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Do you need a degree to be a cor­rec­tions offi­cer? In most cas­es, no. All you need to become a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer is a high school diplo­ma or GED. But for greater career oppor­tu­ni­ty — like the abil­i­ty to move into man­age­r­i­al and admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions, and get the high­er pay and ben­e­fits that come with them — a bachelor’s in cor­rec­tions is a good choice. If you want that fast, an accel­er­at­ed online cor­rec­tions offi­cer degree pro­gram will get you there quicker.

When tak­ing a look at the ques­tion of “what degree do you need to be a cor­rec­tions offi­cer?”, you can get a diplo­ma to become a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer, or you can get a degree in crim­i­nal jus­tice. How­ev­er, you might find that you pre­fer to enroll in a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer degree pro­gram and fol­low a career path of work­ing with peo­ple who are liv­ing in a con­trolled pop­u­la­tion. It’s a good idea to take a look at dif­fer­ent degree pro­grams in order to answer the ques­tion of “what degree do you need to be a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer?” and make sure that the edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram you engage your­self in is the one that’s right for you.

How We Ranked the Best Accelerated Correctional Officer Degrees

For rank­ing the best accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions offi­cer col­lege degree pro­grams, Bachelor’s Degree Cen­ter edi­tors focused on accred­it­ed online degrees offer­ing an accel­er­at­ed path to com­ple­tion. With the pool in place, we ranked pro­grams accord­ing to their cost, rep­u­ta­tion, and salary poten­tial, using IPEDS, Niche, and Col­lege Scorecard.

1. Louisiana State University

Louisiana State Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice degree for stu­dents who want to explore a career as a cor­rec­tions offi­cer. A cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer degree includes var­i­ous types of self-defense train­ing, pub­lic rela­tions, crowd con­trol, and many oth­er skills that some­one will need who works direct­ly with both inmates and super­vi­so­ry staff. A cor­rec­tions offi­cer degree will pro­vide the grad­u­ate with the resources they can build on and move for­ward on their career path in crim­i­nal justice.

Louisiana State Uni­ver­si­ty allows its stu­dents to learn from oth­ers who work in the crim­i­nal jus­tice field. The stu­dents receive the sup­port and guid­ance they need so that they can remain con­fi­dent in their abil­i­ties. Ranked in the top 10 of online schools, LSUA is one of the most pop­u­lar and most afford­able when it comes to online degree programs.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, BS

Louisiana State Uni­ver­si­ty BS in Crim­i­nal Justice

2. North Carolina Central University

North Car­oli­na Cen­tral Uni­ver­si­ty offers stu­dents who are pur­su­ing a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers degree pro­gram a BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice with that spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Crim­i­nal jus­tice degrees pro­vide each spec­i­fi­ca­tion with the tools that are need­ed for that field. Cor­rec­tions offi­cers learn prob­lem-solv­ing skills, self-defense train­ing, nego­ti­a­tion skills, and many oth­er tools they will con­tin­ue to use through­out their careers. With an accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions degree, grad­u­ates are able to remain on the job and attend school at the same time.

North Car­oli­na Cen­tral Uni­ver­si­ty is one of the coun­try’s most well-known and well-respect­ed online uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try. All degree pro­grams are 100% online pro­vid­ing stu­dents with a learn­ing plat­form that allows them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue to work while attend­ing school. Grad­u­ates are offered the same, high-qual­i­ty cur­ricu­lum that stu­dents receive if they would have attend­ed a class­room to com­plete their studies.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, BS

North Car­oli­na Cen­tral Uni­ver­si­ty cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers degree

3. Southeast Missouri State University

South­east Mis­souri State Uni­ver­si­ty offers an online BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice. Stu­dents who are look­ing for a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer degree that will help them move up in the ranks to a super­vi­so­ry or even a man­age­r­i­al posi­tion can find what they need in these online accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions degree pro­grams. Nego­ti­a­tions, crowd con­trol, crim­i­nol­o­gy, and many oth­er skills they need to be able to work in a cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ty or oth­er facil­i­ties in which they will be work­ing hand in hand with inmates. An online BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice is one of the best ways to gain an advan­tage if you are apply­ing for a man­age­r­i­al position.

