The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2020, there were 405,870 correctional officers and jailers working in the United States, making a mean annual wage of $52,340. Correctional officers earning in the lowers 10 percent of this profession earned up to $32,830; while those in the 90th percentile averaged yearly salaries of $81,940.
Salaries for correctional officers vary greatly by location, industry, and job setting. For example, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals are the highest-paying industry in which correctional officers work, where they average an annual wage of $62,310. Those working in the federal branch (Federal Bureau of Prisons) also make higher than average salaries of $59,390.
Degrees That Will Improve a Correctional Officer’s Salary
Many correctional officer positions in the U.S. only require a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Those who work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, however, need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent experience). Having advanced education will usually lead to higher salaries for correctional officers.
Examples of bachelor’s degrees that will help aspiring correctional officers to get better jobs include:
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Corrections
- Bachelor of Science in Justice
- Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration
Associate degrees and certificates can also help you to earn higher salaries in corrections. Examples of such degrees and certificates include:
- Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
- Associate of Arts in Administration of Justice
- Certificate in Correctional Science
- Certificate in Administration of Justice
Salary Data for Correctional Officers and Jailers by State
|STATE||EMPLOYMENT||HOURLY MEAN WAGE||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE||HOURLY MEDIAN WAGE||HOURLY 75THPERCENTILE||HOURLY 90THPERCENTILE||ANNUAL MEDIAN WAGE||ANNUAL 75THPERCENTILE||ANNUAL 90THPERCENTILE|
|CO*||6990||24.34||50620||22.14||NO INFO||NO INFO||46243||51321||55944|
*CO=May 2018 figures, as BLS did not provide May 2020 figures
DE= BLS provided no info
DC= BLS provided no info
NY=BLS provided no info on employment levels
State Salary Information for Correctional Officers
The following states paid the highest annual mean wages to correctional officers as of May 2020:
- California: $81,100
- Massachusetts: $72,360
- Rhode Island: $72,110
- New Jersey: $71,810
- New York $69,490
According to U.S. News and World Report, the 10 states with the highest incarceration rates per capita as of 2021, along with each state’s corresponding correctional officer annual mean wage, are as follows:
- Florida: 444 per 100,000 people $45,540
- Idaho: 475 per 100,000 people $43,450
- Georgia: 507 per 100,000 people $35,210
- Kentucky: 516 per 100,000 people $35,790
- Texas: 529 per 100,000 people $44,230
- Arizona: 558 per 100,000 people $44,870
- Arkansas: 586 per 100,000 people $35,620
- Mississippi: 636 per 100,000 people $34,440
- Oklahoma: 639 per 100,000 people $35,530
- Louisiana: 680 per 100,000 people $36,300
States with the highest employment levels for correctional officers as of May 2020 are:
- Texas: 47,040
- California: 37,810
- Florida: 25,080
- Pennsylvania: 17,770
- North Carolina: 15,050
Salaries for Different Types of Correctional Officers
In the United States, there are four primary employers of correctional officers. These are federal prisons, state prisons, local prisons and jails, and private facilities.
As of May 2020, the highest paying of these agencies is psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, which could be qualified as private facilities. Correctional officers working there made an annual mean wage of $62,310. This is followed by federal prisons, where correctional officers averaged $59,390. Next comes state prisons, where the annual mean wage is $53,400. Finally, in local government facilities, correctional officers average a salary of $51,200.
The Effect of Experience on the Salary of Correctional Officers
Potential employers of correctional officers usually value experience in evaluating applicants for positions. The two most relevant backgrounds that employers look for are military service and law enforcement. The skills learned in high-risk conflict activities found in these professions often translate into effectiveness in supervising prisoners. In Michigan, for example, as of 2018, of the 13,500 employees in the Department of Corrections, 20 percent were military veterans. Many state governments are willing to provide employment preferences and salary bonuses to military veterans.
One of the greatest factors in salary determination is duration of employment. Depending upon the employer, the salary of a corrections officer may escalate quickly after reaching certain milestones. Although correctional officers at the lowest tiers of the department may not experience dramatic surges in salary, supervisors and managers do enjoy significant bumps in salary after a given period of service.
In addition to the increased salaries, many long-serving correctional officers also receive additional perks. Most prison facilities allow senior officers to have first pick of assignments, which allows them to choose positions that present less risk of injury. Many states also allow correctional officers to retire more quickly than other civil servants.
Bonuses to Correctional Officer Salaries
An important consideration in determining the overall financial compensation of correctional officers is recognizing the opportunities to add to a base salary through overtime. Due to the high level of turnover in this profession, most prison facilities are understaffed. There is a constant need for officers to work additional hours.
Younger correctional officers who are willing to work nights, holidays, or over the standard 40 hours can accrue a considerable bonus. In some states, corrections officers report making up to $30,000 in additional salary from overtime.