Correctional Officer | Ponder

Correctional Officer

What do Correctional Officers do?

Correctional Officers (sometimes called Prison Officers) work in prisons and other correctional or detention institutions. They’re responsible for supervising and controlling the activities of inmates, as well as carrying out other functions such as educational and rehabilitation programs.

If you enjoy working with people, are able to remain calm and authoritative in any situation, and you’re looking for a career that’s different every day, working as a Correctional Officer could be ideal for you.

About you:

  • You’ll need to be assertive, confident and resilient
  • Fair and empathetic with good cultural awareness
  • Great at teamwork, conflict resolution and problem solving
  • Maintain a calm and professional front at all times, even in emergencies
  • Think on your feet and react instantly, as well as physically fit with lots of stamina

The job:

  • Supervise inmates at all times, prevent disturbances and escape attempts
  • Carry out routine or unplanned searches and inspections
  • Implement prisoner activities including exercise, education, rehabilitation, or work programs
  • Patrolling, moving prisoners between locations e.g. court or other institutions, completing paperwork and reports
  • Respond to emergency situations and other incidents in-accordance with strict procedures

Lifestyle Impact: Medium

  • Part Time opportunities: Low (only 8% of Correctional Officers work part time – Source:
  • Average hours for full-time workers (average 44 per week)
  • Correctional Officers salary (average) *$75,000 per year (Source: * varies between states, employers and level of experience
  • Future career growth: Strong (Source:

You may have to work long shifts (12 hours) and work outside of normal business hours. You’ll also have to work on site and there are limited institutions so you could have a long commute or have to consider moving nearer to your workplace.

However, there is potential to be flexible with working arrangements, often with generous leave entitlements. Some interactions with inmates could be highly rewarding, it’s also likely that you’ll face challenging people and situations on a daily basis too. You could have multiple opportunities for career development and promotion.

Correctional Officers are most in demand in these locations:

New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia (Source:

How to become a Correctional Officer in Australia

Formal qualifications aren’t always a requirement to apply as a Correctional Officer.

Pathways and requirements vary in each state and territory, so you’ll need to check specifics in your state before you apply.

Step 1 – Recommended minimum is to complete Year 10 with good results in English and Maths.

Step 2 – You’ll have to be over 18 and either an Australian Citizen or a Permanent resident before you can apply.

Step 3 – Consider obtaining qualifications in a related field. It could boost your application, help you to apply for more senior positions or become eligible for promotion in less time. For example:

Certificate III in Correctional Practise (Custodial) at TAFE or another RTO

Certificate III in Security Operations at TAFE or another RTO

Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Swinburne

Bachelor of Criminal Justice at Charles Sturt University

Step 4 – Apply directly to the relevant justice department in your state or territory (or any private institutions in the industry) to begin the recruitment and selection process.

Check the requirements in your state:


Step 5 – Obtain any licenses / tickets required by your state and undertake any tests, which could include:

  • driver’s licence
  • national police check
  • fitness test
  • numeracy & literacy tests
  • first aid certificate
  • medical test
  • Psychometric or aptitude tests

Note:  Fees are associated with some of the licenses and / or tests, which you may have to pay yourself.

Step 6 – Complete the training course and/or probationary period.

Step 7 – Gain work experience and decide if you would like to undertake further training to specialise or be eligible for promotions.

As a Correctional Officer some of the areas you could specialise in include:

  • offender diversion programs
  • prison industrial programs
  • dog squads
  • field supervision of offenders on worksites outside a prison setting
  • managerial roles

Find out more here –

Similar Careers to Correctional Officer

Police Officer

Security Guard

Probation and Parole Officer




Youth Worker

Community Corrections Worker

Court Officer

Social Worker


Find out more about alternative careers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

  • Do I need qualifications to become a Correctional Officer?

Formal qualifications aren’t always a requirement to become a Correctional Officer, but you’ll need to check with the state department where you’re applying.

You may have to obtain some licenses or pass specific tests as part of the selection process.

  • Where do Correctional Officers work?

Correctional Officers work in prisons, correctional centres, and rehabilitation facilities. You could find yourself working anywhere from community service centres to maximum security prisons.

  • Is a Correctional Officer a good job?

A Correctional Officer’s career could be an option to consider if you’re looking for on-the-job training, (which could even include firearms and self-defence training). Or if you’re interested in opportunities with flexible working hours, job security and the chance to advance your career, this could be a good option to explore further. Once you’ve passed the training and had some work experience, you could be eligible to apply for other roles e.g. probation or parole officer.

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