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Prison officer career progression

Joining HM Prison and Probation Service as a prison officer gives you a range of opportunities for your career.

You can develop in your role, specialise, or advance through positions once you have completed your probationary period and gained the necessary skills and experience.

From prison officer to senior manager

Band 3 prison officer – salary starting from £32,851

All prison officers start their career at Band 3.

There’s lots of variety within the Band 3 level once you have completed your probationary period. You could work in a different category or different size prison. You could work on a specialist wing for people first entering prison, or dealing with addiction problems, or work with vulnerable prisoners who are at risk of self-harm or suicide.

You can also complete a custodial manager accreditation and move straight to Band 5.

Band 4 prison officer – salary starting from £38,542

Once you have successfully completed your probationary period at Band 3, and completed specialist training, you can apply to become a Band 4 officer.

There are 2 types of Band 4 prison officer:

  • Band 4 supervising officer
  • Band 4 prison officer specialist

You can move between these roles once you have completed the relevant training. You can also apply for a level transfer from Band 4 supervising officer.

Band 4 supervising officer

Supervising officers supervise and support prison officers and operational support grades.

Supervising officers coordinate all aspects of prison life within a residential unit and will be included in prison-wide rotas for weekend and night duties. 

Within the supervising officer role there are options to specialise in one of the following:  

  • suicide prevention
  • advanced control and restraint
  • first aid
  • hostage negotiation
  • mandatory drug testing
  • teaching control and restraint

Band 4 prison officer specialist

As a prison officer specialist, you can specialise in a range of roles. These include:

  • dog handler
  • offender manager
  • physical education officer
  • programmes officer
  • working in security intelligence

Band 5 custodial manager – salary starting from £41,872

Custodial managers are the most senior uniformed officers in a prison. They manage prison activities, often across multiple departments. Responsibilities include managing people and resources.

To become a custodial manager, you’ll need to complete a custodial manager accreditation. 

Custodial managers can go on to specialise in one of the following:  

  • programmes
  • dog handling
  • corruption prevention
  • dedicated search
  • regional lead roles

Senior management – salary up to £60,475 (band 8)

Once you have gained experience as a custodial manager, you can apply for senior management roles.

Senior management includes roles such as Band 6 to 8 heads of functions who lead and manage a variety of areas within the prison such as reducing reoffending, security or residential.

You can also advance to being a deputy Governor and Governor.

There are a range of leadership and talent programmes within HMPPS to help you advance to more senior roles.

You can also get relevant experience and skills to apply for senior management roles by either:

  • completing specialist training
  • or taking part in job rotation and temporary redeployment

Opportunities to specialise

There are lots of routes you can take at all grades to specialise in the Prison Service. For each of these specialisms you’ll need to complete training and then apply for a specialist role:

  • dog handling
    • carry out searches or patrols with specially training dogs
    • ensure nothing illegal or dangerous is brought into the prison
    • find prisoners who are missing or trying to escape
  • physical education
    • create and lead physical education programmes and activities for all prisoners
    • lead on fitness courses and training
  • programmes
    • lead on the running of rehabilitative programmes to address prisoners’ offending behaviours
  • security intelligence
    • assess intelligence information to help prevent incidents in the prison
  • training others
    • train new officers on things such as use of force, security practices and use of radios
  • Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT)
    • work with prisoners identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm
  • youth justice

Support to develop and progress

We’ll support you throughout your career to build your knowledge and experience, to help you grow in your current role or to progress.

This can include:

  • rotation
    • you’ll continue working at your current grade, gaining experience in a specialist department or a different category prison or Young Offender Institution
  • temporary deployment
    • staff can expand their skills, for example, working on change projects or to help shape policy in another unit or prison
  • other opportunities
    • you can apply for our range of leadership and talent programmes – get support throughout your career to achieve accreditations or complete specialist training required for promotion. The Race Action Programme also offers a progression buddy scheme for all grades

As we’re part of the Ministry of Justice (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab), your future career options do not just stop with the Prison Service.

There are opportunities to work for the Probation Service or diversify your career into other parts of the Ministry of Justice too.