Correctional Officer or Bailiff

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Job Outlook:
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Average: $49,610.00
Average: $23.85

What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do

Correctional officers guard people in penal institutions and guard those in transit between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point. Bailiffs, also known as marshals or court officers, are law enforcement officers who maintain order in courtrooms.


Correctional officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce rules and keep order within jails or prisons
  • Supervise activities of people in custody
  • Inspect facilities to ensure that they meet security and safety standards
  • Conduct searches in the facility, such as of persons and property, for rule violations
  • Report on the conduct of people in custody
  • Escort and transport people in custody between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point

Bailiffs typically do the following:

  • Ensure the security of the courtroom
  • Enforce courtroom rules
  • Follow court procedures
  • Escort judges, jurors, witnesses, and people in custody into and out of the courtroom
  • Handle evidence and deliver court documents

Inside the prison or jail, correctional officers enforce rules and regulations. They maintain security by preventing disturbances, assaults, and escapes and by inspecting facilities. They check cells and other areas for unsanitary conditions, contraband, signs of a security breach (such as tampering with window bars and doors), and other rule violations. Officers also inspect mail and visitors for prohibited items. They conduct regular counts of people in custody to ensure that everyone is present. They write reports and fill out daily logs detailing anything of note that occurred during their shift.

Correctional officers may have to restrain people in custody, such as by using handcuffs and leg irons to escort them to and from cells. Officers also escort people in custody to courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations.

Bailiffs’ specific duties vary by court, but their primary duty is to maintain order and security in courts of law. They enforce courtroom procedures that protect the integrity of the legal process. For example, they ensure that attorneys and witnesses do not influence juries outside of the courtroom, and they also may isolate juries from the public in some circumstances. As a neutral party, they may handle evidence during court hearings to ensure that only permitted evidence is displayed.

Work Environment

Correctional officers
Because jail and prison security must be provided 24 hours a day, officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays.

Bailiffs held about 17,100 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of bailiffs were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 64%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 34

Correctional officers and jailers held about 378,500 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of correctional officers and jailers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 51%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 41
Federal government 4
Facilities support services 4

Correctional officers may work both indoors and outdoors at penal institutions. For example, their shift may include patrolling the facility inside and supervising outdoor recreational activities of people in custody. Bailiffs generally work in courtrooms.

Both correctional officers and bailiffs may be required to stand for long periods. They must be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers may become injured in confrontations with people in custody, leading to their having one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They may wear safety gear, such as gloves and helmets, to protect against injury.

Work Schedules

Most correctional officers and bailiffs work full time. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, correctional officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Correctional officers may be required to work overtime. Bailiffs usually work when court is in session.

Getting Started

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff

Correctional officers
Correctional officers typically attend training at an academy before being assigned to a facility.

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically need a high school diploma to enter their occupation. They typically attend a training academy.

Although qualifications vary by state and agency, many agencies set a minimum age for correctional officers that is usually between 18 and 21. Federal agencies also may require officers to have a bachelor’s degree or work experience and may have a maximum age for entry.


Correctional officers and bailiffs typically must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

For employment in federal prisons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have a bachelor’s degree or several years of experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision. Bachelor's degree fields vary but commonly include security and protective service or a related field, such as social science.


Correctional officers and bailiffs complete training at an academy. Training varies by state. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training maintains links to states’ Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) programs. Academy trainees receive instruction in a number of subjects, including self-defense, institutional policies, regulations, operations, and security procedures.

Correctional officers and bailiffs may shadow experienced officers after graduating from a training academy.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require correctional officers to complete state certification. For more information, check with your state’s public safety, corrections, or other agency that establishes this certification.


Correctional officers may advance to supervisory positions such as sergeant, lieutenant, or captain. They also may move into specialized units, such as gang task force or hostage negotiation.

Bailiffs may advance to senior bailiff or other supervisory positions.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Despite declining employment, about 30,900 openings for correctional officers and bailiffs are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Lower incarceration rates and prison population levels are expected to reduce demand for these workers.

Although correctional officers and bailiffs will continue to be needed, changes to criminal laws have a large effect on how many people are arrested and incarcerated each year. Faced with high costs for keeping people in prison, many state governments have moved toward laws requiring shorter prison terms and alternatives to prison. While keeping the public safe, community-based programs that are designed to rehabilitate prisoners and limit their risk of repeated offenses also may reduce prisoner counts.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), visit

International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training

For more information about career opportunities for correctional officers at the federal level, visit

Federal Bureau of Prisons

For more information about federal government requirements for correctional officers, visit

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

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Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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