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Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcnk_bSJsAc.
Quick Facts: Correctional Officers and Bailiffs
2023 Median Pay $53,290 per year
$25.62 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2022 395,700
Job Outlook, 2022-32 -7% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2022-32 -29,000

What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do

Correctional officers guard people in penal institutions and guard those in transit between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain order in courtrooms.

Work Environment

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Bailiffs usually work when court is in session.

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically need a high school diploma to enter their occupation. They typically go to a training academy and then are assigned to a facility, where they receive on-the-job training. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, many agencies have an age requirement for correctional officers. Some federal agencies also require officers to have a bachelor’s degree or related work experience.

Pay

The median annual wage for bailiffs was $53,040 in May 2023.

The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $53,300 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Despite declining employment, about 30,900 openings for correctional officers and bailiffs are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for correctional officers and bailiffs.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of correctional officers and bailiffs with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about correctional officers and bailiffs by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do About this section

Inmate and correctional officer in jail cell
Correctional officers must follow procedures to maintain their personal safety as well as the safety of those they oversee.

Correctional officers guard people in penal institutions and guard those in transit between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point. Bailiffs, also known as marshals or court officers, are law enforcement officers who maintain order in courtrooms.

Duties

Correctional officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce rules and keep order within jails or prisons
  • Supervise activities of people in custody
  • Inspect facilities to ensure that they meet security and safety standards
  • Conduct searches in the facility, such as of persons and property, for rule violations
  • Report on the conduct of people in custody
  • Escort and transport people in custody between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point

Bailiffs typically do the following:

  • Ensure the security of the courtroom
  • Enforce courtroom rules
  • Follow court procedures
  • Escort judges, jurors, witnesses, and people in custody into and out of the courtroom
  • Handle evidence and deliver court documents

Inside the prison or jail, correctional officers enforce rules and regulations. They maintain security by preventing disturbances, assaults, and escapes and by inspecting facilities. They check cells and other areas for unsanitary conditions, contraband, signs of a security breach (such as tampering with window bars and doors), and other rule violations. Officers also inspect mail and visitors for prohibited items. They conduct regular counts of people in custody to ensure that everyone is present. They write reports and fill out daily logs detailing anything of note that occurred during their shift.

Correctional officers may have to restrain people in custody, such as by using handcuffs and leg irons to escort them to and from cells. Officers also escort people in custody to courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations.

Bailiffs’ specific duties vary by court, but their primary duty is to maintain order and security in courts of law. They enforce courtroom procedures that protect the integrity of the legal process. For example, they ensure that attorneys and witnesses do not influence juries outside of the courtroom, and they also may isolate juries from the public in some circumstances. As a neutral party, they may handle evidence during court hearings to ensure that only permitted evidence is displayed.

Work Environment About this section

Correctional officers
Because jail and prison security must be provided 24 hours a day, officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays.

Bailiffs held about 17,100 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of bailiffs were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 64%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 34

Correctional officers and jailers held about 378,500 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of correctional officers and jailers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 51%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 41
Federal government 4
Facilities support services 4

Correctional officers may work both indoors and outdoors at penal institutions. For example, their shift may include patrolling the facility inside and supervising outdoor recreational activities of people in custody. Bailiffs generally work in courtrooms.

Both correctional officers and bailiffs may be required to stand for long periods. They must be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers may become injured in confrontations with people in custody, leading to their having one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They may wear safety gear, such as gloves and helmets, to protect against injury.

Work Schedules

Most correctional officers and bailiffs work full time. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, correctional officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Correctional officers may be required to work overtime. Bailiffs usually work when court is in session.

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff About this section

Correctional officers
Correctional officers typically attend training at an academy before being assigned to a facility.

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically need a high school diploma to enter their occupation. They typically attend a training academy.

Although qualifications vary by state and agency, many agencies set a minimum age for correctional officers that is usually between 18 and 21. Federal agencies also may require officers to have a bachelor’s degree or work experience and may have a maximum age for entry.

