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How to apply

Check if you’re eligible

To join us, you will need to be at least 18 years old when you start your new role.  

As a prison officer, it is vital that you are able to cope with both the emotional and physical demands of the job.

You will be need to deal with stressful, traumatic and at times emotional issues.

As this is a physically active job, you will need to pass a medical and fitness assessment as part of the application process. This will include a hearing test and an eyesight test.

A physical and mental health issue will not necessarily prevent you from doing the job: where appropriate, relevant adjustments will be recommended. 

It is vital that you declare any pre-existing physical and/or mental health conditions, so that we can suitably assess your ability to perform the full range of duties you will need to do as a prison officer.  Your information will be considered by the Occupational Health team in a confidential manner.

Read about the fitness and medical assessments on the prison officer online application centre (opens in a new tab).

Right to work in the UK

You must have the right to work in the UK and Civil Service (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab).

Skilled Worker visa changes from 4 April 2024

From 4 April 2024, the Government increased the salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas. The change means that HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) cannot guarantee sponsorship for people seeking sponsorship via the Skilled Worker visa route.

If you are applying to be a prison officer and do not meet the new eligibility criteria for sponsorship, you will need to consider your options for obtaining and/or maintaining your right to work in the UK.

HMPPS will continue to comply with UK Immigration Rules applied in the UK and Civil Service. 

You can read more about Skilled Worker visas and the eligibility criteria here.

Applying to work in a high security prison

To work in a high security prison (category A) you must have been resident in the UK for the last 3 years. This must be the period immediately before you submit your application, and not any other three-year period, or any other accumulation of time spent in the UK. Please read the pre-employment checks and ‘High security prisons’ information on our prison officer online portal for more details (opens in new tab).

The application process

The application process takes 6 to 7 months on average from starting your application to your first day on the job.

How long it takes depends on how quickly we can arrange an assessment date, how long your background checks take, and if there’s a role available immediately at the prison you applied to.

Applying for your first prison officer role?

If you’re happy to work away from home for your first 23 months, you could consider one of our first-time prison officer schemes and get some great additional benefits:

  • first-time prison officer recruitment scheme – join one of our busier prisons and either stay there after 23 months or transfer to one closer to your home
  • Prison Futures – apply to work at a prison near your home and be guaranteed a prison officer position there after you have worked away from home for 23 months

Find a job and apply online

Start by finding a suitable vacancy.

If there are no current vacancies at the prison you’re interested in, you can register your interest (opens in a new tab) and we’ll let you know when positions become available.

You can also consider the other routes to becoming a prison officer.

You’ll need your National Insurance number to apply. The application is very quick and should only take you about 10 minutes.

You’ll be asked some eligibility questions, such as nationality and your right to work in the UK, then you’ll need to enter some personal details and you’re ready to submit your application.

When applying, you can choose if you want to be assessed for an operational support grade (OSG) role at the same time (in case you’re not successful in becoming a prison officer right now). Learn more about our ‘Aspire programme‘ (opens in a new tab).

Tell us if you have a disability when you apply and we can offer reasonable adjustments to help with the online test and assessment centre. Find out about reasonable adjustments.

Complete the online tests

There are 2 online tests as part of the prison officer application process. 

Stage 1 test 
This will test if you have the basic judgement and numerical skills expected of a prison officer. 

If you pass the stage 1 online test, we will invite you to complete the stage 2 online test.
Stage 2 test  
This assessment is called the Behaviour-Based Assessment (or sometimes the Task-Based Assessment).
We use this assessment to give you an opportunity to demonstrate if you have the natural behaviours and personal qualities needed to be a prison officer.
You’ll complete some engaging tasks that are designed to show your natural behavioural preferences. For example, how you make decisions. 
There is no right or wrong way to approach the assessment. Simply follow the instructions and react naturally to the scenarios you’ll be presented with.
You’ll have an opportunity to complete a practice task before you start the test.
Read this guidance to get an insight into what to expect and to help you prepare for the stage 2 test.
If you pass the stage 2 online test, we’ll invite you to the online assessment centre to complete the last stage of the prison officer selection process.

Join an online assessment centre

The online assessment centre takes about 2 hours 30 minutes. You’ll need a laptop with a webcam to take part.

Our friendly assessors will meet you and test you to see if you have the abilities, behaviours and strengths to be a prison officer.

There will be 3 parts: an interview, a role play, and a written test. Find out more in our blog (opens in a new tab).

If you apply for a women’s prison, there’s an additional written assessment where you need to answer 3 behaviour-based questions. This will explore your understanding of working as a prison officer in a women’s prison. Find out more on the prison officer application information centre (opens in a new tab).

Get your results

You’ll get your online assessment centre results within 3 working days.

If you pass, the next steps depend on if you applied to a ‘pass’ or a ‘merit’ vacancy (this will be stated in the job description). See the pre-employment checks section below for more information.

Complete your pre-employment checks

We’ll only carry out pre-employment checks once there’s a prison officer position available for you.

Checks include security, identity, past employment and health checks. The checks can take 8 to 10 weeks to complete.

If you are going to be working in a high security prison, you will need to complete HMPPS Enhanced Level 2 vetting, plus a Counter-terrorism check (CTC).

You can read more about what to expect during the pre-employment check stage of your application, plus some top tips, on the prison officer online application centre (opens in new tab).

If you applied for a ‘Pass’ vacancy: you’ll be allocated to the next available vacancy and we’ll start your pre-employment checks straight away. If there are no vacancies, you’ll go on a reserve list until a position becomes available. Your successful pass from the assessment centre will be valid for 12 months and you can use it to apply for vacancies at other prisons.

If you applied for a ‘Merit’ vacancy: you’ll be allocated to a vacancy in order of merit, based on the online assessment centre performance of all candidates. The prison will then make job offers to the people who performed best at the assessment centre as vacancies become available. Your pre-employment checks will begin once you’re allocated to an available position. You can stay on the merit list for 12 months. After this time, you’ll need to apply again.

Medical and fitness tests

If you get a provisional offer, you’ll be invited to book and attend a medical and fitness assessment at your nearest testing centre. You can claim back your travel expenses up to £100, for costs incurred on UK travel only.

First, you will have a medical assessment, carried out by a trained occupational health professional to check that you can safely take part in the fitness test. The assessment will involve an eye test, hearing test, and basic health screening (including blood pressure check).

Find out more about the medical assessment and fitness test on the application information centre (opens in a new tab).

If you pass your medical assessment, you’ll then be tested on endurance and strength. We test your endurance and agility using a bleep test with a shuttle run between 2 points, and we test your upper body strength to see if you can hold a 7kg riot shield and grip a piece of equipment.

Get an offer and arrange your start and training dates

Once you’ve received your provisional offer, and passed your pre-employment checks and fitness assessment, we’ll email you to invite you to a call with a member of our recruitment team to discuss starting as a prison officer and arranging your training dates.

Find your prison officer job

Want to be part of a diverse team, making an impact? Our prison officers are people just like you.

Search jobs and apply

If there are no current vacancies at the prison you’re interested in, you can register your interest (opens in a new tab) and we’ll let you know when positions become available.