When you get to the point on your journey to become a correctional officer where you have found the right job to apply for, you’ve completed and submitted an amazing resume, nailed the interview, passed the correctional officer test, and now you’re ready to complete your initial training and keep it moving in the right direction.
But if you started out at an entry-level correctional officer position with the intention of just getting your foot in the door to move up the ladder within the organization to a position of greater responsibility or higher salary, then you may be asking yourself what exactly are your options for advancement within the corrections industry.
Let me offer some ways that you can make the most out of your correctional officer career and be very successful.
1. Start With a Plan
When I was in the Army, I started out at the lowest rank level possible for an enlisted soldier, and E-1 Private, but because I had a plan in mind for my military career, I was able to quickly progress to become a NCO in a short amount of time.
Had I known early on some of the tips to receive some of the early promotion opportunities available that would have be very helpful, but with time in grade requirements it might have took the same amount of time to get to the end result.
The same could be said with becoming a corrections officer. If you know that you want to progress as a corrections officer then you need to plan out your career as such. Study the job announcements and descriptions for the jobs you ultimately want to move into and work at it now to meet the necessary requirements as soon as possible. Most departments generally promote from within the organization so if you have been preparing from the start for positions of higher responsibility then you can quickly submit your resume the moment the new position is announced.
2. Lead By Example
Along with making your plan for your career, and completing the necessary requirements, you basically need to present yourself as the type of correctional officer you want to eventually lead.
Hopefully you have a superior correctional officer that can mentor you while on duty and be that example of a great correctional officer so in turn you can pass on that same knowledge and experience to the incoming officers when you are in the position of mentorship. In the unlikely situation that you do not have that senior correctional officer to look towards then take the initiative and be that correctional officer that sets the standards, knows the rule and regulations inside and out as well as enforces them appropriately. This will make your journey for advancement that much quicker.
3. Continue Your Education
If you began your career as a correctional officer with just a high school diploma or GED then that’s ok, there’s nothing to be assumed about. Many officer have very successful careers with that alone, but with you start looking at promotion opportunities you’ll quickly see that most will require that you have some type of degree in higher education, most likely in Criminal Justice, Corrections, Psychology, Human Services, or some other related field.
Its best that if you have just started to select a degree program that works for you and begin taking classes and courses that benefit your career now and build up your college credits. Some of your past employment history and correctional officer training can be used towards college credit at some colleges and universities so you wont have to start directly from the bottom. There are faster ways to earn college credits if you are in need of your general education courses but the point is education and training is key for your advancement as a correctional officer.
4. Stay Focus
The path for promotion and advancement as a corrections officer may not be the same for all as every situation is different. The main thing that you can do is stay focused, keep your eye on the prize, stay motivated, and carry out your duties as a correctional officer to the best of your abilities and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next correctional officer sergeant, lieutenant, or captain within your corrections department. So make it happen, make a plan today!