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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.

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