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Corrections Officer Jobs in Pennsylvania

Correctional officers in the employ of the Federal Bureau of Prisons serve in the many federal facilities found in Pennsylvania.  These include:

  • Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto—low security facility housing 1,466 males
  • Federal Correctional Institution at Schuylkill—medium security facility housing 1,565 male inmates
  • Federal Correctional Institution at McKean—medium security facility housing 1,478 male inmates
  • U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg—high security facility that currently holds 1,206 males
  • U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan—high security facility with a population of 1,329 males
  • Federal Correctional Complex at Allenwood is comprised of
    • Federal Correctional Institution Low with 1,291 male inmates
    • Federal Correctional Institution Medium with 1,310 male inmates
    • U.S. Penitentiary—high security custody of 1,066 male prisoners
  • Federal Detention Center at Philadelphia—houses males and females awaiting trial; last count was 1,076

It is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to supervise the operations of 26 correctional facilities in the state, which house more than 17,000 inmates as of 2011. The largest correctional facilities are located in Philadelphia (more than 4,000 inmates,) Allegheny (more than 1,300 inmates,) and Dauphin (more than 700 inmates.)

All correctional officer job applicants in Pennsylvania are hired on as trainees during the first year of employment, and then become full-time employees of the Department of Corrections after successfully completing the training period. During this time, corrections officer trainees attend classes and workshops and perform on-the-job training with correctional officer veterans in order to learn the skills necessary to do the job properly.

Aspects of the job that require training include how to perform searches of inmates and their living spaces, how to conduct video surveillance, how to defuse dangerous situations and how to operate firearms in close quarters.

Education Requirements and Special Considerations During the Hiring Process

Federal Correctional Officer Requirements

Federal correctional officers must possess these pre-requisites to serve as GS-5 pay level employees:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or three years of experience in teaching, counseling, management, emergency response or sales
  • Have no disqualifying criminal convictions
  • Have a good financial history
  • Be between 20 and 37 years of age
 

Federal correctional officers who begin their careers at the GS-6 pay level must also satisfy these requirements:

  • Have completed at least 9 semester hours of graduate study in law, criminal justice or social science; or
  • Have at least one year of experience in local, state or federal law enforcement, mental health care, or corrections

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

All applicants must have a high school diploma or a state-issued GED certificate from Pennsylvania. Those who have a GED from another state must seek certification from the state of Pennsylvania upon being hired by the Department of Corrections. All applicants must also be at least 19 years of age when hired on to be a corrections officer.

The state of Pennsylvania has a special program in place that gives veterans preference over other applicants during the hiring process. Also, females are given special preference when applying for positions with one of the two female correctional facilities in the state, although males can also apply and work at theses facilities and females can apply and work at the all-male facilities as well.

Training Academy

Federal Correctional Officer Training

New federal correctional officers must undergo 80 hours of orientation at their assigned correctional facility.  They must also attend a 120 hour training program held at the Staff Training Academy in Glynco, GA.  This program will teach recruits about

  • Firearms
  • Marksmanship
  • Self-defense
  • Procedures and policies
  • Bus operations
  • Witness security

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Once being offered a conditional offer of employment, corrections officers are required to attend the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Training Academy located in Elizabethtown. The training academy consists of a 4-week long basic course section followed by a Corrections Officer Examination administered by the State Civil Service Administration.

The tests is a written exam that consists of questions concerning judgment and problem solving skills; observation; the ability to follow oral instructions, rules and regulations; following written instructions and being able to express oneself clearly and succinctly in stressful situations.

After the training academy, corrections officers must then complete a medical examination, a physical agility test, a criminal background check, a psychological exam and a drug screen before beginning on-the-job training at a correctional institution in the state.

Corrections Officer Salary in Pennsylvania

In 2012, it was found by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that the average correctional officer salary in Pennsylvania was $46,400. In addition, the Pittsburgh area was found to be one of the highest paying throughout the state with corrections officers averaging $48,970 per year.

Here is a look at the salary structure allotted to corrections officers in Pennsylvania:

Corrections Officer Trainee:

  • Minimum: $33,236
  • Maximum: $34,947

Corrections Officer 1:

  • Minimum: $34,947
  • Maximum: $67,432

Corrections Officer 2:

  • Minimum: $37,806
  • Maximum: $73,170

Corrections Officer 3:

  • Minimum – 75 Hour: $38,259
  • Minimum – 80 Hour: $40,810
  • Maximum – 75 Hour: $73,526
  • Maximum – 80 Hour: $78,428

Corrections Officer 4:

  • Minimum – 75 Hour: $43,814
  • Minimum – 80 Hour: $46,735
  • Maximum – 75 Hour: $84,186
  • Maximum – 80 Hour: $89,799

Corrections Officer 5:

