As more prisons and jails reach capacity, the criminal justice system must become creative in how it handles first-time and repeat offenders. Because of the expense of imprisoning criminal offenders, the lock ’em up and throw away the keys approach is becoming less satisfactory to the public. Corrections officers lead the way in reform by assisting the rehabilitation of offenders released from jail so that they will stay out of trouble and become productive members of society.
What is a Corrections Degree?
A corrections degree prepares students for positions as corrections, probation, or parole officers. Studying corrections will prepare students to work with juvenile and adult offenders. Corrections officers are employed by state and federal agencies and are authorized to monitor offenders while they are incarcerated or diverted to a community corrections program.
There are three types of degrees that corrections majors may pursue:
- Associate Degree
An associate degree in corrections can be earned after two years of study. An associate degree qualifies students for many entry-level positions and can help students obtain their first corrections job.
- Bachelor’s Degree
Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will broaden a student’s job opportunities. The bachelor’s degree is quickly becoming a requirement for candidates who wish to work for larger agencies.
- Concentration in Corrections
Many colleges and universities do not offer a corrections major but allow students to study corrections as a concentration. Students can choose criminal justice as a major and earn a concentration in corrections by taking a group of courses in this specific area.
Any of these three credentials is suitable for nearly any entry-level corrections job. However, a master’s degree may be necessary for promotion and to pursue management opportunities.
Courses of Study
Courses in a corrections degree program provide an overview of the criminal justice system. Students will study the court systems, the legal aspects of corrections, and techniques for managing juvenile and adult offenders.
Corrections degree programs typically require the following courses:
- Criminal Procedure
- Criminal Theory and Victimization
- Juvenile Justice
Many correction programs also require students to complete an internship with a local corrections agency. These internships are valuable for gaining experience and can help students land their first job.
Qualifications to Work in Corrections
Students who are interested in studying corrections should be mindful of the qualifications to enter this field. If your corrections degree program includes an internship, you may be required to pass a criminal background check. After graduation, many employers will require you to pass oral, written, and psychological evaluations before you can be offered a job.
A criminal history does not necessarily prohibit candidates from working in corrections. Factors such as the severity of the offense, the amount of time passed since the offense, and the honesty of the applicant are also taken into consideration. Students should discuss their history with a program representative if they are concerned about their eligibility to work in corrections.
Benefits of Studying Corrections Online
Corrections is a desirable major for working adults in search for a new career. Studying online gives students the flexibility to work and take classes full-time. Many distance learning programs have accelerated options that allow students to earn their degrees in a shorter amount of time.
Careers for Corrections Majors
A corrections degree prepares students for the following careers:
- Correctional Officers
- Correctional Treatment Officers
- Parole Officers
- Probation Officers
The overall job outlook is positive for corrections majors. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, openings for corrections officers are expected to increase by 5 percent. Corrections officers work with inmates inside corrections facilities and earn a median salary of $39K.
Openings for parole and probation officers are expected to grow by 18 percent. These officers work in the community with offenders who are released from correctional facilities. Parole and probation officers can expect a median salary of $47K.
Corrections officers play an important role in the rehabilitation and treatment of offenders. Because society recognizes the value of well-trained corrections officers in preventing repeat offenses, the value of a corrections degree is expected to increase.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Correctional Officers.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists.