Created in April 2017, Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is a new agency in the Ministry of Justice, covering 121 prisons and employing over 42,000 staff. Our mission: to drive the biggest reform of our prison system in a generation. Across the UK, we're committed to improving how we rehabilitate offenders and protect the public.
We want to build real pride in the prison service and make it a place where ambitious professionals thrive. By applying to a local prison, you'll become part of a major organisation that invests in people. And for our prison officers, that means creating opportunities for higher pay, recognition and development through our promotion, leadership and apprenticeship programmes.
As a prison officer, your career can take you in many different directions. Developing your skills from day one, the chances to move into new areas will always be there. You could be on a residential wing, in reception, in the segregation unit, working with vulnerable prisoners, with mothers and babies, or on the healthcare unit.
You'll spend your first week of training in your establishment meeting your future colleagues and learning about our routine. After this week, you'll start on our Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) course. On this comprehensive training programme (which is either residential or local depending on your location) you'll develop the interpersonal skills that will help you manage people in custody.
You'll also learn techniques that prepare you for any situation in a dynamic prison environment, including search and security procedures as well as control and restraint techniques. At the end of this course, you will complete the Skills For Justice (SFJ) Level 3 Diploma in the management and care of individuals in the custodial environment. You will also have the opportunity to participate in more training as you progress through the Service.
By taking on such responsibility for our prisoners and the public, it’s only right that you’re recognised for your work, and there’s no doubt that this role is well rewarded.
In addition to your salary (see FAQs) you’ll join the Civil Service pension scheme. You will also receive a number of other benefits, including 25 days’ holiday allowance each year, childcare vouchers, season ticket loans, retail discounts, Employee Assistance Programme and Cycle to Work scheme.
Our process has been designed to make applying for a role as easy and efficient as possible. Each step of the journey will allow you to demonstrate your unique skills and qualities, and give us a greater insight into the kind of prisoner officer you could be.
First, you'll need to meet our essential criteria, which includes having the right to work in the UK. Beyond that, we'll check things like your eyesight and physical fitness. We'll also expect you to pass a basic maths test and demonstrate the personal qualities we're looking for, when you come in for an assessment day.
These tests aren't just to make the selection process easier. They're designed to make sure you have the right skills and attitude to get the most from the role. You can get a sense of what each test involves by downloading the practice tests on the links below.
Communication skills, Understanding, Assertiveness and Integrity: these are just some of the qualities you'll need to work with offenders and support their rehabilitation. At our recruitment assessment day, we'll test if you have what it takes in a series of role-play exercises.Take the practice test
You'll need an acceptable level of maths to be a prison officer. As well as being able to do prisoner headcounts, you'll have to write reports. As part of your application, you'll take an online maths test. Here are some practice questions.Take the practice test
Being a prison officer requires a reasonable level of stamina and fitness. For starters, you’ll be on your feet for much of the day. You’ll also have to respond quickly in emergency situations. As part of your recruitment assessment day, you’ll have to pass a fitness test. But don’t worry; we’re not looking for athletes. Here’s an overview of what you can expect. You’ll also find a training programme to help you prepare.Watch the video
Good eyesight is crucial. You’ll need to meet a minimum standard in both eyes of not less than 6/36 in each eye on the Snellen scale (uncorrected) and not less than 6/12 in the best eye (corrected with glasses/contact lenses if necessary). You also need to have normal binocular field vision with at least 120 degrees of vision in the horizontal plane. Your eyes will be tested at the assessment day.
You don’t need any specific qualifications for this role. We’re much more interested in your personal qualities and life experience.
Yes, you will be provided with a uniform.
With continued investment in training, we’ve increased prison officer training to 12 weeks: 10 weeks of that is the Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) course and weeks 1 and 12 are hosted by the home establishment.
Week 1 provides new officers with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the establishment layout, the role of the establishment and the work they will be expected to carry out after training. Week 2-11 is formal training which is delivered at one of a number of training sites across England and Wales; this is known as Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT).
