How to Become a Correctional Officer in Texas

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) manages inmates in public prisons, county jails, and private correctional facilities that have agreements with the TDCJ. The organization supervises prisoners released from prison on parole or mandatory supervision and provides funding and oversight for community supervision, formerly known as adult probation.

The TDCJ’s objectives are to ensure public safety, encourage positive behavior change in offenders, facilitate their reintegration into society, and support victims of crime.

A prison warden guards cells with prisoners sentenced to life in orange prison uniforms


TDCJ Correctional Officers perform entry-level correctional work that involves caring for and guarding prisoners. Officers will learn about security, managing corrections, and dealing with coworkers and prisoners. New Correctional Officers will work under close supervision.

Essential Position Functions Include:

  • Participates in pre-service training courses at the Correctional Training Academy and will receive on-the-job training while working with seasoned Correctional Officers.
  • Look for contraband and provide security; count, feed, and oversee inmates in housing, work, and other areas; and maintain the security of various assigned areas. This position requires long periods of sitting and standing, climbing stairs and ladders to reach designated areas, and working at heights.
  • Provide inmates with custody and security, including watching their behavior, stooping and bending to perform “pat” and “strip” searches of inmates, restraining and occasionally securing violent inmates, and transferring and transporting inmates by riding in vehicles like trailers, vans, and buses.
  • Supervising and providing security for inmates engaged in technical work, such as building maintenance, laundry, serving meals, and various industrial and agricultural operations that require climbing stairs and ladders and moving inside and outside buildings without air conditioning. 
  • Responds to emergencies by using force, including deadly force, such as the use of chemical agents or firearms, to control inmates. Officers in this position will be required to climb stairs and ladders to search for inmates, listen for and respond to calls for help, provide first aid on the scene, and carry an injured or unconscious inmate or employee long distances to safety.
  • Complies with policies, procedures, rules, and regulations; enforces inmate disciplinary rules; prepares and maintains records, forms, and reports; and reads, reviews, and appropriately applies information found in inmate records that are related to the inmate’s health and safety and the security of the facility.


The minimum qualifications for Correctional Officers in Texas include:

Education, Training, and Experience

  • Completing a senior high school diploma, its equivalent, or a GED.
  • To Continue working, you must pass TDCJ exams and skill assessments.

Skills and Knowledge

  • The ability to convey thoughts and directions clearly and concisely.
  • The ability to work with other employees, departments, officials, agencies, organizations, and the public.

Other Required Skills

  • The ability to climb stairs, steps, and ladders; to identify colors; to hear with or without aid; to see; to write; to count; to lift and carry 45 lbs. and over; to perceive depth; to operate a motor vehicle; to operate motor equipment; to restrain assaultive individuals.


The Texas Correctional Training and Staff Development (CTSD) Department offers opportunities for correctional staff to acquire the knowledge, comprehension, and skills required to thrive in their working environment and to succeed professionally through the development and presentation of high-quality training programs. According to our understanding, “correctional staff” includes both uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, and our program will be run and managed in accordance with the operational commitment to treat every employee fairly. The CTSD Department will be transparent, moral, receptive, and accountable to all agency stakeholders. We will continue to uphold our commitment to offering top-notch customer service while fostering a high-quality, supportive work environment that is free from bias and respectful of every individual.

A typical Correctional Officer must complete 240 hours of administrative and curriculum training. At the TDCJ Training Academy in Beeville, Gatesville, Palestine, Huntsville, Rosharon, or Plainview, the training typically lasts six weeks. Defense strategies, weapons, chemical agents, CPR, first aid, physical fitness, non-violent crisis intervention, and standards for use of force are all covered in training. Depending on availability, trainees who do not live close enough to the academy to commute may receive free housing.

Three physical agility tests, each of which must be completed at the employee’s own pace, will be administered to those chosen to attend one of the TDCJ training academies.

A program of physical exercises aimed at teaching defensive tactic techniques will also be required of trainees. Natural body weapons, blocking techniques, pressure points, joint manipulations, and edged weapon defense will all be covered in this training block. The instructional kit will also contain instructions on how to use the riot baton, use restraint techniques, and retain weapons. It is strongly advised that potential TDCJ employees get ready to participate and adhere to the aforementioned requirements.


A veteran who has completed at least two years of active military service and been discharged under honorable conditions will start as a Correctional Officer IV, pay level. 

A CO applicant with prior government correctional custody or law enforcement experience within the 36-month period preceding the date of hire shall be hired at a pay level corresponding with the months of service if the dates of employment are verified by the former employer and the applicant left the employer in good standing.


Although having a college degree is not a minimum requirement with the TDCJ, an applicant who has earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited college will start as a Correctional Officer IV.

Some schools in Texas offering Criminal Justice or Criminology degrees include:

Texas A&M: Sociology with Concentration in Criminal Justice

University of Houston: Criminal Justice


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average salary for Correctional Officers in Texas as $43,800. 

There are hundreds of openings which all have the potential of an up to $5,000 hiring bonus in many areas of the state. These positions are also now able to be applied for online. 

Benefits Include:

  • Vacation leave
  • Sick Leave
  • Paid holidays
  • Retirement
  • Group life and health insurance
  • Dental programs
  • Free meals while on duty
  • Uniforms and equipment are furnished at no cost
  • Laundry of uniforms is furnished at no cost


The TDCJ advertises for Correctional Officer positions almost continuously. All interested and qualified candidates should apply.


Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Management and Training Corporation (Private)