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federal corrections officer

Updated on November 19, 2010

a guide to employment with the Bureau of Prisons

At first glance, many people would catagorize a career in corrections in the same breath as a career in waste management. both would appear to be undesirable jobs with meager pay, that while we would want someone else to do, we would never wish on ourselves. yet, in the case of the federal bureau of prisons, nothing could be further from the case. federal correctional officers are federal law enforcement officers, with a pay scale that ranges from 45,000 to 60,000 a year, as well as promotion opprotunities that range well into six figures!this is much more exciting when you consider the fact that, with the right background, this is potentially a career without a college degree!

what the bureau is looking for

In the old days the bureau used to only hire from two sources..state corrections, and the military. today both those are definently main suppliers, and an honorable discharge from the military is more than enough to get you an intrview. however, many recent hires have had no military or corrections experience, and instead have managerial experience or a criminal justice degree.

besides said experience, basic requirements include having no felony convictions on a criminal record, and no class 2 misdemeanors. think of it as nothing more than a dui. also, you will need to have fairly good credit. a key here is to run a credit check on yourself, if you can, and make sure you are paying on any just debts. basically, they want to see you are paying your bills.

how to start

Like many employment journeys nowadays, this one begins on the internet. go to and search federal bureau of prisons. if you know the local federal prison near you is hiring, you can search for it. otherwise, search for correctional officer GL 5/7 . the website will direct you to the bureau of prisons own website. fill out the answers and send it off. in several weeks you should get a packet in the mail, for a background check. you should also get a call to arrange a face to face interview. Make sure to wear a suit!

A note for veterans

If you are a veteran with an honorable discharge you can apply to the bureau of prisons under the VRA (Veterans Readjustment Act) program. Basically, what this does is move you to the front of the line for hiring! While everyone else will be scored a series of points from their online application and hired based on their scores, you will be processed first. The downside to this program is you will only be hired on at the lower GL-5 grade (after two years, it will go to GL-7) and you will be put on a two year probation. Its worth considering.

The interview

The interview will be a panel with either two or three members, including a captain, and a clinical psychologist. You will be asked a series of form questions here is an example of two of the trickier ones.

Question: There is an institutional disturbance (fight on the rec yard, etc.) There is a male staff member and a female staff member working in the control center. Which do you take with you to respond?

Correct Answer: Whichever one is the most qualified( to handle the disturbance). This really is a trick question, as it leaves you struggling between what you would really pick (the male) and what you would believe is the PC answer (the female)

Question: You work at a female instititution in a guard tower. You see an inmate running for the fenceline and attempting to climb it. You know that she is pregnant. What should you do?

Correct Answer: Fire a warning shot in a safe direction near the inmate. If she continues to attempt escape, shoot center mass. This is basically the Bureau's way of finding out if you might have a problem carrying out your duties, when they might include shooting a person. Even if you have a problem with it, give the correct answer. The situation described will most likely never happen, as pregnant female inmates are not known to scale fences to escape :)

After these questions or ones like them, the panel will show you a video of an inmate cell and ask you to describe in a one page written essay how you would search it. This is another trick question, it really is just a test of your handwriting skills! Don't worry about describing in too much detail all your techniques, just focus on writing legibly and clearly.

Your Hired!

For me, the bureau hiring process took about four months, from me applying online to reporting for work. After that, I started work. Make sure to order your BOP uniforms as soon as you receive your "your hired letter in the mail. They can only be ordered online. Here are the links:

There are myths about prisons being dirty places, full of rough guards, and even rougher inmates. well, I can tell you firsthand that BOP staff are professional, the institutions are clean, and although many of the inmates are knuckleheads, most of them will respond well if you are fair and firm. Most of the skills you will learn as a Correctional Officer will be picked up through OJT. During your "rookie" year, don't be afraid to ask senior staff and lieutenants questions, don't be afraid to tell inmates "no" and plain old don't be afraid. This career isn't for everyone, but there are rewards in in for those willing to answer the call!


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