Prison officer

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

Annual Salary

£20,750 to £38,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37 - 39

Future employment

There will be 1% fewer Prison officer jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

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


You could complete an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in custodial care, or a custody and detention officer advanced apprenticeship.

To do this apprenticeship, you'll need:

  • GCSE grade 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths, or equivalent

Other Routes

You do not need qualifications to apply directly to be a prison officer. Personal qualities are more important.

You'll need to take an online test to check your judgement and your number skills. If you pass, you'll attend an assessment day where you'll:

  • take another number test
  • take a reading and writing test
  • take part in role plays to see if you have the right personal qualities for the job
  • take fitness tests
  • have a medical and eyesight test
  • be interviewed

You’ll need to meet the Prison Service entry requirements, which include nationality and security checks.

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).

£20,750 to £38,000

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

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

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.

37 - 39

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.

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.

You can find out more about how to become a prison officer from HM Prison & Probation Service.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

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