Do you enjoy helping people to become better individuals? If yes, working as a Correctional Officer could be ideal for you.
Correctional Officers work within prisons, juvenile detention centres, jails, or other correctional institutions to maintain law and safety while protecting inmates and other workers.
There are no formal education and training requirements to work as a prison officer. You can apply directly to the justice department in your state/territory and get training.
However, you may need an undergraduate degree in justice studies, social work, criminology, or a related field to work in state prisons or private industries.
This guide will help you discover who correctional officers or prison guards are, including what they do, their salary, the requisite skills, qualifications, courses, and how to plan your career path in this profession.
1. What Is A Correctional Officer?
Correction Officers are also called Prison Officers and Custodial Correctional Officers. They work as law enforcement professionals and are responsible for the custody, supervision, care, and rehabilitation of individuals arrested, awaiting trial, or in correctional centres or prisons.
They impose rules and regulations in prisons, watch prisoners, and ensure the safety of staff and facilities in a correctional facility.
Correctional Officers work in a challenging and demanding environment that includes Correctional Centres, Transport Units, Court cells, and other specialist areas such as Investigations, Intelligence, and Training.
2. What Does A Correctional Officer Do?
Typical responsibilities of a correctional officer include:
Search prisoners to find illegal/prohibited items in cells, such as drugs, alcohol, weapons, and smuggled goods.
Lock prisoners in cells
Supervise and control the behaviour and activities of prisoners to maintain discipline and security in the correctional centre
Conduct other functions that include educational and rehabilitation programs.
Transport inmates to court hearings and worksites or escort them around the facility
Apply security and disciplinary measures as appropriate
Support prisoners with rehabilitation to make them more constructive members of society when they get released.
Offer advice if prisoners require specialized care, such as the assistance of a psychiatrist, social worker, or psychologist.
Examine doors, grilles, locks, gates, window bars, and other security equipment to ensure they are functional and secure
Serve meals to prisoners in cells.
Organize clothing, toiletries, reading material, or other items required by inmates
Participate in the initiation and release of prisoners as per the legal procedures
Direct and observe visitors
Monitor prisoners 24*7, including during mealtimes, exercise, sports activities, education, work assignments, and recreation periods.
Respond quickly to emergencies or security breaches
Provide first aid in emergencies
Prepare and submit incident reports, records, and statements concerning notifiable incidents.
3. Relevant Skills For Correctional Officers
As the work isn't very technical, Correctional officers depend on their soft skills to execute their duties effectively. Adequate communication is the key attribute they need to support prisoners and enhance prison operations.
Besides this, they also need a few core skills to succeed in this role:
Passionate about serving the community
Like working with people
Feel enthusiastic and proud to see people succeed
Good interpersonal skills
Physical fitness, Strength, and Stamina
Good written and verbal communication skills
Able to always maintain a calm and professional front
Proactive and Spontaneous
Good attention to detail
Initiative taking abilities
Conflict Management and Problem-Solving skills
Able to manage pressure effectively
Comfortable working in challenging settings
Basic understanding of the law
4. Correctional Officer Qualifications In Australia
There are several pathways to becoming qualified to work as a Correctional Officer in Australia.
Though formal education is not necessary, you must check the requirements with the concerned department in your state when planning to pursue this profession.
These are the general requirements to start this career in Australia:
Over 18 years
Must have Australian citizenship or permanent residency
Year 10 education in English and Maths.
Apply directly to the department of justice in your state/territory or any private institution to start the recruitment and selection procedure. If you meet their entry criteria, they will provide you with a 10-week full-time state-run training to prepare you for this role.
State prisons or private industry providers usually need an undergraduate degree in justice studies, social work, criminology, or a related field. Some recommended degree options are Bachelor of Criminology, Bachelor of Criminal Justice, Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial), and Certificate III in Security Operations.
You can even study for a double degree with a Bachelor of Law / Bachelor of Criminology to build a strong foundation in justice to get a better salary and permanent employment.
Full (unrestricted) and current driver's license
A valid First Aid certificate to provide First Aid whenever needed
Depending on the state and territory where you wish to work, you must pass the following: a National Police Check, work reference check, fitness test, medical test, numeracy and literacy tests, and psychological or aptitude tests.
Prior experience as a teacher, coach, mentor, or in customer service can be beneficial.
