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Working in a prison system can be an ideal option for individuals who believe in rehabilitation or are simply interested in playing a role in the criminal justice system. Although working in a state or federal prison can be stressful and hazardous for some individuals, the salary and benefits packages are considered competitive. Though state prison requirements vary widely, federal prison employment requirements are the same nationwide.
Correctional officers oversee the prison's inmates, and they ensure that order is maintained and that rules are followed. At the state prison level, officers are usually required to have a high school diploma or an associate degree. The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have a bachelor’s degree, military experience and/or three years of experience in counseling or assisting at supervision settings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Correctional officers can be promoted to supervisory positions or wardens. The rate of nonfatal on-the-job injuries for correctional officers is high, according to the BLS.
Health Care Professionals
Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists and physician assistants provide health care to inmates. Individuals in these professions are required to meet any national or state requirements for licensure, including completing an accredited degree program. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are also generally required to have an active license and to be practicing in their profession unless they have graduated from college within the past year.
Psychologists who work in prisons use techniques to assess, evaluate and report on the mental health of inmates. Prison psychologists play an essential role in rehabilitation. Individuals who wish to work in these positions are required to hold a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or counseling psychology from an accredited college and must have previous experience that is comparable in difficulty, which may include volunteer work, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Chaplains play a key role in the rehabilitation and spiritual welfare of inmates. They ensure that religious needs are being met through the programs and services. Individuals who want to work as prison chaplains should be willing to work with inmates of various faiths. Though the employment requirements for state prison chaplains vary, individuals must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree and an accredited master’s degree in divinity or a similar area of study. In addition, they must be ordained, be recognized by the body of faith and should have practiced in a ministry or parish setting for at least two years.