The application process

1. Apply online (10 minutes)

Enter important personal details, such as nationality and your right to work in the UK. We use these to check you’re eligible to be a prison officer.

What you will need:

  • – National Insurance number
  • – Employment history

2. Online tests (45 minutes)

You will be sent 20 multiple choice questions on numeracy and 32 questions on how you would react to certain situations you might face as a prison officer.

We use these to check you have the basic qualities to be a prison officer.

We will let you know immediately if you pass the online test.

If you are successful, we invite you to attend a Recruitment Assessment Day (RAD).

3. Prison visit (up to 3 weeks, if offered)

A visit to familiarise yourself with the prison is part of the application process for some prisons. Other prisons may offer a visit so you can get to know your work environment.

The visit is a great chance to meet serving prison officers and see what it’s like to work in the prison.

Organising a visit can take up to 3 weeks.

4. Assessment day (1 day)

We test to see if you have the qualities, numeracy, basic written English and fitness to be a prison officer.

We also carry out an eye test and basic health screening, including blood pressure check.

We will let you know beforehand what to expect and bring on the day.

5. Background checks (12+ weeks)

If the prison officer position is available immediately, we carry out security and identity checks before you begin the job. This vetting can take around 12 weeks.

If a position is not available, you will be put on a reserve list. We only begin the background checks when there is a vacancy for you.

Before you start

Check if you are eligible to become a prison officer. You will need to:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • have the right to work in the UK
  • be reasonably fit and have good eyesight

To work in a high security prison (category A) you must have been resident in the UK for the last 3 years.

Essential skills

You don’t need qualifications to become a prison officer. Personal qualities are more important:
  • communication skills to talk and listen to others
  • quick thinking to meet unexpected challenges
  • teamworking to support colleagues
  • strength of character to handle intense moments
  • fairness and honesty to deal with people consistently
  • belief people can change and turn things around

Get ready for the online test

We use the online test to check you have the judgement and basic numeracy skills to be a prison officer. See if you have what it takes before you apply.

Test your prison officer skills

Take the practice numeracy test

prison officer numeracy test

How to do well on assessment day

The Recruitment Assessment Day (RAD) acts as your interview. We test whether you have the skills, qualities and physical fitness for the job.

Role play

Assessors will look at how you interact and communicate with others. You will be scored on things such as how you handle pressure, empathise with others and treat people from all cultures and backgrounds with dignity.


We test endurance using a running bleep test between two points. We also test your upper body strength to see if you can hold a 7kg riot shield or grip a piece of equipment.


You will be asked to read the 2 letters on the second line of an optician’s chart from 6 metres, with both eyes open and without glasses or contact lenses.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you will need to read the 5 letters on the fifth line of an optician’s chart from 6 metres, with both eyes open and wearing your glasses or contact lenses.

This is a similar standard of vision you need for driving in the UK.

Find out more about the assessment day