Corrections officers and other specialists play critical roles in the criminal justice system. As U.S. law enforcement and corrections facilities evolve, more employers require trained corrections officers and other professionals. According to the National Institute of Justice, the U.S. prison population includes increasing numbers of people with mental health conditions and disabilities. Consequently, many facilities and agencies are seeking professionals with training in technology or mental health awareness and rehabilitation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists to increase 6% between 2016 and 2026, and jobs for police and detectives to increase 7%.
Earning a bachelor's in corrections prepares you for several career tracks that involve helping law offenders and their families and communities. Graduates of these programs typically work as correctional officers and other specialists. They often continue their education through graduate school or specialized training programs, such as police academy training.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Corrections?
An online correctional officer college degree appeals to both first-time undergraduates and students seeking a second bachelor's degree and a career change. On-campus correctional officer programs may appeal more to recent high school graduates seeking a traditional college experience.
This degree offers skills and knowledge in U.S. criminal justice systems and the individuals within these systems. Most programs provide students with foundations in criminology, law, behavioral theory, planning, and community relations. Students also learn skills in the emerging technologies relevant to criminal investigation, management, and administration.
Most employers in this field require employees to have a bachelor's degree in corrections, criminal justice, or a related field. Earning an on-campus or online correctional officer college degree provides access to networking opportunities that may help you secure a job upon graduation. Colleges and universities also typically offer job placement assistance, internships, and mentorship programs.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Corrections?
On-campus or online correctional officer college degrees attract individuals who are patient, detail-oriented, and interested in helping others. Ideal candidates work well in teams and possess strong communication skills. Because correctional facilities are stressful environments, individuals interested in this work should possess resilience and perseverance.
Graduates of on-campus or online correctional officer college degrees can choose from many kinds of corrections officer jobs. They may also pursue careers as probation officers, bailiffs, or other correctional specialists. Graduates sometimes enter police academy training to become police officers and detectives.
- Probation Officer
Probation officers need bachelor's degrees in a criminal justice-related field, such as corrections. These professionals help rehabilitate offenders who are either in custody or on parole or probation. They connect offenders with resources, test them for drugs, and maintain detailed reports on each offender's progress. Probation officers may also offer substance abuse counseling.
Median Annual Salary: $51,410*
- Police Officer
Many police departments and federal agencies require officers to have a bachelor's degree in addition to police academy training. Police officers' duties include enforcing traffic laws and patrolling specific areas. They are often required to testify in court.
Median Annual Salary: $62,960*
- Private Detective
Private detectives need several years of experience and a high school diploma. Many employers also require detectives to have a bachelor's degree in a criminal justice-related field. Detectives work for police departments, federal agencies, attorneys, and businesses. They research individuals and groups to find legal, financial, and personal information. They also conduct surveillance and search for missing persons.
Median Annual Salary: $50,700*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Corrections Program
When choosing an undergraduate corrections program, consider each program's length, curriculum, cost, and structure. Most undergraduate on-campus and online correctional officer college degrees take four years to complete, though some schools offer accelerated formats that allow students to graduate in just three years. Credits from prior learning may also reduce program length.
Each program's curriculum varies, but many bachelor's in corrections programs feature a similar core curriculum with classes in introductory corrections, the juvenile justice system, and criminal justice research. Many programs require students to complete internships and capstone projects.
While researching programs, consider the factors that affect the cost of a bachelor's degree. These factors include whether you choose an on-campus program or an online program and the program's location. If you enroll in an on-campus program, make sure that your program's location offers adequate employment and internship opportunities. You might also research the cost of living in the area. Larger cities, such as Los Angeles or New York, have a much higher cost of living than smaller cities and rural areas.