On successful completion of the formal training new officers will return to their establishment for week 12 where they will have a consolidation week, this gives them the opportunity to apply the learning from formal training.
The course combines a mixture of theory and practice-based classroom and dojo activities, each session within the course aims to give new officers a knowledge and understanding of the following:
New officers are continually assessed during the course using a range of different practical and written assessment methods. All assessments are designed to test skills and to check knowledge, for example the practical assessments aim to demonstrate competence in:
During the course new officers will be required to complete the SFJ Level 3 Diploma in the management and care of individuals in the custodial environment.
The main objective of this qualification is to provide them with the knowledge, and many of the skills, required to work in custodial environments.
It is a requirement that they complete this qualification during the POELT course in order to take up full duties as a prison officer.
In order to gain the qualification, they must successfully complete:
They are also required to complete the following:
Prison Officer Entry-Level Training (POELT) is a full-time program for new prison officers, for the first 12 weeks they are in post.
POELT is paid on a 37 hours a week basis, once prison officers finish POELT they have the option to increase their contracted hours to 39 or 41 hours, or remain at 37 hours a week.
Prison officers can opt to work either a 37, 39 or 41 hour week. You will work on a rolling shift pattern, usually of 39 hours, which includes some nights and some weekends and some public and bank holidays (any public or bank holidays you work will be added to your annual leave allowance – find out more below).
Your salary will be dependent on the number of hours you work. You will have the opportunity to work overtime in certain circumstances.
Work/life balance options such as part-time hours and job shares are also available, subject to completion of your 10-week full-time POELT course and induction.
As a prison officer, even if you never go for promotion, your career can take you in many different directions. As you will have read under ‘The role’, there are a lot of different areas where you can develop your career. All of these responsibilities require different skills. If you want to specialise further, you’ll have the opportunity to train to become a physical education officer, a dog handler, or, when you look back and remember the people who first helped you along – perhaps become a trainer yourself.
Working closely with your team, you'll have a number of key responsibilities that make rehabilitation possible. The first one's pretty obvious: You'll make sure the prison is safe and secure, and that all offenders are accounted for. Beyond that, it'll be up to you to supervise daily routines, giving offenders much-needed structure in their lives. You'll also act as a role model, doing what you can to encourage constructive choices. There'll definitely be days when you feel more like a guard than a guardian of change. But imagine the sense of satisfaction that'll come from helping people turn their lives around.
Salaries in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) vary between different grades, areas and individual prisons. To find out what you could earn depending on your situation, download the PDF below.
Prison Officer salaries – more information (pdf, 205kb)
For example, a prison officer working 39 hours a week in the types of prisons listed below could earn the following when they start:
At one of the 4 Inner London prisons, £31,014 (a base salary of £28,014 + an allowance of £3,000) with a pension and benefits
At one of the Outer London prisons, between £31,453 and £29,453 (a base salary of £26,453 + an allowance of either £5,000 or £3,000) with a pension and benefits
At one of 17 prisons across the South and South-East £26,456 (a base salary of £23,456 + an allowance of £3,000) with pension and benefits
Elsewhere in England and Wales, £21,902 with pension and benefits.
Maternity or Adoption Leave – Staff are entitled to 52 weeks leave. 26 weeks of this will be paid at full pay and the remaining 26 weeks is made up of 13 weeks at statutory pay and 13 weeks unpaid. Qualifying conditions apply for both contractual and statutory entitlements.
Shared Parental Leave – allows women on maternity leave or the primary adopter to share their leave/pay with their partner. Qualifying conditions apply.
Paternity/Maternity Support leave – staff are entitled to one or two weeks leave at full pay. Qualifying conditions apply.
To be able to apply for a post in the Ministry of Justice, certain nationality criteria need to be met.
You must be either:
It takes a special kind of person to be a great prison officer, but if you have the right skills it could be one of the most life-changing moves you’ve ever made. If you've been through the site and feel ready to start a rewarding new profession, it’s time to apply.
Thanks for taking the time to discover more about the role and our recruitment process.
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