How to Become a Corrections Officer

Prison guards in Canada work in either the federal or provincial systems. It’s one of the many possible careers for a person who earns a degree in policing. Canada's correctional system divides corrections responsibility into several areas:

  • The provinces are responsible for offenders serving less than two years.
  • The federal Correctional Service of Canada takes custody of offenders serving sentences of two years to life.
  • Corrections officers also work at provincial jails, remand centres and youth correctional facilities.

Role of the corrections officer

Corrections officers do substantially more than locking prison security doors. They maintain order and security in a correctional institution and are employees of a government Ministry or Authority (in Ontario, provincial corrections officers work for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)  They are peace officers and are in direct contact with inmates. Their duties vary and include supervising offender activities and control of their movement throughout the institution.

Qualities of a corrections officer

Corrections officers may be on duty 24/7, work rotating shifts, and must balance security concerns with the need to rehabilitate offenders and return them to society. Specifically, corrections officers must

  • Always be ready to react to the unexpected.
  • Handle a variety of sensitive and potentially explosive situations when dealing with the offender population.
  • Have the communication skills to effectively deal with a variety of people.
  • Be contributing members of a team of professionals whose mission is care and rehabilitation of inmates.

Essential qualifications of a corrections officer

Corrections officers undergo a thorough training program, both on the job and at a Ministry training site. To be accepted for correctional officer training, the candidate must

  • Have a secondary school diploma or national or provincial equivalency.
  • Have had direct experience interacting with others in a work, education, and/or volunteer role.
  • Earn and maintain a Standard First Aid and CPR Level C certificate, including the automated external defibrillator (AED) qualification.

Other conditions of employment

Before being appointed to a corrections officer position, five conditions of employment apply and must be maintained throughout the employment period:

1. Possess a valid and unrestricted driver's licence for the applicable territory. (Quebec corrections officers must have a Class 4A, Emergency Vehicle, licence granted by that  province’s issuing authority.)

2. Meet the physical/health requirements and standards specified by Health Canada.

3. Be psychologically qualified in accordance with Correctional Service Canada standards.

4. Pass a reliability status screening and undergo a fingerprint screening.

5. Pass the applicable language evaluation tests for bilingual and unilingual positions.

Salary, benefits and retirement

Salaries for federal corrections officers start at around $56,000, increasing each year in specified increments to a maximum of just over $70,000 after five years of employment. For corrections officers working at the provincial level, salaries vary between jurisdictions, averaging from $25 to $46 per hour.

Corrections officers qualify for the Public Service Health Care Plan, which includes vision, dental and medical practitioner reimbursements at a rate of 80 percent. Corrections officer pension plans begin with an eligibility age of 50 with 20 years of total service. Read more here.

Advancement potential

Corrections officer positions are entry-level jobs and offer advancement opportunities and higher pay within their institutions. They also provide gateways to management positions:

  • Correctional program facilitator
  • Correctional manager
  • Parole officer (requires a university degree)

Why get an online degree in policing or take courses at Laurier?

Wilfrid Laurier University's Combined Honours BA in Criminology and Policing degree is a 100% online program designed for working professionals seeking increased qualifications in areas directly related to corrections. For example, PD201, Intercultural Communication in Policing, directly applies to the skills required "in understanding and interpreting the behaviours, actions and attitudes of individuals in conflict with their own communities…."

If your goal is to advance from an entry-level corrections officer job to become a parole officer, you are receiving precisely the right on-the-job experience. Your next step is earning an online degree from Laurier. Need more information? Fill out the Request Information form and get connected with a Laurier Online Enrollment Advisor.