How to Become a Correctional Officer in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) is committed to protecting the community by providing safe and secure institutions for the inmate population. The ADCRR incarcerates inmates safely while providing rehabilitation opportunities and programs designed for successful reentry into society.

The ADCRR has proven itself to be an innovative leader in its field. Recently, over 100 inmates graduated and are now members of the first Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative crew. These inmates play a crucial role in managing hazardous vegetation across Arizona. Their work provides an excellent resource for Arizona and possible employment opportunities for themselves.  

Now is an excellent time to join the ADCRR. The department has established the Temporary Correctional Officers Trainee program to provide motivated young men and women an opportunity to obtain experience in corrections while also earning a salary.   

Barb wire in correctional facility


The ADCRR is dedicated to developing, encouraging, recognizing, and rewarding employees’ professional performance and growth. The State is proudly served by over 9,000 well-trained corrections professionals dedicated to public, staff, and inmate safety by effectively employing sound correctional practices, efficient operational procedures, and proven programming opportunities for inmates. 

The ADCRR is looking for officers who can enforce rules, supervise daily activities, and keep operations running efficiently. It takes a unique skill set to work in a correctional environment. No two days are alike. Emergencies, weather, and staffing issues are some of the concerns that are addressed daily. But the ADCRR doesn’t expect perfection. As a new officer, you will likely make mistakes. Learning from those experiences and taking steps to prevent their reoccurrence is a valuable component of resiliency.

As a Correctional Officer, you will be confronted with various “problems” throughout your workday. Your problem-solving skills will be tested. You must be able to address these concerns appropriately to help maintain a well-run operation. Your ability in this area should continually improve throughout your career.

You will also be expected to demonstrate self-discipline, analytical skills, observation skills, and many others related to employment with the ADCRR.


The new Temporary Correctional Officers Trainee program allows individuals to work up to 30 weeks while being evaluated for a potential transition to permanent status as an ADCRR Correctional Officer.

Applicants must complete the following to be considered for the trainee program:

  • Complete the Arizona Department of Administration Employment Application (two parts)
  • Complete the written exam consisting of:
    • Observation and Recall of Detail
    • Following Written Instructions
    • Human Relations / Criminal Justice Knowledge
    • Reading Comprehension
  • Complete a background addendum

During the 30 weeks of service as a trainee, officers will:

  • Complete the remainder of the hiring process, including:
    • Medical Exam
    • Fitness Testing
    • Comprehensive background check

Temporary Trainees who successfully meet these requirements and all other expectations during the 30-week evaluation period and who wish to pursue a career in corrections as a Correctional Officer will have the opportunity to attend the Correctional Officer’s Training Academy (COTA). Participation in the trainee program also provides priority consideration for immediate benefits.


To be considered for employment with the ADCRR, applicants must:

  • Have a High School Diploma or GED
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Possess a valid Arizona Driver’s License
  • Provide proof of legal U.S. residency

Applicants who complete the selection process must attend and complete COTA, located in Tucson, Arizona, for seven weeks. Upon completing the COTA training, graduates receive a Certificate of Completion in Correctional Technology with 21 college credit hours. Cadets not meeting all COTA requirements will be dismissed.

The 280-hour Correctional Officer Training Academy is a seven-week program consisting of functional competency areas. These include:

  • Ethics and Professionalism
  • Inmate Management
  • Officer Safety
  • Applied Security
  • Security, Custody, and Control
  • Legal Issues
  • Communication
  • Conflict and Crisis Management
  • Medical Mental Issues in Corrections

New ADCRR Correctional Officers must complete the following fitness testing requirements within 45 minutes:

  • Eye-Hand Coordination and Dexterity Testing:  Minnesota Manual Dexterity Test (MMDT)
  • Mobility Testing:  Squat and Rotating Test
  • Flexibility Testing:  Sit and Reach Test
  • Strength Testing:  Sit-Ups
  • Strength Testing:  Push-Ups
  • Endurance Testing:  Step Test
  • Job-Specific Testing Circuit


Returning Correctional Officers who will not attend COTA will be evaluated based on previous Correction Officer fitness training requirements.


Although having a Criminology or Criminal Justice Degree is not required for employment with the ADCRR, having one may increase your skill level, improve your selection potential, and increase your ability to be promoted within the organization.

The department demonstrates its commitment to employees continuing their education by supporting Arizona’s tuition reimbursement program. Some of the specifics of this program include:

  • It may be used for classes, course work, and exams (including online) for approved Degree and Certificate Programs and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams/Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Approved Associate’s Degrees shall include: General Studies, Corrections, Correctional Administration, Public Administration, Business Administration, Human Services, Education, Political Science, Fire Sciences, Chemical Dependency/Addiction Counseling, Organizational Leadership, Quality Customer Service, Criminology, Criminal Justice, Administration, Accounting, and Information Technology.
  • Approved Bachelor’s Degree Programs shall include all of the programs approved for an Associate’s Degree and Psychology and Sociology but not General Studies.
  • Approved Master’s Degree Programs shall include all of the programs approved for a Bachelor’s Degree and Educational Leadership.

Examples of Criminology and Criminal Justice programs offered at institutions in Arizona include:

The University of Arizona – Criminal Justice Degree

Arizona State University – Criminology and Criminal Justice


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average Arizona Correctional Officer salary as $45,070. Some of the benefits of working with the ADCRR include:

  • Medical/Dental
  • Ten paid holidays per year
  • 12 paid vacation days per year
  • 12 paid sick days per year
  • Retirement plan
  • 21 hours of college credit for COTA graduates

ADCRR Correctional Officers also join the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS). Plan specifics include:

  • Arizona’s retirement plan is funded through member and employer contributions. 
  • The plan defaults to investment in a low-fee target-date fund, but members can choose their investments from many options.
  • Employees are fully vested at three years of service.


Arizona is frequently posting Correctional Officer positions throughout the State. The average salary and benefits have made Arizona an enticing opportunity. There are openings throughout the State.


Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry – ADCRR

Federal Bureau of Prisons – BOP

The GEO Group, Inc. – GEO