Bureau of Labor Statistics

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

correctional officers image
Correctional officers inspect inmates’ living quarters.
Quick Facts: Correctional Officers and Bailiffs
2019 Median Pay $45,300 per year
$21.78 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, 2019 462,300
Job Outlook, 2019-29 -7% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2019-29 -33,100

Summary

What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do

Correctional officers oversee those who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms.

Work Environment

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, often resulting from confrontations with inmates. Officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff

Correctional officers go through a training academy and then are assigned to a facility for on-the-job training. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require a high school diploma and have an age requirement. Some federal agencies also require some college education or related work experience.

Pay

The median annual wage for bailiffs was $47,830 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $45,180 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. State and local budget constraints and prison population levels will determine how many correctional officers are necessary. Bailiffs will continue to be needed to keep order in courtrooms.

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

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

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs, also known as marshals or court officers, are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms. Their duties, which vary by court, include enforcing courtroom rules, assisting judges, guarding juries, delivering court documents, and providing general security for courthouses.

Duties

Correctional officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce rules and keep order within jails or prisons
  • Supervise activities of inmates
  • Inspect facilities to ensure that they meet security and safety standards
  • Search inmates for contraband items
  • Report on inmate conduct
  • Escort and transport inmates

Bailiffs typically do the following:

  • Ensure the security of the courtroom
  • Enforce courtroom rules
  • Follow court procedures
  • Escort judges, jurors, witnesses, and prisoners
  • Handle evidence and 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 write reports and fill out daily logs detailing inmate behavior and anything else of note that occurred during their shift.

Correctional officers may have to restrain inmates in handcuffs and leg irons to escort them safely to and from cells and to see authorized visitors. Officers also escort prisoners 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

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 20,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of bailiffs were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 72%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 27

Correctional officers and jailers held about 442,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of correctional officers and jailers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 53%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 37
Facilities support services 5
Federal government 4

Correctional officers may work indoors or outdoors, and bailiffs generally work in courtrooms. They both may be required to stand for long periods.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers may become injured in confrontations with inmates, and they have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

The job demands that officers be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift.

Work Schedules

Correctional officers usually work full time on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff

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

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically attend a training academy. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require a high school diploma. Federal agencies may also require some college education or previous work experience.

Many agencies establish a minimum age for correctional officers, which is typically between 18 and 21 years of age.

Education

Correctional officers and bailiffs 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 at least a bachelor’s degree or 1 to 3 years of full-time experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision to individuals.

Training

Correctional officers and bailiffs complete training at an academy. Training typically lasts several months, but this 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.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must use both their training and common sense to quickly determine the best course of action and to take the necessary steps to achieve a desired outcome.

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

Interpersonal skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must be able to interact and communicate effectively with inmates and others to maintain order in correctional facilities and courtrooms.

Negotiating skills. Correctional officers must be able to assist others in resolving differences in order to avoid conflict.

Physical strength. Correctional officers and bailiffs must have the strength to physically subdue inmates or others.

Self-discipline. Correctional officers must control their emotions when confronted with hostile situations.

Pay

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Median annual wages, May 2019

Law enforcement workers

$57,030

Bailiffs

$47,830

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

$45,300

Correctional officers and jailers

$45,180

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for bailiffs was $47,830 in May 2019. 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 $24,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,900.

The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $45,180 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,090.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for bailiffs in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $69,130
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 42,610

In May 2019, the median annual wages for correctional officers and jailers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $58,020
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 46,020
State government, excluding education and hospitals 44,090
Facilities support services 39,410

Correctional officers usually work full time on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

Job Outlook

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Law enforcement workers

0%

Bailiffs

0%

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

-7%

Correctional officers and jailers

-7%

 

Employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. State and local budget constraints and prison population levels will determine how many correctional officers are necessary.

Although correctional officers will continue to be needed to watch over the U.S. prison population, changes to criminal laws can 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 designed to rehabilitate prisoners and limit their risk of repeated offenses may also reduce prisoner counts.

Bailiffs will continue to be needed to keep order in courtrooms.

Job Prospects

Despite the projected decline in employment, job prospects should still be good due to the need to replace correctional officers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for correctional officers and bailiffs, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

SOC Code33-3010
Employment, 2019462,300
Projected Employment, 2029429,200
Percent Change, 2019-29-7
Numeric Change, 2019-29-33,100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Bailiffs

SOC Code33-3011
Employment, 201920,300
Projected Employment, 202920,300
Percent Change, 2019-290
Numeric Change, 2019-29-100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Correctional officers and jailers

SOC Code33-3012
Employment, 2019442,000
Projected Employment, 2029408,900
Percent Change, 2019-29-7
Numeric Change, 2019-29-33,100
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) 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 OES 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.com. 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

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Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
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Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

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 February 08, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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