5. How To Become A Correctional Officer In NSW?
Applicants who meet the below eligibility requirements need to go through the correctional officer recruitment process:
Have Australian citizenship, be a Permanent Resident, or hold a working visa.
Have a valid and existing driver's license
Be fit and proper as per the law and meet probity standards like a criminal record check.
Pass a medical test and demonstrate a reasonable fitness level to conduct searches and respond to emergencies
Pass psychological suitability testing and general ability tests that evaluates the capabilities of a candidate to be considered for employment
Applicants who fulfil the above criteria can apply for an on-site assessment and interview. Click here to find out about current Correction Officer vacancies in NSW.
After passing the assessment process, a trainee correctional officer in NSW must undertake a 10-week full-time basic-level training course before being employed as a Correctional Officer.
It is rigorous training involving face-to-face program delivery, survival, and weapons training. It equips candidates with the skills to function in various fields of Correctional duties and satisfy the requirements of the Correctional Centre management.
Click here to learn more about how to become a correctional officer near manly NSW.
6. How To Become A Correctional Officer in QLD?
The Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) has over 4900 full-time employees who work with criminal justice agencies to prevent crime and ensure community safety.
The Queensland Corrective Services offer an excellent opportunity to candidates who want to make a career in managing prisoners. It invites candidates with a wide range of backgrounds from trades, teaching, retail, office jobs, or social agencies to apply for CCO positions.
To become a correctional officer, applicants must meet the below criteria:
Be an Australian citizen or a Permanent Resident of Australia
Hold a valid Queensland Driver's license
Hold a current First Aid certificate
It should be fit and proper as per the law
Should have a good level of computer literacy
Personal and Employer References
Applicants who meet the above criteria must undergo the following phases of the selection process:
Group or individual exercises
Situational judgment test
Report writing and work skill evaluation
Those successfully pass the recruitment stage are appointed trainees in the Queensland Correction Services Department.
A competitive salary, superannuation, job security, and health and wellbeing programs are some of the benefits employees enjoy as part of their job experience with QSS.
Trainees need to undergo a 10-week Custodial Officer Entry Program to get appointed as a Correctional Officer at a Corrective Office in Queensland.
Click here for a complete list of job vacancies in Queensland Corrective Services.
7. How To Become A Correctional Officer In VIC?
The application process to become a prison officer comprises nine stages, including a series of assessments, background checks, and meetings.
Applicants should fill up an online application form.
Next, they need to complete a Situational Judgement Questionnaire that tests the appropriateness of applicants for the job.
When passing the questionnaire, they have to take a remote video interview. It is a 30 min test that comprises several capability questions.
After completing the interview, they undertake a personality and psychometric assessment. The latter comprises an Abstract Reasoning Assessment and a Verbal Reasoning Assessment that evaluates learning agility and verbal comprehension.
Successful applicants attend a role play, a written exercise, and a group activity at an online assessment centre.
Having cleared the above rounds, shortlisted candidates will undergo a personal and professional reference check that includes a National Police Check.
After passing the high-security clearance, applicants will undergo a health and physical assessment and meet the minimum medical standards for this role. This completes the recruitment process for Correctional Officers in Victoria.
Those who reach this stage are offered employment by the Department of Justice and Community Safety. Applicants can take time to review the offer.
Those interested in the job must complete at least 41 days of paid full-time pre-service training. The program comprises theoretical and practical learning to train newly recruited squad members for a prison officer's role.
To find out more about Correction jobs in Victoria, click here.
8. How To Become A Correctional Officer In South Australia (SA)?
To be eligible for the job, applicants must meet the following criteria:
18 years or above
Hold a valid and current SA Driver's license
Hold an Australian Citizenship or have a Permanent Resident Visa
Pass a National Criminal History Check
Provide work and background references
Pass pre-employment tests that TAFE SA conducts
Hold a valid 'Provide First Aid certificate (HLTAID003) or (HLTAID011)
Applicants must apply, including the Pre-Employment Declaration form, the current resume, and supporting documents, to the GPO address'.
The concerned department will check the authenticity of the information provided and process the application. Applicants who meet the above conditions will undergo the next level of the screening process, which comprises the following:
Integrity and Probity checks
Physical fitness and medical assessments
Shortlisted applicants (who pass the recruitment selection process) join the team of newly recruited trainees. They will have to complete a 14-week training course that comprises eight weeks of classroom training and four weeks of in-service training in a prison setting.