  • Minimum – 75 Hour: $50,152
  • Minimum – 80 Hour: $53,495
  • Maximum – 75 Hour: $96,372
  • Maximum – 80 Hour: $102,797

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified the following salaries for corrections officers throughout Pennsylvania:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
460
48650
Erie PA
510
44270
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
730
48840
Newark-Union NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
2070
68450
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
3830
45070
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
Estimate Not Released
50090
Pittsburgh PA
1690
48970
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
900
48130
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman OH-PA
1370
43650
Far Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
1340
45400
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
2030
46410
Northeastern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
920
43730

Allentown, Pennsylvania Corrections Officer Job Description

Correctional officers in Allentown will find themselves in close proximity to many of their colleagues. This is because there are six major federal and state correctional institutions located in the surrounding area, employing correctional officers to provide a structured and supervised environment for over 10,000 regional prisoners. With all five Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities in the region over capacity, the employment prospects for correctional officers in Allentown continue to appear strong.

How to Become a Correctional Officer with the Federal Bureau Of Prisons

Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities near Allentown:

  • FCI Schuylkill – located in Minersville, a medium and minimum security facility with a capacity for holding 1,406 male inmates

Initial Requirements – Federal correctional officers start at the GS-05 level, which requires applicants to fulfill either an education or experience requirement:

  • Bachelor degree in any field

OR

  • Three years of work experience in an area with similar duties to those of a correctional officer, such as:
    • Persuasive sales
    • Management
    • Supervision
    • Counseling
    • Providing assistance

Applicants looking to future promotional opportunities or to be hired on at the GS-06 level can qualify by having a bachelor degree with a concentration in subjects such as:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law
  • Criminology
  • Social Sciences

BOP Application and Training – Correctional officer applications with the BOP are submitted through the online USA Jobs website. Candidates can specify FCI Schuylkill as their preferred destination when completing their application, which can be done at any time. Before applying, candidates must confirm they:

  • Are less than 37 years old
  • Are US citizens
  • Have no serious criminal record
  • Are drug free

Training takes place at a three-week correctional officer training program in Glynco, Georgia.

How to Become a Correctional Officer with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC)

Pennsylvania DOC facilities near Allentown:

  • SCI Coal Township – currently with 2,325 inmates at 108% of capacity
  • SCI Dallas – currently with 2,143 inmates at 110% of capacity
  • SCI Retreat – located in Hunlock Creek, currently with 1,127 inmates at 102% of capacity
  • SCI Frackville – currently with 1,159 inmates at 103% of capacity
  • SCI Mahanoy – located in Frackville, currently with 2,505 inmates at 108% of capacity

Initial Requirements – The requirements to become a CO with the state DOC are as follows:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be at least 21 years old

Candidates can start the application process for correctional officer jobs in Allentown through the DOC employment website. CO positions are considered to be a civil service position. After passing a civil service test and making it through the hiring process new COs will be considered trainees for their first year of employment.

Training – Training takes place in Elizabethtown over the span of four weeks. On-the-job training takes place over the entire first year of employment.

Because the basic duties of both state and federal COs are closely related, correctional officer training covers many of the same subjects at these separate academies. Important topics include:

  • Cooperation and teamwork
  • Facility rules and procedures
  • Prisoner behavior and psychology
  • Emergency situations including:
    • Evacuations due to natural or man-made disasters
    • Emergency medical situations
    • Riots

Erie, Pennsylvania Corrections Officer Job Description

Erie is a city vital to Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system given the fact that both federal and state correctional facilities are located nearby. Nearly 8,500 inmates are guarded 24 hours a day by correctional officers who are dedicated to upholding this system of justice and rehabilitation. Only the best applicants are selected for jobs at locations near Erie.

Becoming a Correctional Officer with the Federal Bureau Of Prisons

Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities near Erie:

  • FCI McKean – located in Lewis Run, a medium and minimum security facility with a holding capacity of 1,527 male offenders

Qualifications – The minimum qualification to become a GS-05-ranking correctional officer in Erie with the federal BOP starts at having a bachelor degree. This can be in any field, with pertinent subject areas including:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Corrections
  • Psychology

More advanced GS-06 correctional officer jobs require a focus of study in subjects such as:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Social Sciences
  • Law

Three years of work experience can be used to substitute for the bachelor degree. Experience must include duties related to:

  • Providing guidance or assistance
  • Supervising or management
  • Persuasive sales
  • Counseling

Application and Training with the Federal BOP – US citizens who are under 37 years of age are eligible to apply for correctional officer jobs in Erie with the BOP. The CO application is continuously available for completion on the federal employment website. Applications are submitted through the job announcement, during which time candidates can specify their preference for employment at FCI McKean.