Research the differences between on-campus and online programs. Online programs typically involve more flexibility and sometimes allow students to choose a self-paced schedule. On-campus programs offer more hands-on learning opportunities and work well for students who prefer structure and in-person instruction.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Corrections Programs
Accreditation is a voluntary process for institutions, in which agencies evaluate a school's programs, curricula, faculty, and other academic areas to ensure it meets academic standards. Attending an accredited school lets your future employers and schools know that you earned a valid degree as well as expands financial aid opportunities. Many organizations do not accept degrees from unaccredited schools.
Programmatic accreditation applies to individual programs and ensures that they adhere to field-specific standards. While the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences accredits a few corrections programs, this is rare. Most bachelor's in corrections programs do not have programmatic accreditation. While researching online corrections programs, look for programs with regional accreditation.
Bachelor's in Corrections Program Admissions
Although many people believe that online programs are less competitive, on-campus and online programs usually have similar acceptance rates. According to U.S. News and World Report, on-campus programs accept just 2.4% fewer applicants than online programs. Additionally, the admissions process for online programs is typically more extensive than on-campus programs.
The number of schools you should apply to depends on your academic goals and budget. Colleges usually request an application fee, and these fees add up quickly. Applicants generally apply to four to eight schools. This range should include two safety schools to which you feel confident of admission, as well as two target schools. Some students also apply to one or two dream schools, or reach schools, that are more competitive than their target schools.
- Minimum GPA: Most programs require at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA, which indicates that you can manage college coursework and receive adequate grades. A few colleges do not require minimum GPAs.
- Application: Applications for undergraduate corrections programs can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to complete. Finding the required information, such as previous coursework and job details, usually takes the most time. The The Common Application allows you to apply to multiple schools simultaneously.
- Transcripts: Most schools require transcripts from all prior learning. Schools may require official or unofficial transcripts. These documents help admissions committees verify that you completed the coursework required to enroll in an undergraduate program.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most bachelor's programs require applicants to submit two to three letters of recommendation. Request letters from former teachers, supervisors, or other professional acquaintances who can speak to your academic and professional potential. Give your writers at least one month to complete the letter.
- Test Scores: Prospective students often need to submit SAT or ACT scores with their applications. Some on-campus and online correctional officer college degrees waive this requirement for students with several years of work experience.
- Application Fee: Most undergraduate programs require an application fee between $30 and $100. Schools may waive this fee for students with demonstrable financial need, veterans, or special admissions high school students.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Corrections Program?
Bachelor's degrees in corrections vary in cost, length, and curricula. However, most schools share the same foundational courses, structure, and career outcomes. Faculty at undergraduate corrections programs often have experience in criminal justice positions. Most schools offer interdisciplinary courses to prepare students for this demanding and varied field. Below is more information about what to expect regarding corrections degree courses, length, cost, and professional outcomes.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Corrections Program
Though the details vary by school, most schools expect you to complete similar core classes and a few common, degree-specific classes. Many on-campus and online correctional officer college degrees also require students to complete internships or other fieldwork that culminate with capstone projects.
- Introduction to Corrections
This course prepares students to pursue further studies in corrections and criminal justice. Students study the basics of the U.S. criminal justice system, including its history and structure. Students also learn about corrections policies and procedures, such as offender rehabilitation and probation.
- Sociology of Deviant Behavior
Students study behavior that violates social norms. They also examine societal reactions to these behaviors. The course helps students understand deviant behavior to work with offenders as corrections officers, social workers, and other corrections professionals.
- Foundations of Law
Foundations of law prepares students to work in many positions in corrections, such as corrections officers, bailiffs, security guards, and police officers. The course focuses on the historical, philosophical, and theoretical ideas behind the U.S. legal system.
- Delinquency and Juvenile Justice
This course prepares students to work with adolescents in juvenile justice facilities. Students study the legal issues and ethics related to working with young offenders. They also study the history of the U.S. juvenile justice system.
- Research Methods in Criminal Justice
This class prepares students to complete work essential to furthering their studies. Students learn the basic techniques needed to research and find solutions for legal issues, ethical problems, and other areas related to criminal justice.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Corrections?