After training, newly hired Correctional Officers will be on a 12-month probationary period for two weeks of classroom-based training.
Correctional Officers may work at any of their institutions. However, applicants can mention their preferred location in the application form.
To learn more about the recruitment process, click here.
9. Work Conditions For Correction Officers
Correction Officers work with prisoners and suspects in correctional facilities to attend to their daily needs, supervise their rehabilitation and facilitate their re-socialization into society.
Due to the need for 24-hour supervision, officers often work long shifts outside business hours, including public holidays, weekends, and late evenings.
It is a physically demanding job that may require standing for extended periods, being on guard for long hours, and getting involved in sports and recreation activities.
Furthermore, correctional officers may need to work on-site and get posted anywhere within their state or territory. As the job requires working in a prison environment and encountering challenging situations and people daily, it may get stressful sometimes.
10. Where Does A Correctional Officer Work?
Correctional officers in Australia usually work at a jail, prisons, correction centres, or similar institutions in metropolitan and regional areas. They work in their state-level/territory corrective services department.
The most common job roles that involve Correctional Officers:
Custodial Correctional Officer
Probation Services Officer
11. Career Path For Correctional Officers
Successful applicants commence their careers as trainees or base-grade officers and conduct pre-service training. On successful completion of the training, they achieve full correctional officer status and get appointed to the post of a correctional officer.
As they rise through the ranks, they can advance their training to progress their career. These include senior roles in operations and management or project-level and specialist roles and become eligible for promotions. They may even consider training other correctional officers.
12. Areas of Specialisations For Correctional Officers
The correctional officers can consider specializing in areas such as:
Offender diversion programs
Field supervision of criminals on work fields outside the prison
13. How Much Do Correctional Officers Get Paid In Australia?
The correctional officer's salary in Australia depends on their skill level, employer, work experience, and the facility they work within. Those working in high-level security prisons where prisoners serve long sentences generally have higher earning potential.
Many facilities are in rural areas, and officers who relocate to those facilities tend to receive a larger salary than those working in a major city. The average salary for a Correctional Officer is AU$67,316, equivalent to AU$30.52 an hour.
Experienced prison officers manage facilities more proficiently and get compensated more than junior-level officers. Here is the salary of a correctional officer based on their experience:
Entry-level Correctional Officers (< 1-year experience) earn AU$62,894
Early career Correctional Officers (1 to 4 years of experience) earn AU$64,913
Mid-career Correctional Officers (5 to 9 years of experience) earn AU$68,506
Experienced Correctional Officers (10 to 19 years of experience) earn AU$79,926
The cities that pay the highest salaries to Correctional Officers are:
Correctional officer NSW pay (Sydney): $81,357
Dubbo NSW: $75,946
Bathurst NSW: $75,214
Grafton NSW: $74,921
Parklea NSW: $74,359
Melbourne VIC: $64,123
Lara VIC: $58,887
Ararat VIC: $57,582
14. Job Prospects For Correction Officers In Australia
Custodian Correctional officers (CCO) have a favourable job outlook in Australia.
Employment opportunities are available in prisons, correction centres, legal offices, and law enforcement agencies. All regions of Australia need Correctional officers.
There is a high demand for female prison officers and those with specialized knowledge of specific ethnic, social, and cultural groups in New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia.
Correction facilities promote Custodian Correctional officers (CCO) to senior positions based on their experience and additional education and training.
There is also good scope for progression and specialization, such as dog squads, management and operation, field supervision, and coaching.
Minimal education requirements, generous leave entitlements, and multiple opportunities for career development and promotions make it an attractive career option for many young people.
Only 8% of Correctional Officers work part-time, which shows fewer part-time opportunities. Those full-time employed work for a standard 44 hours per week.
Correction officers are vital in keeping prison facilities, prisoners, staff, and the community safe and secure. Supporting prisoners help improve their behaviour and conduct and lessen the chances of reoffending.
Working in this role is highly rewarding, yet it can be emotionally and physically exhausting. However, if you are determined to improve the life of prisoners, a career as a Correctional Officer could be the best opportunity to realise your goals.
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