South­east Mis­souri State Uni­ver­si­ty pro­vides online cours­es that are com­plete­ly flex­i­ble. Sched­ules are writ­ten to accom­mo­date each stu­den­t’s indi­vid­ual needs. Stu­dents who are already work­ing a full-time job will need a flex­i­ble that allows them to con­tin­ue to keep work­ing. The cur­ricu­lum offered by the Uni­ver­si­ty pro­vides each stu­dent with a qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion taught by pro­fes­sion­als who work in the crim­i­nal jus­tice and cor­rec­tions field.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, BS

South­east Mis­souri State Uni­ver­si­ty BS in Crim­i­nal Justice

4. Middle Tennessee State University

Mid­dle Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty offers cor­rec­tions stu­dents who are pur­su­ing an cor­rec­tions degree pro­gram an online BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Admin­is­tra­tion. This degree offers spe­cial­iza­tions for cor­rec­tions offi­cers and those who work in jails, pris­ons, and oth­er facil­i­ties where inmates are housed. They receive an edu­ca­tion that allows them to per­form a vari­ety of tasks includ­ing inter­views, crowd con­trol, nego­ti­a­tions, and many oth­ers. With a BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Admin­is­tra­tion, the grad­u­ates can begin to advance in their field by tak­ing new posi­tions that require more responsibility.

Mid­dle Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty has a proven record for pro­vid­ing an edu­ca­tion­al cur­ricu­lum that guar­an­tees that grad­u­ates will have the skills they need to advance above their cur­rent posi­tion. Instruc­tors are pro­fes­sion­als who have sev­er­al years in the field of crim­i­nal jus­tice. The guid­ance they offer gives stu­dents both con­fi­dence and the moti­va­tion to con­tin­ue to move for­ward and ful­fill their career goals.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Admin­is­tra­tion, BS

Mid­dle Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Admin­is­tra­tion, BS

5. Eastern Kentucky University

East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty offers an online BS in Cor­rec­tions & Juve­nile Jus­tice Stud­ies for stu­dents who want to remain in the crim­i­nal jus­tice field and spe­cial­ize in the cor­rec­tions sys­tem and juve­nile jus­tice. This accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions degree pro­gram offers stu­dents skills they will need to work with juve­niles and adults as they work through their incar­cer­a­tion. Stu­dents are taught how to han­dle dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions as well as assist with the reha­bil­i­ta­tion and release of inmates. By enrolling in an online BS degree in Cor­rec­tions & Juve­nile Jus­tice pro­gram, grad­u­ates get what they need to take on new oppor­tu­ni­ties for advancement.

East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty is a well-respect­ed leader when it comes to crim­i­nal jus­tice and cor­rec­tions degree pro­grams. The Uni­ver­si­ty offers online options for stu­dents who need to earn their degrees but can’t quit their full-time job. Instruc­tors have been hired based on their years of expe­ri­ence as well as their abil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly edu­cate the stu­dents who rely on them for guid­ance. A Cor­rec­tions and Juve­nile Jus­tice BS degree pro­gram is the key to build­ing a pos­i­tive future in the crim­i­nal jus­tice field.

Degree: Cor­rec­tions & Juve­nile Jus­tice Stud­ies, BS

East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty BS in Cor­rec­tions & Juve­nile Jus­tice Studies

6. Ball State University

Ball State Uni­ver­si­ty offers an online BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Crim­i­nol­o­gy degree pro­gram that is sec­ond to none in the state of Indi­ana. Each accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions degree pro­gram offers skills, tools, and resources stu­dents will need to lay the foun­da­tion for a long-term career in the field. From nego­ti­a­tions to crowd con­trol and advanced inves­ti­ga­tion skills, stu­dents grad­u­ate with all of the required skills they will need when they show up for their first day of work. With an online BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Crim­i­nol­o­gy, stu­dents can grad­u­ate with con­fi­dence and apply for the jobs they want.

Ball State Uni­ver­si­ty is known through­out the Unit­ed States as one of the top schools when it comes to crim­i­nal jus­tice and online learn­ing. Not only are the cur­ricu­lums they offer some of the best in the field, but the instruc­tors they hire are also known for their com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion to their stu­dents. Stu­dents grad­u­ate from the Uni­ver­si­ty know­ing that the edu­ca­tion they receive will open doors to a bet­ter, brighter future.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Crim­i­nol­o­gy, BS

Ball State Uni­ver­si­ty BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Criminology

7. Washington State University

Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty pro­vides stu­dents an online BA in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Crim­i­nol­o­gy degree that will help them find the job of their dreams as a cor­rec­tions offi­cer or oth­er posi­tions in the crim­i­nal jus­tice field. With an online cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers degree pro­gram, stu­dents learn how to han­dle dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, con­duct inter­views, per­form inves­ti­ga­tions, and assist in reha­bil­i­ta­tion efforts. All of the skills and abil­i­ties they will need to become a suc­cess­ful cor­rec­tions offi­cer will be intro­duced to them through the uni­ver­si­ty’s in-depth BA in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Crim­i­nol­o­gy degree program.

Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty is one of the most well-known uni­ver­si­ties in the North­west when it comes to online crim­i­nal jus­tice and cor­rec­tions degree pro­grams. Instruc­tors who have worked in the field for many years are brought in to pro­vide a per­spec­tive that comes from years of expe­ri­ence. The cur­ricu­lum offered to the stu­dents meets the high­est stan­dards in edu­ca­tion and will give stu­dents the edge they need when they ven­ture out to find their first job.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Crim­i­nol­o­gy, BA

Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty BA in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Criminology

8. University of Louisville

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisville pro­vides stu­dents in search of a cor­rec­tions offi­cer degree pro­gram an online BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice with a spe­cial­iza­tion in the field of cor­rec­tions. These accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions degree pro­grams teach com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, crowd con­trol, prob­lem-solv­ing skills, as well as to work with inmates who are mak­ing their way through reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams. Cor­rec­tions offi­cer degrees are designed to lay the foun­da­tion for a suc­cess­ful career in the field. The BS in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice is a great way to start work­ing toward your future.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisville is one of the best schools of high­er learn­ing when it comes to choos­ing a crim­i­nal jus­tice degree. Grad­u­ates are taught by fac­ul­ty mem­bers who are pro­fes­sion­als in the crim­i­nal jus­tice and cor­rec­tions fields. Many have worked as law enforce­ment offi­cers while oth­ers have expe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing facil­i­ties that house inmates. Once a stu­dent grad­u­ates, they have both the knowl­edge and the skills to estab­lish a sol­id career path.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, BS

Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisville Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, BS

9. Lee University

Lee Uni­ver­si­ty offers stu­dents who are look­ing for a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer degree can enroll in their BS/BA in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice or Cor­rec­tions Empha­sis pro­gram. Both accel­er­at­ed cor­rec­tions degree pro­grams offer the nec­es­sary skills that are required to work with­in a cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ty. These skills include the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate, solve prob­lems, main­tain con­trol in a high­ly stress­ful envi­ron­ment, and keep things run­ning smooth­ly from day to day. Grad­u­ates who earn either the BS or their BA in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice or Cor­rec­tions Empha­sis can go direct­ly into the work­force and effec­tive­ly han­dle almost any job they apply for.

Lee Uni­ver­si­ty is well-known for hav­ing the high­est edu­ca­tion­al stan­dards. Cur­ricu­lums are high­ly rat­ed for pro­vid­ing the most cur­rent and up to date infor­ma­tion pos­si­ble. Fac­ul­ty mem­bers work hand in hand with stu­dents to ensure they under­stand the course con­tent and are able to uti­lize the skills they are taught. Stu­dents can also rely on the exper­tise of their instruc­tors to help them gain the best pos­si­ble per­spec­tive when they step out on their own after graduation.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, Cor­rec­tions Empha­sis, BS/BA

Lee Uni­ver­si­ty Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, Cor­rec­tions Empha­sis, BS/BA

10. University of South Dakota

The Uni­ver­si­ty of South Dako­ta offers online BS/BA Crim­i­nal Jus­tice degree pro­grams for stu­dents inter­est­ed in careers as cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers. Cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer degrees must include a wide vari­ety of skills such as self-defense, inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships, man­age­ment skills, and crowd con­trol. Stu­dents who choose to pur­sue a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer degree often choose online cours­es because they are already work­ing in the field. With a BS or BA in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, stu­dents can con­tin­ue to work and gain expe­ri­ence while they fin­ish their education.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of South Dako­ta offers a flex­i­ble sched­ule, expe­ri­enced fac­ul­ty, and an above-aver­age cur­ricu­lum that will pro­vide them with the knowl­edge and train­ing that will lay the ground­work for the rest of their career. Grad­u­ates who earn their degrees from the uni­ver­si­ty are filled with con­fi­dence and empow­ered by the fac­ul­ty to enter the work­force and be as suc­cess­ful as possible.

Degree: Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, BS/BA

Uni­ver­si­ty of South Dako­ta BS/BA Crim­i­nal Jus­tice degree

What if I Don’t Need a Bachelor’s Degree?

