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Prison officer

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Summary of occupation

Prison officers are responsible for the operation of prisons and the custody, care and supervision of prisoners. They patrol assigned areas of the prison, inspecting doors, gates and windows to ensure they are secure and observing and maintaining the behaviour of inmates. They also conduct searches of inmates and cells for drugs, weapons and other illegal or prohibited items. When new prisoners arrive, prison officers carry out admittance procedures, which may include issuing prisoners with uniforms, briefing them on prison rules and filling in necessary paperwork. They also work with prisoners to develop a rehabilitation plan. Some prison officers may also assist in the delivery of vocational training.  

ANZSCO description: Supervises and controls the activities of  inmates in a prison or other correctional institution.
Alternative names: Corrections Officer, Custodial Officer, Prison Guard
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A prison officer needs:

  • interpersonal skills, with an understanding of different social and cultural backgrounds
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • a high-level of personal integrity
  • good communication and conflict resolution skills
  • good problem solving ability
  • a good level of physical fitness
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Working conditions

There are 14 prisons and 6 prisoner work camps in Western Australia which prison officers may work at. Six of these prisons are located in the Perth metropolitan area, with the remaining seven spread throughout regional areas around the state. Prisons run 24-hours a day, every day of the year. Some prison officers may be able to work regular business hours, Monday to Friday, however, they can also be required to work in shifts that will include working nights, and on weekends and public holidays. Prisons have strict security procedures that must be followed, both to keep inmates secure and for the protection of prison staff and visitors. The specific requirements and level of security will vary, depending on the particular facility.

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Salary details

Trainee prison officers can expect to earn approximately $1 006 per week ($52 298 per year). Once their probationary period ends, a prison officer can expect to earn between $1 361 and $1 590 per week ($70 777 and $82 687 per year), depending on their duties and level of experience. As a prison officer develops their skills, their earning potential generally increases. 

Prison officers working in regional areas may be offered additional regional incentives and allowances, depending on their location.

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Tools and technologies

The specific technology and equipment used at prisons may vary depending on the particular security requirements. However, most prison officers will use two-way radios to communicate around the prison. There will also be video cameras and alarms to monitor prisoners and alert staff of any issues. Upon commencing employment, a prison officer will be issued a uniform, in some cases they may also be issued personal protection equipment such as a taser, oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray (pepper spray) and/or an expandable baton. They will also need basic computer and word processing skills to write reports and keep records.  

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a prison officer with the Department of Justice you must pass the recruitment process and complete the entry-level training program.

Applicants must be Australian or New Zealand citizens or a Permanent Resident.

The selection assessment includes an identification check, selection panel interview, psychological interview, a criminal history screening and an integrity check.

Successful applicants are then required to complete a 14 week paid training program at the Department’s Training Academy in Perth. After initial training you need to complete a six month on the job probationary period.

Prison officers who successfully complete this nine month training program are awarded the nationally recognised Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial).

Contact the Department of Justice for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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