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How to become a juvenile corrections officer

At a glance

  • It isn’t always necessary to earn a college degree to become a juvenile corrections officer, but an associate or bachelor’s degree can impart valuable skills for career enhancement in the field.
  • Many institutions provide additional training for juvenile corrections officers, which can last from six to 12 weeks.
  • Industry certifications are also available to enhance the skills and expertise of aspiring juvenile corrections officers.
  • University of Phoenix offers an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration for those interested in a career in corrections.

There are plenty of career paths you could pursue with a criminal justice degree. A juvenile corrections officer is one option, and it may appeal to someone who wants to help troubled youth. 

Youth correctional officers aren’t all that different from adult correctional officers. Both professions monitor incarcerated individuals to ensure the safety of the staff and inmates

However, youth correctional officers often have a bigger focus on rehabilitation, and in certain cases can end up being a mentor or positive influence on the young inmates. The role’s responsibilities, in other words, make both experience and education vitally important.

Juvenile corrections officer education

College degrees are not always necessary for pursuing a career as a juvenile corrections officer (JCO), as one of the minimum requirements is simply a high school diploma or GED diploma. 

However, many facilities prefer their JCOs to have an associate or bachelor’s degree in relevant fields such as criminal justicecriminal justice administration or correctional program support services.

Naturally, there are background checks, medical exams and physical assessments that aspiring JCOs need to pass. Many facilities also require specific training, which is usually provided by employers. The duration of training varies depending on which programs are used, but it can take from six to 12 weeks.

In addition to training, aspiring JCOs may want to consider enhancing their interpersonal communication skills, seek education on multiculturalism to properly assist inmates from different backgrounds and improve their public speaking skills. Most classes or programs will help with this.

Industry certifications

By obtaining industry certifications, future JCOs can prepare themselves with greater knowledge and experience for handling a variety of situations that may arise on the job. Most certification programs can be completed within one to two years at any local community college or university. 

Some useful certifications for juvenile correctional officers are:

  • First Aid, CPR and AED Instructor
  • Certified Corrections Officer (CCO)
  • Certified Corrections Manager/Juvenile (CCM/Juv)
  • Security5 Certification
  • Medication Aide Certification (MACE)

Some certifications require written or oral exams, certain work experience and regular renewal.

Career outlook and salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national salary range for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in May 2021 was $37,380 to $90,090

Most employees in this field work full time, and there are also opportunities for overtime and travel.

Between 2020 and 2030, the number of employees working in the correctional and probation field is estimated to grow 4%, according to BLS. This is slower than the average for all occupations. The average number of career openings in this decade is expected to be about 8,100 per year, likely due to the need to replace workers who transfer occupations or retire. In general, employment growth depends on the amount of state and local government funding for correctional departments. 

The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Career enhancement

Although employment growth and career enhancement depend on state and local government funding and can subsequently vary geographically, they are also impacted by your experience and the time you dedicate to a given role. As you gain experience, you’ll have more responsibilities, which may lead to advancement opportunities. 

There may be the potential to pursue managerial positions, such as warden. These positions typically require further education in criminal justice as well as leadership and managerial skills.

Duties of a juvenile corrections officer

In general, the duties of a juvenile corrections officer focus on supervising and protecting juvenile inmates. Examples include:

  • Filling out daily reports, which may include detailing inmate behavior and updating the population count of the facility
  • Transporting inmates when necessary, including taking them to court hearings or medical facilities
  • Monitoring the correctional facility so that it stays clean and safe
  • Enforcing the facility’s rules
  • Filling out incident reports in the case of altercations
  • Providing proper security for inmates, especially those deemed high risk
  • Reporting security breaches or other inappropriate behavior to their supervisors

Aside from security and supervision, juvenile correctional officers will work with therapists to assist them during any group or other counseling sessions.

They also teach the inmates skills for rehabilitative purposes, including behavioral management and problem-solving. 

Of course, a JCO may also be responsible for other tasks depending on the facility and the JCO’s rank. 

Further training and education for juvenile corrections officers

As in many careers, professional development is beneficial for career growth as the market changes. This is the case for JCOs, especially during a time when prison reform is being discussed and considered. 

Even though correctional officers receive a lot of training, sometimes it’s beneficial to learn new skills or understand how to mitigate new risks. To stay safe, remain up to date and limit liability, in other words, it’s important for correctional officers to keep up with training.

Sensitivity training

Sensitivity training allows correctional officers to properly assist inmates from different backgrounds and cultures. Educating themselves enables officers to make the best decisions for inmates who have a different sexual orientation or who come from a different ethnic background.

De-escalation training

De-escalation techniques are essential for ensuring the safety of inmates and staff. Various training programs teach dozens of effective de-escalation techniques.

Scene management, team tactics and individual engagement are all part of de-escalation training. These tactics use time, distance and shielding to reduce the risk of harm to individuals involved. The goal is to promote thoughtful resolutions to the situations.

Suicide prevention

It's not uncommon for inmates to enter prison with underlying mental health conditions or develop such conditions during their sentence, so JCOs are taught how to identify the warning signs of and prevent inmate suicide

As a result, JCOs are also taught how to properly report a suicidal inmate. This training, in combination with suicide identification tactics, helps JCOs create and maintain a safer prison environment. 

Working in juvenile corrections is an important and rewarding career path with the potential to change lives for the better.

Earn a criminal justice degree from University of Phoenix

If you’re ready to start your career as a juvenile corrections officer or you work in the criminal justice field and are interested in enhancing your career opportunities, University of Phoenix (UOPX) can help. The University offers an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice that prepares graduates for a career in criminal justice and corrections. Graduates will learn foundational skills like how to apply interpersonal and collaborative skills that can be applied on the job direct from graduation.

The University also offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration (CJA) and a Bachelor of Science in Correctional Program Support Services (CPSS). In the CJA program, students learn administrative practices and research procedures and how to apply those skills in criminal justice administration. In the CPSS program, graduates are armed with the skills to 

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