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Is a Correctional Administration Career Right for You?

Learn about the correctional administration careers that make our prison system run more efficiently.

correctional officer opening door with key

Correctional administration careers are for those who oversee the operations of corrections officers in prisons and provide leadership, supervision, and mentoring for other prison staff members.

Senior corrections administrators may be responsible for everything from working with penologists formulating policies, goals, and objectives for corrections officers, to communicating with the press and general public, and representing prison interests in litigation matters.

Once you have correctional administration career experience, you can get promotions in the correctional system as follows:

  • Correctional Sergeant: This role focuses on maintaining security and delegating duties to correctional officers.
  • Correctional Captain: Also supervisory in nature, a correctional captain has a range of duties, from inspecting cell blocks to maintaining a process to prevent riots and other large-scale problems.
  • Assistant Warden: Oversees operations, work assignments, and building maintenance, and is part of policy-making and procedural decisions. Some facilities will accept work experience as a substitute for education, but many assistant wardens hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
  • Chief Deputy Warden: A high-level supervisor, the chief deputy warden’s role ranges from business management to coordinating work-training incentives. In the absence of the warden, the chief deputy wardens step in to make decisions for the facility.
  • Warden: The highest career level for a correctional officer, wardens are responsible for budgets, policies, and scheduling, among other things. The buck stops at the warden when it comes to riots and attacks in the facility. This role requires a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Having business experience can be a plus since wardens manage facility budgets.

Where You’ll Work

Most correctional employees work in state and federal prisons. A relatively small number of correctional officers and administrators work for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or for correctional institutions that are run by private, for-profit organizations.

Ambitious and qualified correctional officers can be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions all the way up to warden. Promotion prospects may be enhanced by attending college. Corrections officers sometimes transfer to related jobs, such as probation officer or correctional treatment specialist.

Training and Education

At a minimum, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, business or public administration, or behavioral science, and 5 years of upper-level management experience in a correctional setting. Many administrators start out as corrections officers or sergeants and, through hard work, are promoted to the higher ranks in the correctional facility.

Because correctional officers at all levels have a duty to prevent and remediate problems in their specific facility, enrolling in a human services program can educate you on how to work within the prison environment.

Salary Data

Correctional administrators are part of the larger field of supervisors of correctional officers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics, the median national annual salary for corrections supervisors is $63,310. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.