Education

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

For employment in federal prisons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have a bachelor’s degree or several years of experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision. Bachelor's degree fields vary but commonly include security and protective service or a related field, such as social science.

Training

Correctional officers and bailiffs complete training at an academy. Training varies by state. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training maintains links to states’ Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) programs. Academy trainees receive instruction in a number of subjects, including self-defense, institutional policies, regulations, operations, and security procedures.

Correctional officers and bailiffs may shadow experienced officers after graduating from a training academy.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require correctional officers to complete state certification. For more information, check with your state’s public safety, corrections, or other agency that establishes this certification.

Advancement

Correctional officers may advance to supervisory positions such as sergeant, lieutenant, or captain. They also may move into specialized units, such as gang task force or hostage negotiation.

Bailiffs may advance to senior bailiff or other supervisory positions.

Important Qualities

Decision-making skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must determine the best course of action to maintain order and discipline, often in stressful situations.

Detail oriented. Correctional officers and bailiffs follow and enforce procedures in correctional facilities and courts to ensure safety.

Interpersonal skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must be able to interact and communicate effectively with people in custody, visitors, and other officers of penal institutions and the court to maintain order.

Negotiating skills. Correctional officers must be able to assist in resolving conflict in order to ensure safety.

Physical strength. Correctional officers and bailiffs must be able to physically subdue people as necessary, including those in or visiting penal institutions and those attending court proceedings.

Self-discipline. Correctional officers must be able to control their emotions in hostile situations.

Pay About this section

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Median annual wages, May 2023

Law enforcement workers

$66,030

Correctional officers and jailers

$53,300

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

$53,290

Bailiffs

$53,040

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for bailiffs was $53,040 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,670.

The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $53,300 in May 2023. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,340, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,250.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for bailiffs in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $72,490
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 46,900

In May 2023, the median annual wages for correctional officers and jailers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $69,180
State government, excluding education and hospitals 55,080
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 51,880
Facilities support services 44,450

Most correctional officers and bailiffs work full time. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, correctional officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Correctional officers may be required to work overtime. Bailiffs usually work when court is in session.

Job Outlook About this section

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Total, all occupations

3%

Law enforcement workers

0%

Bailiffs

-2%

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

-7%

Correctional officers and jailers

-8%

 

Overall employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Despite declining employment, about 30,900 openings for correctional officers and bailiffs are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Lower incarceration rates and prison population levels are expected to reduce demand for these workers.

Although correctional officers and bailiffs will continue to be needed, changes to criminal laws have a large effect on how many people are arrested and incarcerated each year. Faced with high costs for keeping people in prison, many state governments have moved toward laws requiring shorter prison terms and alternatives to prison. While keeping the public safe, community-based programs that are designed to rehabilitate prisoners and limit their risk of repeated offenses also may reduce prisoner counts.

Employment projections data for correctional officers and bailiffs, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

33-3010 395,700 366,700 -7 -29,000 Get data

Bailiffs

33-3011 17,100 16,800 -2 -400 Get data

Correctional officers and jailers

33-3012 378,500 349,900 -8 -28,600 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of correctional officers and bailiffs.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Police and detectives Police and Detectives

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

See How to Become One $74,910
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist in rehabilitating law offenders in custody or on probation or parole.

Bachelor's degree $61,800
Security guards and gaming surveillance officers Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers

Security guards and gambling surveillance officers protect property from illegal activity.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,090
Firefighters Firefighters

Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies involving life, property, or the environment.

Postsecondary nondegree award $57,120

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), visit

International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training

For more information about career opportunities for correctional officers at the federal level, visit

Federal Bureau of Prisons

For more information about federal government requirements for correctional officers, visit

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

O*NET

Bailiffs

Correctional Officers and Jailers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Correctional Officers and Bailiffs,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm (visited May 31, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.