You may have already earned a bach­e­lor’s degree in a relat­ed field, or you’re already employed as a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer and don’t have the time to go back to school. One option is to enroll into a cor­rec­tions cer­tifi­cate pro­gram and enhance your on-the-job skills as you learn through the pro­gram. Com­bin­ing edu­ca­tion with the skills and knowl­edge you’ve learned dur­ing your employ­ment can strength­en your career. Don’t dis­miss the val­ue of an edu­ca­tion, espe­cial­ly if you’ve been employed as a cor­rec­tions offi­cer for some time. A cor­rec­tions cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram can give your knowl­edge more struc­ture, bring you up-to-date with the lat­est trends in facil­i­ty man­age­ment, and help you improve your inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships with inmates.

Going to school while hold­ing down a full-time job with rotat­ing shifts can be dif­fi­cult to man­age. Enrolling into one of the many online cor­rec­tions cer­tifi­cate pro­grams that are offered by respect­ed edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions helps get around the dif­fi­cul­ties of work and school. Online cor­rec­tions cer­tifi­cate pro­grams offer the same edu­ca­tion­al mate­r­i­al as an on-cam­pus cor­rec­tions cer­tifi­cate pro­gram, but save time and mon­ey in the form of elim­i­nat­ing a com­mute to a local uni­ver­si­ty. A cor­rec­tions cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram offers stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get an edu­ca­tion­al foun­da­tion for their cho­sen career, and helps them get employed as a cor­rec­tions offi­cer, or enhance their cur­rent employ­ment prospects.

How Do I Become a Correctional Officer?

When look­ing at how to become a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer, you first need to look at the laws of your state regard­ing the hir­ing of cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers. If you want to work in the fed­er­al cor­rec­tion­al sys­tem, you need to have a bach­e­lor’s degree in any field, or three years of equiv­a­lent work expe­ri­ence to apply. The state-lev­el laws that out­line the require­ments that show you how to become a cor­rec­tions offi­cer typ­i­cal­ly do not require you to have a bach­e­lor’s degree or cer­tifi­cate to be eli­gi­ble to work in a cor­rec­tions facil­i­ty. Here’s a look at the require­ments to become a cor­rec­tion­al officer:

Fed­er­al GS-05 level:

  • U.S. cit­i­zen­ship
  • Clear spo­ken communication
  • Good inter­per­son­al skills
  • Abil­i­ty to write
  • Abil­i­ty to work in an organization
  • Tol­er­ance for stress
  • Bach­e­lor’s degree or min­i­mum of 3 years of full-time expe­ri­ence or one year of spe­cial­ized experience
  • No crim­i­nal con­vic­tions that can dis­qual­i­fy an applicant


As pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed, all states have dif­fer­ent qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The gen­er­al qual­i­fiers include:

  • US cit­i­zen­ship
  • Valid state dri­vers license
  • 18 or 21 years of age
  • No dis­qual­i­fy­ing crim­i­nal convictions
  • High school diplo­ma or GED
  • Demon­strate men­tal and phys­i­cal capac­i­ty to per­form job duties

It’s eas­i­er to learn how to become a cor­rec­tions offi­cer at the state lev­el than it is at the fed­er­al lev­el. How­ev­er, if you have a desire to work at the fed­er­al lev­el, you can work as a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer for three years at the state lev­el, then apply for a posi­tion at the fed­er­al lev­el. Some­thing to keep in mind when look­ing at how to become a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer is the fact that edu­ca­tion helps you get and keep a job in a cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ty and stick with it as a career. Cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties can an do train appli­cants, but the amount of train­ing is min­i­mal com­pared to a col­lege education.

Just exact­ly how long does it take to become a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer? Again, it depends on where you are apply­ing for work. Because you are in charge of inmates and are required to uphold the law with­in the facil­i­ty, you have to prove that you are capa­ble of doing so. Once you get past the appli­ca­tion and inter­view process and are accept­ed as an appli­cant, you will under­go a back­ground check, sit for exams, and demon­strate your phys­i­cal fit­ness. What this means is the time­line is uncer­tain when try­ing to fig­ure out how long does it take to become a cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer. You should expect the process to take a lengthy amount of time as you go through each por­tion of the appli­ca­tion process. Earn­ing a cer­tifi­cate or bach­e­lor’s degree pri­or to apply­ing can help you get hired more quick­ly, but you still have to go through the appli­ca­tion process the same as some­one who did not get an edu­ca­tion. How­ev­er, if you have an edu­ca­tion in cor­rec­tions, your career track is much bet­ter than some­one with­out an education.

Relat­ed Rankings: 

25 Best Bach­e­lor’s in Corrections

15 Best Online Bach­e­lor’s in Corrections

10 Most Afford­able Bach­e­lor’s in Corrections