How to Become a Correctional Officer in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is dedicated to serving justice and increasing public safety by encouraging positive change in the inmate population and operating successful reentry programs to reduce recidivism. 

Under the direction of the Illinois Department of Corrections Advisory Board, the IDOC establishes policy and programs concerning the custody, care, study, discipline, training, and treatment of persons in the state correctional institutions.


Most new Correctional Officers begin their career with the IDOC as Correctional Officer Trainees. Trainees complete formalized and on-the-job training related to supervising inmate activities, conduct, work, recreation, and training. Trainees will assist in controlling residents from control stations, yards, towers, dormitories, dining halls, or work details.

Correctional Officer Trainees will:

  • Receive orientation in rules of conduct, security, work standards, agency policy, and rules and regulations
  • Learn to complete written reports, enforce and maintain discipline, safety, sanitation, and security
  • Escort inmates or groups of inmates to work assignments
  • Maintain order and discipline in workshops and other areas
  • Enforce rules and regulations
  • Keep ongoing count of inmates
  • Learn to search quarters, facilities, and work locations for contraband
  • Inspect all areas for sanitation conditions, fire and safety hazards, and unsafe tools or equipment
  • Learn how inmates adapt to involuntary confinement
  • Learns to search visitors
  • Supervise inmates during transfers


All applicants for a Correctional Officer Trainee position with the IDOC must complete an electronic application and:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have a High School Diploma or GED certificate
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or authorized alien with proof of a permanent resident card
  • Speak, read, and write in English

Note: Illinois residency is required for a Correctional Officer Trainee position. Non-residents will be considered after the list of all qualified residents has been exhausted. Non-residents must establish Illinois residency before beginning work.

Applicants need to bring the following for screening:

  • Employment Application – CSM 100
  • Applicant Information Sheet
  • Release of Information
  • Employment Reference Check – DOC 0037
  • Birth certificate or a certified letter of birth verification
  • High School Diploma or GED Certificate
  • Selective Service System registration card or other proof of registration
  • Official college transcripts
  • Photo ID AND
  • Original Driver’s License

All applicants will complete the screening process, which includes the following four examinations:

  • Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE)
    • The TABE is used to establish a baseline for reading comprehension. Applicants must receive a minimum score equivalent to the 12th-grade reading level. Applicants meeting this criterion can move on to the next step.
  • Physical Agility Test
    • Complete four exercises designed to measure each applicant’s ability to perform the duties usually assigned to Correctional Officers.
  • Observation Examination
    • Assesses each applicant’s ability to evaluate a scenario and provide a detailed incident report.
  • Structured Oral Rutan Interview and Writing Sample
    • Applicants are interviewed by a team of screeners using a Rutan interview questionnaire. Upon completion, each screener will independently rate the applicant.

All applicants will undergo a background investigation involving Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) and Secretary of State driver’s information checks. Selectees will also undergo a complete physical and visual screening before employment.


Applicants selected for hire will attend a multi-week pre-service training program at the department’s Training Academy in Springfield, Illinois. The Training Academy’s focus is to provide quality and up-to-date training using technology and reality-based situations, wherever possible, for all new incoming security staff.

The core curriculum of the Training Academy is the eight-week new Correctional Officer Training or Pre-Service Correctional Training. Cadets will be transported to the academy weekly. Training for new cadets will include:

  • Professionalism
  • Firearms
  • Control Tactics
  • Use and Application of Restraints
  • Report Writing
  • Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
  • Practical Exercises

In addition to basic academy training, training for all existing staff is provided too. Areas of focus include:

  • Advanced Firearms
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Hostage Negotiations
  • Administration of Discipline
  • Critical Incident Command Post

Cadets will live in dormitory buildings and adhere to strict property and conduct rules.


When an applicant who was certified as an LEO in another state is selected, the hiring agency may request a waiver of Illinois basic law enforcement training. Conditions for reciprocity include:

  • An Illinois law enforcement agency must select candidates
  • The hiring agency must submit a waiver application and all supporting documentation
  • Application is evaluated by the Illinois Law Enforcement and Training Standards Board
  • The candidate must pass all requirements outlined in the waiver, including:
    • Mandatory Firearms
    • Illinois Law for Police Course
    • 200- question Equivalency Exam


In Illinois, Civil Service employees and retirees may be eligible for an employee tuition waiver providing the employee:

  • Meets admission requirements, and space is available
  • Makes all arrangements for courses offered during working hours
  • Must be in a status appointment or an appointment designed to qualify for the status of 50 percent or greater
  • Civil Service retirees are also eligible

Some Criminology or Criminal Justice programs in Illinois include:

University of Illinois Chicago – Criminology, Law, and Justice

Northwestern University – Criminal Justice

Illinois State University – Criminal Justice


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average salary for Correctional Officers in Illinois as $62,840. Illinois also offers Correctional Officers the following benefits:

  • State of Illinois Deferred Compensation Plan
    • Optional 457(b) retirement plan
    • Payroll deferral and earnings accrue tax-deferred until retirement
  • Group Insurance Benefits and Programs
    • All State of Illinois employees hired to work at least 50% of a full-time work week and contributing to one of the five State retirement systems are eligible to participate in the State Employees’ Group Insurance Program (SEGIP)
    • Includes health, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits
    • Active employees make premium contributions based on salary
    • State Employee Group Insurance employee contributions are available as a pre-tax payroll deduction


The Illinois Department of Corrections values its employees and actively invests in their future. Designated groups of employees are provided career counseling and direct-paid education and training opportunities that will help advance their careers.


Illinois Department of Corrections


Federal Bureau of Prisons