|Education & Training
|By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Our March 2019 topic is education and training. Both are excellent topics. You have been working in corrections for a while, or are recently new to the field. Now is the time to complete an assessment of where you want to be within your agency. Some areas to consider: Are you near retirement? Are you content with your current position? Have you considered advancement within your agency? Are you looking for a career change? If you are looking for advancement or a career change, do you know what the minimum requirements are? If so, have you checked to make sure you meet the requirements or know what is additionally needed? As you can see, the list is not exhaustive. Along with these considerations, do you have any educational and/or career goals? Have you thought about continuing your education? Decisions, decisions, now what?
I entered law enforcement with an associate’s degree and worked toward completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I also managed to accrue some hours toward a doctorate degree. At the time I had my associate’s degree, and this met the minimum required education component. I passed the physical, written, psychological, lie detector test and the oral interview. Sound familiar? Then I entered corrections. However, I was only going to work corrections for a brief time and then enter federal law enforcement. Experience and promotions began to occur. Fortunately, for each of these positions, I already met the minimum requirements. Along with these were some career goals I established and met. Throughout my law enforcement career, I continued my education and maintained the yearly training hours requirement. I now teach at a university and find I am still taking classes and continuing training.
Early on I decided to work toward continuing my education and knew training was mandatory. This was to assist in career building and to set an example for my family. Proud to say, my wife and daughters completed their college educations. Yes, between the work hours, home responsibilities, children, and other outside influences, I made it. This is something I earned and was not taken lightly. I still enjoy being active in the law enforcement field and current in related research.
Even if you do not want to obtain a college degree, this does not prevent you from pursuing some specific classes in your areas of interests. Do you want to enhance your automotive skills, carpentry skills, welding, or other areas? If so, go for it. Take the class and obtain some additional skills,
Now let’s switch to training. To work in the corrections field, you have to maintain certification. This will vary state to state. There are a set number of training hours in required hours. Some states have required hours and allow the officer some electives. Again, if you are looking at career advancement, review the job requirements and make sure you meet any additional training requirements.
Planning what you want out of your career is an ongoing process. At the same time, this can be exciting and present new opportunities. When we look at training, this also needs to include professional organizations. There are many organizations that provide some free training online, or at conferences with costs. At the conferences, there is a wide variety of training opportunities. Have you ever applied for a conference? Take advantage of the opportunity should it arise. Something else to consider, when you have time, visit with your training officer/department and see what is available in the system and if there are any opportunities outside your agency. One example would be to ask and see if your agency has any information for the National Institute of Corrections. If not, do an online search and you will be amazed what training is available, provided you meet the requirements. I was fortunate over the years to attend several training sessions in Colorado.
While checking with your training department, see if there is an ongoing schedule of training. Are you made aware of the training opportunities? Yes, resources come into play, however some training is conducted at the facility. Also, do any of the local law enforcement agencies allow inter-agency training opportunities and see if there are any available trainings at local, county, state, and even federal agencies. I have taken advantage of these during my career. Quite often your training department may not be aware of these opportunities. See what protocol allows for contacting other agencies. At the same time, check some of the grants that may be geared toward corrections training. Even if you are not familiar with these, again ask your training department personnel.
Some other areas to consider; does the attorney provide or supplement training by the departments for 83 litigation and/or other so-called hot topics. We are certainly aware of the various litigation filed by offenders. If you do not take the initiative, you are missing some valuable training opportunities. Some state agencies also offer training online. Do some research and see if this is an option. Over the years, I took advantage of every training opportunity I could. This was beneficial during many career opportunities.
Personally, I think there are many cost-effective training opportunities. Do not forget, training opportunities are not limited to only uniformed personnel, but also includes non-uniformed personnel. Take time and look at the variety of fields under the corrections umbrella, you may be surprised. Examples, jails, prisons, investigations, counseling, recreation, tactical teams, probation, parole, working with adults and juveniles, areas under the treatment umbrella, and other. There are many educational and training opportunities available, provided you are willing to take advantage of them. Ask yourself, what do I want out of my career?
Stay safe out there.
Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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