California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Correctional Officers and Jailers in California

May also be called: Youth Correctional Officers; Youth Correctional Counselors; Casework Specialists; Prison Guards; Peace Officers; Detention Officers; Detention Deputies; Deputy Jailers; Community Services Officers; and Custody Assistants

What Would I Do?

Correctional Officers guard inmates in state institutions while Youth Correctional Officers, Youth Correctional Counselors, and Casework Specialists work with the youth (also known as “wards”) in juvenile facilities and rehabilitative sites. Any one of these Officers can supervise or transport inmates between courtroom, prison, medical facility, or other points. This occupation also describes the work of deputy sheriffs and police officers who spend the majority of their time guarding and transporting prisoners for local jails.

Correctional Officers supervise inmates during work, meals, bathing, recreation, and in all other activities. They ensure inmates know, understand, and obey the rules and regulations of the institution, and settle disputes between inmates. They also write reports on any violations and take appropriate action. Correctional Officers are required to periodically count and search inmates and inspect their living quarters. They secure towers, gates, and fences, and if escapes occur, help search for and recapture escapees. Correctional Officers also admit, instruct, and escort authorized visitors and supervise visits to inmates.

Youth Correctional Counselors and Casework Specialists help prepare youth offenders for return to society. These Officers strive to build good relationships with the wards as an aid in promoting socially acceptable attitudes and behavior.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Monitor conduct of inmates, according to established policies, regulations, and procedures, in order to prevent escape or violence.Monitoring
Inspect conditions of locks, window bars, grills, doors, and gates at correctional facilities, in order to ensure that they will prevent escapes.Public Safety and Security
Search Inmates, cells, and vehicles for weapons, valuables, or drugs.Near Vision
Guard facility entrances to screen visitors.Selective Attention
Search for and recapture escapees.Inductive Reasoning
Inspect mail for the presence of contraband.Problem Sensitivity
Take inmates into custody and escort to locations within and outside of facility, such as visiting room, courtroom, or airport.Social Perceptiveness
Record information, such as inmate identification, charges, and incidences of inmate disturbance.Clerical
Use weapons, handcuffs, and physical force to maintain discipline and order among prisoners.Explosive Strength
Provide to supervisors oral and written reports of the quality and quantity of work performed by inmates, inmate disturbances and rule violations, and unusual occurrences.Speaking
Drive passenger vehicles and trucks used to transport inmates to other institutions, courtrooms, hospitals, and work sites.Response Orientation
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Correctional Officers work in various-sized institutions, ranging from tightly-controlled, maximum-security prisons to light-security complexes resembling college campuses. Some work in small, minimum-security conservation camps located in forest and brush lands throughout the State. A few are assigned to "halfway houses" or to community correctional centers, which are located in several major cities.

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and hazardous, although the nature and extent of danger vary with each assignment. In general, the hazard is minimized by completing thorough and intense academy training and by following recognized procedures for preventing and controlling violence.

Correctional Officers usually work an eight-hour day, five days a week, on rotating shifts. Because prison and jail security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, weekends, and holidays. In addition, officers may be required to work overtime.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association represents more than 30,000 Correctional Peace Officers working inside California’s prisons and youth facilities.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Correctional Officer will appeal to you if you have integrity and a realistic and social nature. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. Social occupations involve communicating, teaching, and working with people.

Correctional Officers must be able to analyze situations accurately and react quickly when necessary. Communication skills are also important because Officers are expected to supervise inmates or wards with firmness, fairness, and tact.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The table below reflects median wages for all Correctional Officers and Jailers in California’s State, local, and federal institutions. Correctional Officers who work for Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation typically earn higher wages than those working in federal, city, and county institutions.


The median wage in 2021 for Correctional Officers and Jailers in California was $86,010 annually, or $41.35 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


State of California Correctional Officers receive medical, vision, and dental benefits, enrollment in the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), paid holidays and vacation, and are members of the State Peace Officer/Firefighter retirement category. State Correctional Officers also receive a uniform replacement allowance and other monetary incentives based on education, fitness, and institution location.

