Juvenile correctional officers work with incarcerated minors and those who have been charged with crimes and are awaiting trial. They ensure the well-being of the minors and fellow officers, as well as the security of the facility.
The job of a juvenile correctional officer is very similar to that of a correctional officer in adult facilities. The biggest difference is that youth lockups focus on rehabilitation more than adult prisons do. That means that juvenile corrections officers have a mentoring component to their jobs that other corrections officers do not.
Juvenile Correctional Officer Duties & Responsibilities
The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:
- Maintain a safe environment for incarcerated youth and fellow officers
- Closely watch inmates and frequently count them
- Escort inmates everywhere they go
- Break up physical altercations
- Conduct searches for contraband concealed in inmates’ clothing, bodies, and cells
- Document inmates’ behaviors to help medical professionals and counselors perform their job duties
Officers serve as role models for incarcerated youth. While they maintain appropriate professional boundaries, officers actively participate in inmates’ rehabilitation. If these youth can put their lives on a different course, they can become productive members of society.
Inmates often have psychological issues that they need to overcome. Communication with medical and counseling staff about how inmates behave throughout the day is key to helping them create and execute treatment plans.
Juvenile Correctional Officer Salary
A juvenile corrections officer's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer. Many organizations have career ladders that provide juvenile corrections officers regular raises as they gain more tenure.
- Median Annual Salary: $44,000
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $59,000
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $24,000
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education Requirements & Qualifications
Even if it isn’t required, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a good choice for both getting hired and preparing a graduate for work. Criminal justice majors are ahead of the game once on-the-job training starts.
- Education: Some organizations require only a high school degree to become a juvenile corrections officer. Some require an associate’s or bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
- Training: Employers provide extensive training to new hires, and they also provide a good amount of ongoing training. Juvenile corrections officers are armed with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do the job well before they have to put them into practice.
- Experience: Experience is not required to be a juvenile corrections officer in most organizations though it is helpful for applicants to separate themselves from the rest of the applicant pool. Military service and private security work look good on a job application.
- Testing: Juvenile corrections officers must be 21 years old. In addition to putting applicants through the normal government hiring process, organizations that employ juvenile corrections officers put finalists through background checks, criminal history checks, personality tests, medical exams, drug tests, and physical strength and skills tests. Once officers are hired and have gone through training, they must pass additional physical strength and skills tests to maintain employment.
Juvenile Correctional Officer Skills & Competencies
To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:
- Interpersonal skills: An important part of the job is being able to interact and communicate effectively with juvenile inmates, other officers, doctors, counselors, and other staff.
- Decision-making skills: People in this role must be able to think on their feet and make quick decisions as needed to ensure their own safety and that of those around them.
- Physical strength and stamina: Juvenile correctional officers may be on their feet for long periods of time. They may also need to break up physical confrontations and protect inmates from getting hurt.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for correctional officers in general will decline 7 percent through 2026. That's because many state governments are requiring shorter prison terms and alternatives to prison because of the high costs of keeping people in prison. The BLS doesn't break out separate projections for juvenile correctional officers.
Correctional facilities have high turnover rates because the dangerous work environment and relatively low pay quickly lead to burnout. Officers must remain alert at all times, and there must be a clear delineation of who has the authority and who does not. Because juvenile corrections officers get to participate in rehabilitating troubled youth, this work can also be very rewarding.
Of all occupations, correctional officers have one of the highest rates of injury and illness, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Juvenile correctional officers generally work full time. They often must work on rotating shifts because they're needed around the clock. That means officers may work on weekends and holidays, as well as any time of the day or night.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People who are interested in becoming [job name] can also consider some related careers, listed here along with their median salaries:
- Probation officers: $51,410
- Police officers or detectives: $62,960
- Security guards: $26,960
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017