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How to Become a Penologist You’ll study and practice prison management and the rehabilitation of inmates as a penologist.

prison cells

Prison management and criminal rehabilitation go by a more official name: Penology.

You’ll work face-to-face with prisoners on a regular basis so strong communication skills are a must. Gaining familiarity with the correctional system is a good first step toward becoming a penologist.

Here’s what you’ll do on the job and what else you’ll need as far as education to work in this administrative-level corrections career.

What Does a Penologist Do?

A penologist works in the prison system, has direct contact with inmates, and is involved in inmates’ rehabilitation and return to society. A few of their duties are rehabilitating inmates and creating plans and strategies to prevent riots and other disorderly conduct.

A penologist is involved in the following:

  • Inmate self-help programs
  • Prison architecture
  • Prison and jail management
  • Treatment of the offenders in prison

Penologists also work closely with prison guards, probation officers, parole officers, and criminologists.

Penologist Requirements, Qualifications, and Education

Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, psychology, or justice administration is required if you want to work as a penologist.

You’ll study a variety of topics during a four-year degree program including:

  • Goals and types of punishments
  • History of prisons in the United States
  • Why individuals go to prison and for how long
  • What life is like in prison
  • Current issues facing the correctional system (budgets, overcrowding, and the death penalty)

You might also consider taking a business course to learn the basics about budgets as well as a criminal psychology course.

Salary and Job Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics, the median annual salary for first-line supervisors of correctional officers and facilities is $62,220. 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.

Slower-than-average job growth is expected through 2030 due to budget cuts, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that jobs may be more readily available with private companies as state and federal agencies increase their use of private prison services.