Working within the public service sector is a common choice for veterans who are exiting the military and entering civilian life. Correctional departments at the federal, state and local levels are always glad to have those with military or law enforcement experiences apply for career opportunities. If you are a military veteran looking to transition to civilian life, you might want to consider becoming a correctional officer. There are many parallels between military experience and working in corrections that can lend themselves well to a new career in corrections.
Traits in Common – Military and Corrections
Your military experience has given you many different and valuable experiences that can help you transition into a career as a corrections officer. One of the most important traits that you have likely developed in the military is the ability to make decisions under pressure – an important one for correctional officers to possess. Other traits that you have developed in your military career and that lend themselves well to corrections include:
- Setting priorities
- Strategic planning
- Weapons training
- Physical fitness
- Understanding the chain of command and of authoritarian command structures
- Understanding the need to adhere to rules, regulations, law, and procedures
- Thriving in an organizational mindset
Another important benefit of a career in corrections at the federal level is that your years of active duty will likely count towards your federal retirement.
Education and Training for Veterans Interested in Correctional Officer Careers
Although correctional officer positions at the local and state levels usually just require a high school diploma, those at the federal level require a bachelor’s degree (or relevant experience). Some of the knowledge that you have undoubtedly picked up during your military career can be quite beneficial as you seek further education or training in the correctional field. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Information on public safety and security
- Law and government knowledge
- English language (oral and written communication)
- Administrative services
- Customer service
View more information on correctional officer education.
Funding for Veterans to Use for Correctional Officer Training and Education
Some veterans take advantage of the various GI Bill programs. This allows veterans to attend approved colleges and universities at greatly reduced rates. Check out the Department of Veterans Affairs Weams Institution Search to find what schools qualify for the GI Bill.
The Montgomery GI Bill will pay up to $2078 per month for a maximum of 36 months, directly to veteran students, who may use this money for tuition, books and other education-related expenses. These funds are approved to pay for some correctional academy and peace officer training.
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill covers up to the full amount of tuition and fees for up to 36 months at public universities in a student’s home state, or an equivalent amount of tuition at another school. This money is paid directly to the school.
Other funding programs for veterans wishing to pursue correctional officer training or education include:
- Yellow Ribbon Program: This is used for some out-of-state and private schools not covered by the GI Bill programs. Money goes towards paying tuition and fees.
- National Call to Service: This program administered by the Veterans Administration offers financial aid to those (including veterans) who have completed a period of national service.
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program: This program offers financial support to spouses and dependents of veterans who have been killed or permanently disabled in service.
The Transition Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Labor will help those getting ready to leave military service in finding training and opportunities for the next step in their civilian lives. This program helps with career exploration, technical career preparation and general employment preparation.
In addition to the GI Bill and other funding available for public schools, some veterans’ scholarships are available for those wishing to attend private schools. Check with local colleges and universities as well as your local Veterans Administration office for more information.
Incentives for Veterans to Apply for Careers in Corrections
Veterans are so desirable as potential employees for correctional departments that many of them are offering veterans incentives to apply for correctional officer positions. Some of them include:
- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice waives the required pre-employment test for veterans who apply for correctional officer positions
- The New York City Department of Correction offers veterans a fee waiver to take the NYC Correction Officer Exam
- Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services offers military veterans a possibility of retiring five years early
- Qualified veterans who are older than the stated maximum age of 37 may apply for correctional officer positions with the Federal Bureau of Prisons
- The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections will offer veterans preference over other applicants for correctional officer positions
View more information on correctional officer careers.
How Veterans Can Prepare for a Career in Corrections
Are you a veteran, or soon to be leaving the military, and are considering a career as a corrections officer? There are some things that you can do to better your chances of getting hired.
- Have former supervisors write you letters of recommendation
- Make copies of all of your training certificates, awards and courses that you have completed
- Work on your resume, highlighting the experience you received in the military that would benefit you as a corrections officer
- Keep your resume to two pages if you’ve worked for longer than three years, one page if you’ve worked less than three years
- Mention how many people you have supervised, how many reports you wrote per month, what your physical abilities are by numbers
View more information on correctional officer salaries.
Resources for Veterans Wishing to Transition to a Career as a Correctional Officer
The following resources may be helpful for veterans who wish to transition to careers in corrections:
- Career and Career Exploration Transition Assistance Program – This training track allows participants to complete a career development assessment and determine what types of careers could work best for them.
- Military to Federal Jobs Crosswalk – This site from the Maryland Department of Labor helps military service members and veterans transition into federal jobs.
- Separation & Transition Resources– This list of transition resources and programs for those about to leave or who have left the military includes specialized resources provided for all branches of the military.
- Tips for Creating a Federal Resume– This page provided by the U.S. Department of Justice outlines how to prepare a resume for federal jobs vs. one for private sector jobs.