After completing the hiring process, new COs will attend a three-week correctional officer training course located in Glynco, Georgia. Topics of instruction include:

  • Federal rules and regulations
  • Self-defense
  • Teamwork
  • Prison psychology
  • Emergency procedures and response
  • Prisoner restraint and control

Becoming a Correctional Officer with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities near Erie:

  • SCI Albion – currently with 2,260 inmates at 105% of capacity
  • SCI Cambridge Springs – currently with 998 inmates at 98% of capacity
  • SCI Forest – located in Marienville, currently with 2,220 inmates at 113% of capacity
  • SCI Mercer – currently with 1,466 inmates at 98% of capacity

Correctional officer jobs in Erie with the state DOC have a different set of hiring requirements and training. For starters, to qualify for DOC employment applicants will need to:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED

Because the Pennsylvania DOC considers COs to be a civil service position, applicants will also need to pass a civil service exam. Information about registering and submitting an application can be found on the DOC’s employment website.

Training lasts four weeks and takes place in Elizabethtown. A CO’s first year will also be considered on-the-job training. Subjects covered in the Elizabethtown academy include:

  • Communication skills development
  • CPR and first aid
  • Riot control
  • Responding to those addicted to narcotics
  • Suicide prevention
  • Inmate psychology and behavior

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Corrections Officer Job Description

There are 26 state correctional facilities in Pennsylvania, through which 51,184 inmates are housed (as of 2012). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is part of Pennsylvania’s Central Judicial District, which encompasses the following state and federal correctional institutions:

State Correctional Facilities (and their daily inmate population, as of April 2013)

  • Huntington: 2,163
  • Pine Grove: 1,179
  • Smithfield: 1,368
  • Cresson: 372
  • Benner Township: 483
  • Houtzdale: 2,578
  • Rockview: 2,467
  • Muncy: 1,400
  • Cambridge Springs: 985
  • Quehanna Boot Camp: 463

Federal Correctional Facilities (and their daily inmate population, as of May 2013)

  • Allenwood Low FCI: 1,290
  • Allenwood Medium FCI: 1,345
  • FCI Schuylkill: 1,237
  • Schuylkill Camp: 527
  • USP Canaan: 1,307
  • USP Lewisburg: 1,199
  • Lewisburg Camp: 527

Employment Requirements for Corrections Officers in Harrisburg

Federal Correctional Officer Employment Requirements

Individuals interested in learning how to become a federal correctional officer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, must meet the following education/experience requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university; OR
  • Three years of experience of general experience in one or more of the following areas:
    • Providing guidance, direction and assistance to individuals
    • Responding to emergency situations
    • Selling services or products
    • Teaching or instructing individuals
    • Managing or supervising individuals
    • Counseling individuals

Candidates may meet the experience requirements through work in a number of professions, such as:

  • Air traffic controller
  • Supervisor or manager
  • Commissioned salesperson
  • Teacher
  • Parole or probation worker
  • Social worker
  • Firefighter
  • Clergyman
  • Security guard
  • Children’s daycare worker
  • Nurse
  • Emergency medical technician

State Correctional Officer Employment Requirements

Individuals interested in pursuing state corrections officer jobs in Harrisburg must be at least 21 years old and must hold a high school diploma or GED. Candidates with bilingual skills are encouraged to apply.

Candidates must take a civil service test to qualify for corrections officer jobs in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Upon receiving a conditional offer of employment, candidates must be able to successfully pass a physical fitness test, a medical examination, a drug screening, and a thorough background investigation.

Individuals, upon being hired, are considered correctional officer trainees until a year of training and instruction is completed. New hires must first complete a four-week training program through the Training Academy in Elizabethtown. Coursework may include the following:

  • Communication skills
  • Suicide prevention
  • Self-defense
  • Inmate behavior
  • Search procedures
  • Report writing
  • First Aid and CPR training
  • Riot Control

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Corrections Officer Job Description

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is responsible for the state’s 26 correctional institutions, including one motivational boot camp, as well as an additional 14 community corrections centers, 40 contract facilities, and a training academy. The Department has a budget of $1.86 billion and more than 16,000 employees. As of 2012, the inmate population within Pennsylvania’s correctional facilities was 51,184.

Minimum Requirements for Correctional Officer Jobs in Philadelphia

Federal Correctional Employment Requirements

Individuals interested in pursuing federal correctional officer jobs in Philadelphia through one of the state’s seven federal correctional institutions must first meet the following education and experience requirements:

All candidates for correctional jobs in Philadelphia must be under the age of 37, unless they held previous federal government civil service positions. They must also possess one of the following:

  • A four-year course of study resulting in a bachelor’s degree; OR
  • At least 3 years of experience in one or more of the following fields:
    • Counseling
    • Education/Instruction
    • Supervision/Management
    • Persuasive Commission Sales

Individuals who qualify for federal corrections officer jobs through experience often come from backgrounds that include:

