A corrections officer has normally gone through a training academy or school based on guidelines by the American Correctional Association. Entry-level corrections officers -- the formal name for a prison guard or jailer -- then usually receive further on-the-job training at the institution where they work. Thus, when they are walking or standing their post, they are familiar with both policies and procedures and disciplinary and self-defense techniques. Their salaries depend in part on the type of correctional facility at which they work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 448,740 correctional officers worked nationwide as of May 2011. These prison guards earned an average annual wage of $43,300, equal to $20.82 an hour. However, a starting salary was likely to fall between the 10th percentile wage of $26,710 annually and the 25th percentile wage of $31,350 annually.
The largest number of correctional officers worked at state prisons, according to the BLS. These 248,920 guards averaged $44,230 a year in salary. A starting wage likely fell between the 10th percentile of $27,870 yearly and the 25th percentile of $31,500 yearly. The second largest number of correctional officers worked on the local government level, at county or municipal jails. These 159,250 guards averaged $42,020 a year, with the starting wage likely between $24,870 and $30,840 annually. Finally, 16,130 guards worked in federal facilities -- the fourth-largest industry in terms of employment -- at an average annual salary of $53,440. The starting wage was likely between $41,890 and $47,850 annually.
The third-largest employer of correctional officers was what the BLS called facilities support services. There were 22,870 officers in this industry, which provides operational assistance at work sites, and they earned an average wage of $35,290. The starting salary likely fell between $22,770 and $26,920. Finally, the BLS reported 880 corrections officers worked for psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals. These guards averaged $48,820 a year, with the starting salary likely $30,320 to $38,880.
The BLS estimated job growth for corrections officers at 5 percent between 2010 and 2020, slower than the average for all occupations. While population growth might require more of these prison guards, a downward trend in crime nationwide and budgetary cutbacks in government correctional departments could limit job opportunities.