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Prison officer: Entry requirements

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To become a prison officer:

  • you must pass an entrance test (Prison Officer Selection Test, or POST), irrespective of any  academic qualifications you hold. In Scotland, candidates also need five Standard Grades (1-3) including mathematics or arithmetic and English, or equivalent, or experience within a people-facing role;
  • you must be capable of undergoing some physical exertion. As part of the recruitment process, you're required to pass a medical examination and fitness test. HM Prison Service  operates a guaranteed interview scheme for disabled people, as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, who meet the minimum criteria for entry;
  • you must be a British or Commonwealth citizen, a British protected person, or a European Economic Area (EEA) national. Some family members of EEA nationals, who are not themselves EEA nationals, may also qualify. You must be free from immigration control and have indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. For some posts, you may need to have been resident in the United Kingdom for at least three years;
  • DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks (formerly CRB checks) or Enhanced Disclosure Scotland checks will be made to ensure your suitability for working with children and vulnerable adults (including prisoners).

In addition, you must not be an undischarged bankrupt or belong to a group or organisation that the Prison Service considers racist. Applicants must be aged 18 or over.

If candidates pass the application form stage, they are invited to complete a series of online numerical reasoning tests. Those successful at that stage are invited to attend a Recruitment Assessment Day (RAD) at a Job Simulation Assessment Centre (JSAC) where you will take part in a number of role play simulations to assess your aptitude for the role, plus a medical and fitness test.

All candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • strong interpersonal skills, including assertiveness and self-motivation;
  • an aptitude for responsibility;
  • leadership potential;
  • the ability to learn from others;
  • integrity and a commitment to working with social issues;
  • organisational skills;
  • excellent communication and people skills;
  • the ability to work well in a team;
  • an awareness of how prisons fit within the wider criminal justice system and the community in general.

A degree is only essential for entry onto the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Graduate Programme .

The NOMS Graduate Programme in England and Wales is designed to attract high-calibre candidates who have the potential to develop quickly and to rise to the highest levels in the service. (There is no such scheme in Scotland or Northern Ireland.) To apply to the programme, you must either have, or be expected to achieve, a 2:1 or 2:2 degree. Applications are invited each autumn, with places offered by April.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by AGCAS editors
October 2013

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