they transport, escort or search inmates who exhibit violent behavior and aren't easily subdued. Correctional officers, probation officers and staff also have to keep an eye out for inmates who may try to harm themselves.
Schedules and Conditions
Working in a prison isn't always a 9 to 5 job. Prisons require service and supervision 24-7, so some officers and administrative staff must work midnight shifts, weekends and holidays. Working conditions during such schedules often include both indoor and outdoor supervision, despite inclement weather conditions. Indoor prison facilities are often overcrowded, stuffy and congested, so officers and staff might experience exhaustion. Plus, prison employees must deal with excessive noise levels, especially when inmates are confined to their cells.
2016 Salary Information for Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a median annual salary of $50,160 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a 25th percentile salary of $39,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $67,420, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 91,300 people were employed in the U.S. as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Correctional Officers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- The Princeton Review: Career: Corrections Officer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Career Trend: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images