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Criminal Justice Career Spotlight: Working as a Prison Warden

Curious about a job in corrections? This criminal justice career spotlight provides a comprehensive overview of the rewarding and lucrative role of a prison warden.

A sign that says 'Prison Warden' on the door of a prison warden's office for the blog article on the criminal justice career of working as a prison warden, along with criminal justice degree program options from Saint Leo University to help graduates attain this career option

Criminal justice careers can take many paths. You can become a police officer, for instance, and work your way up the ranks in your department, ultimately earning the title of chief or sheriff. Or you can join Homeland Security or another federal law enforcement agency, taking your criminal justice career from a local or state level to a national level.

Another criminal justice career path to consider is corrections. The area of corrections involves working within facilities that house individuals who are either going through the criminal justice system or have already been convicted of a crime. The two main types of correctional facilities are jails and prisons. A person who is in charge of the latter is called a prison warden.

Prison Warden Job Duties and Responsibilities

Prison wardens are tasked with ensuring that their correctional facility is safe for both the staff and the inmates. This involves determining training standards for the correctional officers and other staff (kitchen workers, janitorial, medical staff, etc.). It also requires setting rules and regulations for the inmates, offering them the maximum amount of protection possible while serving their sentences.

Prison wardens are also responsible for making sure the prison is secure so no one can enter or exit the facility without the proper authorization. This requires making sure the premises are properly guarded and that inmate visiting occurs in a way that allows them time with their loved ones while maintaining the safety and security of the facility, corrections staff, and other inmates.

A third responsibility of prison wardens is to make the correctional facility run as efficiently as possible. This involves having adequate staff on duty at all times, verifying that all laws and regulations are being followed, that the budget is properly managed and maintained, and making sure the facility and grounds are kept in top shape. A prison warden oversees all of this.

Prison Warden Pay

The average base salary for a prison warden in the U.S. is $88,833 per year. Though, this amount can range from $55,000 annually all the way up to $154,000 a year. Factors that affect how much you earn as a prison warden include your level of experience, how long you’ve been in the field, your certifications and skills, and the size and/or type of prison in which you work.

For example, the average pay for a prison warden with one to four years of experience is $66,000 annually, whereas a warden with more than 20 years of experience has an average annual pay of $97,000. So, the longer you are in this criminal justice career, the more you will likely make.

Where Prison Warden Falls in the Criminal Justice Career Path

The prison warden role is at the top of the criminal justice career path within the realm of corrections. It’s not uncommon for a warden to start out as a corrections officer, then work up from there. The exact ranks and titles within individual prisons can vary but sometimes look like this (ranked from lowest to highest):

  • Corrections officer
  • Sergeant
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Major
  • Lieutenant colonel
  • Colonel
  • Assistant warden
  • Deputy warden
  • Warden

How to Become a Prison Warden

If you are interested in taking a corrections-based criminal justice career path and eventually want to become a prison warden, the first step is usually to become a corrections officer. Some prisons require that you have an associate degree or bachelor's degree for this entry-level position. Others may provide their own training program.

However, since your goal is to eventually become a prison warden, you’ll likely need some type of degree at that point in time. This degree can be in criminal justice, criminology, social work, or a similar program. Even a degree in business or finance can help prepare you for this higher-level position.

Once you’re ready to apply for an open prison warden position, you’ll likely have to undergo a comprehensive background investigation and pass a drug screening test. The next step is typically the interview, which may be one-on-one or in front of a panel of interviewers. Pass this and you’ve got the job!

Start Your Criminal Justice Career Today

Ready to start working toward this top prison job? Saint Leo University offers an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree program. This 39-credit hour curriculum teaches you about various aspects of the criminal justice field. It enables you to specialize in Criminalistics or Homeland Security.

Saint Leo also offers a criminal justice master’s degree. This program helps better prepare you for management-level positions by teaching you more about human resources, fiscal resources, policymaking, and personnel laws. You also get to pick your area of specialization, with Corrections being one option for you.

Don’t let another day go by. Take the next step in your criminal justice career path. Apply to Saint Leo University today.

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