What are the Different Federal Prison Jobs?

Maggie J. Hall

Federal prison careers encompass a wide spectrum of professions. Correctional officers monitor the prison population and enforce regulations. Chaplains offer spiritual guidance and instruction. Medical service personnel provide necessary care for acute and chronic illness or traumatic injury, and psychologists and teachers provide psychological treatment and prepare inmates for life outside of prison.

Alcatraz, a prison on an island in San Francisco Bay that has been closed since 1963.
Alcatraz, a prison on an island in San Francisco Bay that has been closed since 1963.

Different types of federal prison jobs require varying degrees of education and skill. The majority of employment positions held in the federal prison system belong to correction officers, who are generally required to have a bachelor’s degree. These officers also need a skill set and training that allow them to communicate effectively, maintain obedience and act appropriately in emergency situations. While most officers have formal education in law enforcement, others have backgrounds in a number of non–law-related occupations.

Federal prison guards often have backgrounds in law enforcement or criminal justice.
Federal prison guards often have backgrounds in law enforcement or criminal justice.

Prison chaplains create programs designed to guide and instruct inmates through their spiritual journeys regardless of individual faith or religious beliefs. For example, chaplains conduct services and bible studies for inmates of different faiths. They also minister to prisoners in an attempt to encourage behavioral changes, improve self-concept and raise self-esteem. A graduate degree from an accredited school of divinity along with at least two years of postgraduate experience are required to qualify for the duties of a federal prison chaplain.

Federal prison jobs related to medicine involve the interdisciplinary care of inmates by a team of nurses and physicians. Health care providers often staff medical clinics within federal prisons. Medical professionals document and monitor the individual health status of inmates, administer medication and treatment and confer with other members of the medical team to maintain the health of the prison population. Medical personnel must complete the required formal education and licensing standards set forth by state regulations prior to applying for federal prison jobs.

Licensed clinical psychologists perform various duties within the prison system. As a part of the medical team, psychologists might assess an individual inmate’s psychological status and prescribe medication or treatment as needed. Clinicians may conduct counseling sessions or provide psychotherapy to help inmates cope with various aspects of personal life, prison existence and possible return to society.

As part of the rehabilitative process, educational opportunities may be offered in federal prisons, and the available jobs often include teaching positions. Qualified instructors may be civilians or correctional officers with prior experience in education. Instructors provide training in a number of vocational skills or academic subjects. By acquiring training in prison, inmates hope to improve chances for employment once released from incarceration.

Local and national websites often include federal prison jobs along with state and national government positions. Advertisements include the federal prison job description and necessary qualifications. Wages and benefits generally vary with position, education and experience.

Prison chaplains may lead Bible study groups.
Prison chaplains may lead Bible study groups.

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