How to Become a Correctional Officer in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections offers various fulfilling career opportunities, job training, and experience. Following your acceptance of a position, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections provides job-specific training and all the fundamental training required to work in a correctional setting.

A stern, bald prison warden makes the rounds of the cells


The Pennsylvania DOC hires new Correctional Officers in trainee positions. Trainees take part in classroom instruction and on-the-job training to hone skills and procedures for caring for and supervising prisoners in a state correctional facility. Correctional Officers have direct oversight over the work being performed. This job entails providing inmates care, custody, control, and counseling.

Among the responsibilities and other details of this position are: 

  • contact with visitors and prisoners both directly and indirectly
  • observing inmates’ movements and activities 
  • direct inmates and maintain security in housing units, work areas, dining areas, and recreation areas 
  • make periodic, unannounced rounds, head counts, and security checks to observe the inmates and their behavior
  • report anything out of the ordinary to the supervisor
  • give advice and direction to help prisoners participate in and adjust to the correctional setting and the department’s rules and regulations 
  • submit reports in writing
  • respond to emergencies 

Candidates who are hired must be willing to work a 40-hour work week in shifts that will be determined, attend and pass a five-week training course, work unarmed and in a dangerous environment while “locked inside” an institution, accept the possibility of using physical force during inmate disturbances, work any shift as assigned, work overtime as needed for operational purposes and emergencies, and work weekends.


Candidates must submit a separate application to be considered for a COT position at each institution.

The minimum qualifications include:

  • at the time of application, you must be at least 21 years old
  • must fulfill PA residency requirements
  • must include details (such as pertinent, in-depth experience or education) that demonstrate your suitability for the position
  • must be able to carry out the necessary job duties

Legal prerequisites include:

  • The submission of criminal history records is a condition of a conditional offer of employment.
  • Candidates must complete a background check, medical exam, psychological assessment, and drug test using a urinalysis.

Pre-hiring testing:

A written exam, oral exam, or completing supplemental questions are required for civil service positions. Each applicant’s skills, qualifications, and experience are determined through these questions. Additional questions will include a series of multiple-choice inquiries.

Resumes, cover letters, or other documents won’t be examined, and the data they contain won’t be considered when figuring out your.


All new employees are provided relevant and high-quality training through the Department of Corrections training program. Our goal at the academy is to offer cutting-edge training services and timely, appropriate, and efficient programs while embracing new technologies with a strong emphasis on professionalism and customer service. To fulfill the department’s mission, we train new hires and existing employees to deliver high-quality correctional services while continuing to groom our next generation of leaders.

Attending staff should be able to:

  • Effectively communicate with parolees, reentrants, inmates, staff, visitors, and the general public during their duties.
  • Display professional and moral conduct while carrying out their job duties.
  • Put into practice the static and dynamic security fundamentals unique to the correctional setting.
  • Identify the observations and actions that must be reported and documented and follow the correct chain of command.
  • Exhibit qualities needed to contribute generously to a team effort.
  • Reward good behavior and correct bad behavior among inmates or reentrants in their facility. Perform all tasks within facilities and communities safely and efficiently.
  • Use evidence-based practices to supervise prisoners, parolees, and reentrants.

Students will show competency by honing their skills, passing skills tests, receiving informal feedback, passing weekly exams, and receiving certifications. The course is continuously evaluated through end-of-course evaluations and training staff observations. All participants must receive a minimum grade of 75% on weekly written exams.


The Pennsylvania DOC will review prior Correctional Officer certification and certification from another state to determine readiness for hire. Programs from other states will be compared to Pennsylvania’s, and additional courses may be assigned. All applicants requesting reciprocity or a waiver for introductory classes will be required to take a certification exam in this state.


The Pennsylvania DOC does not require a college degree or credits to qualify for a Correctional Officer position. However, having a degree or credits in a related field will be considered during the selection process.

Colleges in Pennsylvania that provide Criminology or Criminal Justice degrees include:

Pennsylvania State University – Criminal Justice

Lincoln University – Criminal Justice


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average salary for Correctional Officers in Pennsylvania as $58,260. Pennsylvania also offers a very competitive benefits package.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania employees enjoy excellent benefits. The HR Service Center supports several health, retirement, and other benefits. Employees are eligible for medical coverage through two Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) options or a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) option.  

Employees of a participating State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) are automatically enrolled in a “hybrid” retirement plan. Employees have 45 days to switch to a different class of service in the hybrid plan or give up the defined benefit pension portion altogether. SERS will mail a welcome package within the first two weeks of employment. 

The commonwealth provides life insurance to permanent employees after 90 days on the job through the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Additional life insurance can be purchased for dependents. 

Additional Benefits

  • Commonwealth employees can get free, confidential advice and referrals from the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP).
  • Employees have access to identity theft protection and pet insurance as a commonwealth employee.
  • Payroll deductions are available to fund a Pennsylvania-qualified 529 college savings plan.
  • The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency also offers the PA Forward Student Loan programs to assist with the cost of higher education.


The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is frequently advertising for Correctional Officer positions. All qualified applicants should apply.


Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Federal Bureau of Prisons