  • Guidance counselors
  • Supervisors/managers
  • Probation or parole workers
  • Welfare or social workers

State Correctional Employment Requirements

Individuals interested in pursuing correctional officer jobs at the state level must meet the Philadelphia DOC minimum employment requirements, which includes being at least 21 years of age and passing a civil service test, which includes an assessment of the following areas:

  • Clarity of expression
  • Following oral instructions
  • Following written instructions
  • Judgment and problem solving
  • Observation
  • Understanding rules and regulations

Only those individuals who meet the Department’s minimum requirements and pass the civil service test may receive a conditional offer of employment, at which time they must successfully complete the following:

  • Medical examination
  • Physical ability test
  • Background investigation
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Drug screening (urinalysis)

All new correctional officers in Philadelphia without experience are considered trainees and must learn how to become a correctional officer in Philadelphia by completing a one-year course of training to be eligible for promotion to a Corrections Officer I.

The first year of training includes both classroom instruction and on-the-job training, with the first four weeks of classroom training taking place at the Department of Corrections Training Academy in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania State and Federal Correctional Facilities

Philadelphia is part of the Eastern Judicial District of Pennsylvania, which includes the following state correctional institutions:

Monthly Inmate Population (as of April 2013)

  • Chester: 1,292
  • Graterford: 3,885
  • Camp Hill: 3,658
  • Frackville: 1,171
  • Coal Township: 2,306
  • Dallas: 2,125
  • Mahoney: 2,535
  • Retreat: 1,157
  • Waymart: 1,468

The federal correctional facility, Federal Detention Center (FDC) of Philadelphia, is part of the Eastern Judicial District of PA. The FDC Philadelphia, which had a population of 1,113 as of May 2013, houses both male and female pretrial inmates for Delaware, southern New Jersey, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Corrections Officer Job Description

Under the umbrella of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections are 26 correctional facilities, 14 community corrections centers, 40 contract facilities, a motivational boot camp, and a training academy.

The inmate population in Pennsylvania has grown steadily since 1980, thereby highlighting the demand for well-qualified corrections officers:

  • 1980: 8,243
  • 1985: 14,260
  • 1990: 22,325
  • 1995: 32,410
  • 2000: 36,810
  • 2005: 42,446
  • 2010: 51,321
  • 2011: 51,638
  • 2012: 51,184

Correctional Officer Job Requirements

State correctional officer jobs and federal corrections officer jobs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania require a distinctly different set of qualifications and minimum employment requirements:

Federal Correctional Officer Job Requirements

Individuals interested in pursuing entry-level (GS-05) federal corrections jobs in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania’s Western Judicial District, which includes the federal correctional institutions of FCI Loretto and FCI McKean, must:

  • Be under the age of 37 (excludes individuals who have previously held federal civil service positions)
  • Possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university; OR
  • Possess at least three years of full-time experience in one or more of the following areas: counseling; providing guidance; responding to emergency situations; dealing with domestic disturbances; supervising or managing; or teaching or instructing.

State Correctional Officer Job Requirements

There are 9 state correctional institutions within Pennsylvania’s Western Judicial District, all of which hire correctional officers according to the standards set forth by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Individuals who want to attain correctional officer jobs in Pittsburgh within one of the state’s jurisdictions must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be able to pass a civil service written examination
  • Be able to pass a drug screening
  • Be able to pass a psychological evaluation
  • Be able to pass a background investigation
  • Be able to pass a thorough medical examination
  • Be able to pass a physical ability test

New hires are considered correctional officer trainees in Pennsylvania until they complete a full year of training, which includes classroom training and on-the-job training. Only after trainees have completed the one-year probation and training period can they qualify to advancement to Corrections Officer I.

Classroom training requirements for individuals who want to learn how to become a correctional officer in Pittsburgh include four weeks of classroom instruction at the Department of Corrections Training Academy.

On-the-job corrections officer training in Pittsburgh is focused on: preparing written reports; responding to emergency situations; preventing/resolving problems; making periodic rounds and head counts; and monitoring the activity of inmates, among others.

Correctional Facility Statistics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The state correctional institutions in the Western Judicial District of Pennsylvania had the following inmate population counts (as of April 2013):

  1. SCI Fayette: 2,079
  2. SCI Forest: 2,283
  3. SCI Greene: 1,826
  4. SCI Albion: 2,327
  5. SCI Greensburg: 622
  6. SCI Somerset: 2,360
  7. SCI Laurel Highlands: 1,582
  8. SCI Mercer: 1,485
  9. SCI Pittsburgh: 1,762

The federal correctional facilities in the Western Judicial District of Pennsylvania had the following inmate population counts, as of May 2013:

  • FCI Loretto: Low-security facility housing for male inmates, 1,310
  • FCI McKean: Medium security facility housing male inmates, 1,168

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