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Prison officer Prison guard, prison warder

Prison officers supervise and rehabilitate inmates in prisons, remand centres and young offenders' institutions.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,750 to £38,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 - 39 per week

1. Entry requirements

You don't need any particular qualifications, but you must be aged 18 or over and be eligible to work in the UK.

You'll need to take the online Prison Officer Selection Test (POST), which checks your numeracy skills.

If you pass, you'll attend an assessment day where you'll:

  • take another numeracy test (POST verification test)
  • complete a POST language test
  • take part in role plays to see if you have the right personal qualities for the job
  • complete fitness tests
  • have a medical and eyesight test

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has more details on entry.

The graduate programme may run again in the future, so if you have a degree this could be an option.

You'll need to pass background security checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to maintain respect whilst applying rules and discipline
  • excellent communication and teamworking skills
  • the ability to make decisions quickly
  • the ability to remain calm working in the pressure of a secure environment

3. What you'll do

Your work will depend on the type of prison or remand centre you're working in, but it will be a combination of supervising inmates and supporting their welfare and rehabilitation. You could be:

  • keeping inmates secure
  • carrying out security checks and searches
  • supervising prisoners and maintaining order – this can involve authorised physical control and restraint
  • supporting vulnerable prisoners
  • promoting anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies
  • going with prisoners on external visits like court appearances or hospital appointments
  • preparing inmates for release through rehabilitation programmes
  • updating records and writing reports on prisoners

4. Salary

Starter: £20,750, rising to £24,750 in inner London (Band 3)

Experienced: up to £29,500, rising to £34,000 in inner London (Band 4)

Highly Experienced: up to £33,750, rising to £38,000 in inner London (Band 5)

These figures are from the current 'Fair and Sustainable' pay scales, which apply to new recruits working 37 hours a week. They include allowances for working unsocial hours. Further allowances are payable for increased hours and certain duties.

Additional allowances of £3,000 and £5,000 have been introduced into 31 prisons in London and the south-east for Band 3 staff.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll work either a 37 or 39 hour week, which includes shifts to cover a 24 hour service. There are also opportunities for job sharing. You may need to move to another part of the country for work.

Most of your work will be indoors, but you'll spend some time outside when patrolling the grounds or supervising recreation. There's a small amount of office-based work.

This work can be physically and emotionally demanding.

6. Career path and progression

With experience and training you could move into specialist projects, like rehabilitation work with specific groups of prisoners and their families.

You could become a supervising officer, custodial manager, head of function, deputy governor or governor.

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Last updated: 13 September 2017