What is the Job Outlook?

Most job openings for Correctional Officers will occur due to the need to replace those who retire or leave the occupation for other reasons. Some states, including California, are reconsidering mandatory sentencing guidelines because of budgetary constraints, court decisions, and doubts about their effectiveness. These developments could slow future increases in the prison population and cause employment of Correctional Officers to grow more slowly than they have in the past.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Correctional Officers and Jailers is expected to decline between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Correctional Officers and Jailers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Minimum requirements for State Correctional Officers include the following:

  • Applicants need to be at least 21 years old.
  • Have no felony convictions.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien who is eligible for and has applied for U.S. citizenship before filing for the Correctional Officer exam.
  • Be a graduate from a U.S. High School or have a GED (Youth Correctional Counselors must have a Bachelor’s Degree while Casework Specialists must have a Masters in Social Work).
  • Have a history of law-abiding behavior.

Once the minimum qualifications are met, the applicant must do the following:

  • Complete an application and receive a passing score on the Scoring Category Worksheet.
  • Pass a written exam and written component of the Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation.
  • Pass the vision exam and Physical Abilities Test.
  • Complete a Personal History Statement and pass the Background Investigation.
  • Pass the oral component of the Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation.
  • Pass a preemployment medical examination before moving forward to the certification and appointment process where academy assignment is scheduled.

All new hires for State Correctional Officers receive a salary while attending a 16-week training academy. During the first year, Officers rotate among various assignments and different shifts and receive on-the-job training.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons requires at least a high school diploma or GED, a maximum age of 36, and at least one of the following to be eligible for employment as a Correctional Officer:

  • A bachelors degree plus six months experience, or
  • Three years work experience in selected fields such as teaching, health care, social work, or sales.
  • Applicants must also pass an oral and physical exam. A written test is not required. Three weeks of specialized training is given at the residential training center located in Glynco, Georgia.

Training and requirements for county and city Correctional Officers and Jailers vary, but usually require a minimum age of 21, a clean record, proven health and physical fitness, and a passing score on a written test prior to employment. Some city and county jails staff their deputy sheriffs in the capacity of Jailers.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming a Correctional Officer will benefit from completing their diploma requirements, maintaining law abiding behavior, and staying physically fit. Learning a second language may also prove to be an asset, as many of the prison population do not speak English. State Correctional Officers who are certified and recognized as bilingual receive extra pay per month. Volunteering with at-risk youths or organizations serving parolees can also be helpful preparation for this career.

Continuing Education

Officers in State service receive additional annual training as part of an ongoing program to improve job performance.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has 41 adult and juvenile institutions throughout California. Employment by type of government is listed in the table below. The largest industries employing Correctional Officers and Jailers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
State Government63.7%
Local Government25.1%
Facilities Support Services4.9%
Federal Government4.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Prior to attending the training academy, entry-level State Correctional Officers are typically given their first assignment from the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with priority going to those who select employment at the hardest to fill institutions. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Correctional Officers and Jailers.

  • Correctional
  • Government

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Promotional opportunities are available for Correctional Officers of both adults and juveniles. Opportunities for Officers of adult inmates include promotion to Correctional Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Correctional Counselor, Parole Agent, Parole Administrator, Associate Warden, Chief Deputy Warden, and Warden. Opportunities for Youth Officers include Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Senior Youth Correctional Counselor, Treatment Team Supervisor, Parole Agent, Parole Administrator, Assistant Superintendent, and Superintendent. Two years of experience at the previous level is required to take the promotional examination for each of these positions.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Correctional Officers and Jailers with links to more information.

Detectives and Criminal InvestigatorsGuide
Fire Inspectors and InvestigatorsProfile
Police and Sheriff Patrol OfficersGuide
Private Detectives and InvestigatorsProfile
Security GuardsGuide
Transit and Railroad PoliceProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification33-3012
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Correctional Officers and Jailers33-3012.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)REC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Corrections 430102
   Corrections and Criminal Justice, Other 430199
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Probation and Parole210520