The average bachelor's degree in corrections comprises 120 credits. Most full-time students take about four years to complete this degree. However, many factors affect the program's length, including the type of schedule you choose. An accelerated program, for example, often takes only two or three years to complete while a part-time schedule may add years to the degree.
Additionally, starting your bachelor's in corrections program with college credits from other institutions reduces program length. Through college credit programs, students can complete core curriculum requirements, such as English and math, while in high school.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Corrections?
A bachelor's degree in corrections costs between $20,000 and $120,000 for four years. Factors affecting cost include whether you choose an accelerated or part-time program. Accelerated programs tend to cost less overall with part-time tracks costing the most. The program's format also impacts costs. Online programs may come with an additional technology fee per class but may offer tuition discounts as well. Finally, public schools offer significantly lower tuition rates for in-state students than for out-of-state students, and private schools typically charge the most overall.
Beyond tuition, you should also consider the costs associated with housing, transportation, books, and other materials for class. You may also need to factor in technology-related expenses, such as purchasing a laptop and paying internet bills.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Corrections Prepares For
- Certified Corrections Officer
Professionals with this certification understand the national standards and ethical and legal principles in the corrections field. The certification applies to supervisors in corrections facilities. Applicants for this certification must have relevant job or educational experience and take the American Correctional Association (ACA) exam.
- Correctional Behavioral Health Certification
This certification applies to professionals who specialize in behavioral health and work in prisons, juvenile justice centers, and other correctional facilities. Applicants must pass the ACA exam. They must also have relevant job experience and at least 40 hours of mental health and behavioral health training.
- Certified Corrections Officers/Juvenile
Corrections officers who work with adolescent offenders can earn this certification. The certification requires applicants to have relevant job experience and pass the ACA exam.
Resources for Corrections Students
As a federal agency offered through the Department of Justice, the NIC supports corrections professionals. This institute offers technical support and information assistance to agencies and facilities. The NIC's micro-sites project features websites for specific areas in the corrections field, such as re-entry strategies and women's programs.
The JTIC focuses on the intersection of technology, law enforcement, corrections, and the court system. The center's website features a blog concerning current issues in these fields, opportunities to evaluate corrections equipment, and many other resources.
BOP offers information for corrections professionals, inmates, and their families. The website includes a federal inmate search tool, a job board, and research articles.
The DOJ represents the attorney general and supports professionals in the corrections and law enforcement fields. Corrections professionals can find career opportunities, forms for grants, and many other useful links on its website.
Prison S.M.A.R.T hosts stress management and rehabilitation workshops and trainings for correctional professionals and inmates. The organization aims to prevent recidivism among inmates and to reduce stress and trauma among the professionals who work with them.
Offered through the U.S. Department of Justice, the Diagnostics Center helps law enforcement and corrections professionals reduce violence in their communities. This resource works with community leaders to analyze local data and recommend and implement strategies to increase public safety.
Professional Organizations in Corrections
Members of professional organizations benefit from networking opportunities, professional development and trainings, conferences, and job-seeking assistance. Many organizations also provide information about certifications. The list below describes five professional organizations for corrections officers.
Offering several major certifications for corrections officers, the ACA is one of the largest professional organizations in this field. The association offers a professional leadership program, onsite training, conferences, and online publications.
The ACHSA supports professionals who provide medical, dental, and other health services for offenders in corrections facilities. The organization hosts conferences in three regions each year. Its website features a career center with updated job postings.
The NPJS promotes professional development and collaboration to improve the services corrections professionals offer to juvenile offenders and their families. It offers a national symposium and resources that include webinars, certification support, and professional publications.
The AJA is a nonprofit organization that supports corrections professionals working in jails. The website's resources for jail corrections officers include seminars and webinars, a conference and jail expo, and online trainings.
FLEOA represents over 25,000 law enforcement officers. The association offers its members legal representation, local networking opportunities, and discounts on insurance and education.