Prison Officer

Job Description:

Prison officers supervise people who are in prisons, remand centres and young offenders' institutions.

Job Category:
Government & Public Services

What you will do:

As a prison officer you could:

  • keep prisoners secure and support anyone who is vulnerable
  • carry out security checks and searches
  • maintain order, sometimes using authorised physical control and restraint
  • go with prisoners on external visits, like to court or appointments
  • prepare prisoners for release through rehabilitation programmes
  • update records, write reports and promote anti bullying and suicide prevention policies


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
    patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptable)
  • leadership skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills

Restrictions and Requirements

You’ll need to:

  • pass enhanced background checks
  • be over 18 years of age
  • pass a medical check
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Prison Officer in the United Kingdom, you don’t necessarily need specific subjects, but having a good general education is advantageous. Prison Officer training and requirements may vary, but here are some subjects that may be relevant and helpful for this career:

  1. English: Good communication skills are essential for interacting with inmates, writing reports, and understanding and following policies and procedures.
  2. Mathematics: Basic math skills are valuable for various aspects of the role, such as record-keeping and understanding numerical data.
  3. Citizenship or Social Studies: These subjects can provide knowledge about societal issues, the criminal justice system, and human rights.
  4. Physical Education (PE): Being physically fit is important for managing inmates and maintaining safety in correctional facilities. PE may help with your physical readiness.
  5. Psychology or Sociology: Understanding human behaviour and social dynamics can be beneficial when dealing with inmates and assessing their needs.

Post School

You can get into this job through an apprenticeship or by applying directly.

In the UK, for example, you could do a Custody and Detention Officer Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship.

Direct Application
You could apply directly to be a prison officer. You do not need qualifications as personal qualities are more important in this role.

You’ll need to take an online test to check your judgement and number skills.

If you pass, you’ll attend an assessment day where you’ll be tested on your:

  • number, reading and writing skills
  • fitness
  • health, hearing and eyesight

You’ll also have an interview and take part in role plays to see if you have the right personal qualities to be a prison officer.

Working Hours and Environment:

You could work 37-41 hours in a week, as well as shift work during evenings, weekends and Bank Holidays. You could work in a prison.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience you could:

  • train and move into specialist projects like rehabilitation
  • work with groups of prisoners and their families
  • become a supervising officer, custodial manager or head of function
  • move up to become a deputy governor or prisoner governor