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Law Enforcement Careers Can Start as a Correctional Officer

From Correctional Officer to a Law Enforcement Career

Many Veterans seek jobs in Law Enforcement after the military, but few consider looking into careers as correctional officers (prison guard). However, it may actually make good sense for you to consider working as a correctional officer to prepare you for a career in police work. In fact, working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons may be a great opportunity to start your career as a Federal Law Enforcement officer.

Many police officers have found that working in the prison system as a correctional officer helped them sharpen their situational awareness and intuition because constant danger from working with convicted criminals. This kind of situational awareness is essential for officer safety both in the prisons and on the streets. It can also prepare you for opportunities in personal protect.

Also known as BOP, the prison bureau operates more than 200  prisons, satellite prison camps, and private prisons. In total, the federal prison system houses more than 180,000 inmates.

Veterans Hiring Programs at the Federal Bureau of Prisons

If you are eligible, you can apply for Veterans’ Preference Points to help land a job in federal law enforcement. To learn more about Veterans’ Preference, click here.  You can apply for a position and be hired, even if you still have military service left. Please call 972-352-4200 or email the staffing section to learn more about exciting employment opportunities with the Bureau of Prison.

The official website and one-stop resource for Federal veteran employment information is: http://www.fedshirevets.gov

Federal Bureau of Prisons Career Path Opportunities

There are four main career areas within the Federal Bureau of Prisons – Inmate Custody & Programs, Health Services, Careers in Operational, Careers in Support & Administration. This means that as a veteran you can choose from several career paths, including several that do not deal directly with inmates. See details on these career paths below.

Federal Correctional Officer Careers

Correctional Officers are the largest part of the Bureau of Prisons workforce. All BOP institutions routinely have vacancies for this position. Correctional Officers enforce the regulations governing the operation of a correctional institution, serving as both a supervisor and counselor of inmates.

BOP Corrections Officers can qualify for different levels (or ranks). The basic requirements to apply for a position as a Corrections Officer include Oral Communication Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Writing Skills, Organizational Awareness, Human Resources Management Skills, and Stress Tolerance.

Age Requirements – At time of appointment, applicants must not have reached their 37th birthday unless they previously served in a Federal civilian law enforcement position covered by special civil service retirement provisions, including early or mandatory retirement. Qualified Preference Eligible Veterans may be exempt from meeting the maximum entry age of 37.


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The BOP is hiring Corrections Officers for many locations across the country.

Normally when a vacancy is announced, it’s for a job opening at a specific location. However, because this position is in high demand it’s considered an “open-continuous” announcement. That means you get to choose your top two facilities where you would like to work. Here’s how it works:

  • Apply for this position using the usajobs.gov website as you would do with any other federal job.
    Correctional Officer Open-Continuous Announcement
  • Select any two locations where you would like to work.
    View all of our locations
  • After your application is accepted, you will be added to a standing register of qualified candidates.
  • When a position becomes available at one of the facilities that you selected, you will be considered for that position, and if you are selected we will contact you with an offer.

Other Careers at the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Careers in Inmate Custody & Programs – This career path tends to include direct contact with inmates, to include Corrections Officers, Case Managers, Chaplains, and Clinical Psychologists to name a few. The position that deals the most directly with the inmates is, of course, the Corrections Officers.

Careers in Health Services – The Health Services Division is responsible for medical, dental, and mental health (psychiatric) services provided to Federal inmates in Bureau facilities, including health care delivery, infectious disease management, and medical designations.

Careers in Operational Readiness – The Operational Readiness division focuses on facilities and equipment maintenance and repair. These jobs include; Automotive Mechanics, Carpenters, Electricians, Fabric Workers, Food Service Supervisors, HVAC Mechanics, Painters, Plumbers, and more.

Careers in Support & Administration – Support and Administration directly support the BOP. This career path is an important part of keeping the Federal prison system running smoothly. This division employs specialists in Business Administration, Accounting and Finance, Facilities and Logistics, Legal, and Federal Security/Policing.

Visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons to lean more about the eligibility and physical requirements.





About the author

Terry Howell is a retired Coast Guard veteran, where he served for 20 years.

He is currently the Executive Director for Veterans' Legacies, a non-profit that works to preserve veterans personal stories to help educate our youth.

Terry is also the author of The Military Advantage, an annually updated guide to military and veteran benefits.