How to Become a Correctional Officer in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) employs about 11,000 people across the state. Every day, they provide exceptional services and programs for the rehabilitation and supervision of prisoners, probationers, and parolees. Each member of the agency contributes to maintaining the Commonwealth’s safety and security.


Corrections Officers contribute to the agency’s public safety mission by providing for the safety and security of the public, staff, and supervisees by ensuring effective and safe custody and control along with compliance with policy and procedure. This is accomplished through evidence-based practices and principles that enhance effective communication strategies and role modeling as part of collaborative multi-disciplinary teams addressing supervisees needs.

Officers provide security over adult supervisees at the institution and while in transport; supervise the daily activities of supervisees while observing and recording their behavior and movement to ensure their safe and secure confinement. They interact with the visitors, staff, supervisees, and public to maintain orderly and secure operations.

Guard in uniform In full armor with a baton and a pistol on the background of a prison cell

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) is looking for motivated persons interested in becoming a part of an organization to support our mission, vision, and values centered around improving long-term public safety. 

  • After successfully applying for this position, qualified applicants will be invited for an interview. During this time, applicants can expect to complete the interview and background processing and, if successful, could leave the facility with a contingent job offer.
  • Corrections Officers are scheduled to work 14 days a month. Shifts are 12 hours, beginning at either 5:40 AM or 5:40 PM. Corrections Officers work a 28-day cycle scheduled as follows: 5-days working, 5-days off, 5-days working, 4-days off, 4-days working, and 5-days off (may vary by facility).


All applicants applying for a Correctional Officer position with the VADOC must meet the following qualifications

Minimum Qualifications

  • High School Diploma or a GED equivalent. 
  • Valid Driver’s License. 
  • Demonstrated ability to read and comprehend workplace policies and procedures and to prepare workplace reports and documentation. 
  • Ability to lawfully possess a firearm in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Stable employment history. 
  • Military or related criminal justice experience. 
  • Coursework at a community college, college, or university. 
  • Prefer individuals at least 21 years old (a waiver may be provided by the Unit Head for individuals 18-20 years old). 
  • Spanish-speaking applicants are encouraged to apply.
  • Special Requirements

All applicants are subject to a background investigation, and those applying to a designated safety-sensitive position are subject to a pre-employment drug screen.

The investigation may include fingerprint checks (State Police, FBI); local agency checks; employment verification; verification of education (relevant to employment); credit checks; and other checks requested by the hiring authority.

Candidates for this position must complete the Basic Corrections Officer training program, which includes:

  • Rigorous physical exercise that consists of various cardiovascular, strength-building, and stretching exercises. 
  • The candidate will be expected to run 1 mile, participate in organized physical training sessions and complete an obstacle course that includes sprinting, jumping, crawling, and dragging a weighted object.
  • Qualification with all firearms currently authorized for use by the Virginia Department of Corrections.
  • Exposure to various riot control agents.
  • Participation in extensive hands-on defensive training.
  • CPR and First aid training.
  • Multiple written tests, including multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, computer-based testing, and short essay-style questions.


All candidates for VADOC Correctional Officer positions must attend and complete Virginia’s Basic Correctional Officer training programs. Training topics include:

Security and Supervision

  • Identify counting, inspections, security, and search procedures.
  • Enforce structured daily routine and maintain continuous supervision of inmates.
  • Identify components of an approved behavior management program and the principles and methods employed to help/assist an inmate in adopting pro-social positive behavior and in addressing and correcting an inmate’s behavior.
  • Manage an inmate’s misbehavior when they violate rules of conduct. 


  • Utilize practical interpersonal verbal and non-verbal communication skills consistently.
  • Demonstrate reporting and documentation procedures relating to an incident(s).
  • Identify and recognize hostage and barricaded incidents.
  • Identify rules, procedures, expectations, violations, and consequences to inmates.


  • Identify restraints and restraining procedures.
  • Identify drug possession and evidence collection procedures.
  • Transport inmates inside and outside of the facility.
  • Subdue a physically attacking inmate(s).
  • Identify chemical agents and other crowd control equipment.
  • Identify necessary and appropriate use of force.

Emergency Response

  • Identify emergencies.
  • Identify hostage situations.
  • Identify and demonstrate first aid and CPR skills.

Conflict and Crisis Management

  • Apply knowledge of responsivity issues to include the inmate’s culture, environment, background, and how it impacts behavior, inmate and officer and staff relationships, and their environments.
  • Identify suicide prevention and intervention procedures.
  • Identify conflict management and crisis intervention procedures.
  • Use discipline in a consistent, positive, and effective manner.

Law and Legal Issues

  • Identify causes and prevention of negligence and thereby reduce the incidents of violations resulting in criminal or civil liability while performing one’s duties.
  • Identify due process and legal protections afforded an inmate when he violates institutional rules and procedures.
  • Secure and safeguard a crime scene and preserve and protect forensic evidence.

Duty Assignments and Responsibilities

  • Enforce rules and disciplinary actions.
  • Search vehicles, inmates, staff, and visitors.
  • Identify intake, transfer, and release procedures.
  • Identify medical care procedures.
  • Identify inspections and security checks.
  • Identify mail procedures.


  • Maintain a professional appearance concerning clothing, hygiene, grooming, and equipment
  • Behave fairly and positively to develop and maintain trust while interacting with the staff, inmates, community, and visitors.

Basic Corrections Officer Firearms Training

  • Demonstrate proficiency with all weapons as required.


Individuals who served in another state or a federal agency may be eligible to gain Virginia Correctional Officer certification through waiver testing instead of attending an introductory course at an academy.


College-level coursework or degrees are not required to meet the VADOC minimum requirements. However, all experience and education will be considered during the selection process.

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

Virginia Tech: Criminology

George Mason University: Criminology


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average salary for Correctional Officers in Virginia as $44,110.

Additional Benefits Include:

Health Care

  • The Commonwealth offers five basic plan options to state employees and non-Medicare retirees. Statewide plans include COVA Care, COVA Health Aware, and COVA HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan). The Kaiser Permanente HMO plan is offered in specific Northern and Central Virginia zip codes, and Optima Health Vantage HMO plan is offered in Hampton Roads. 
  • All plans offer these benefits: 
    • Medical 
    • Outpatient prescription drug 
    • Preventive dental 
    • Behavioral health, and 
    • Employee assistance program (EAP) services


  • Paid Leave for Holidays
  • Paid Leave (Annual Leave and Sick Leave)

Group Life Insurance

  • Upon employment, classified employees are automatically enrolled in a group life insurance policy at no cost to the employee. This plan provides natural death, accidental death, and dismemberment coverage. Coverage is the equivalent of two times the employee’s annual salary for natural death and four times the employee’s annual salary for accidental death.


  • Membership in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) is automatic. The VRS retirement plan is a qualified 401(a) defined benefit plan that pays eligible members a lifetime benefit based on years of service, age, and compensation. VRS members may also participate in the Virginia Deferred Compensation Plan.


The VADOC is actively hiring for Correctional Officer positions throughout the state. Many institutions offer a $6,000 hiring bonus with a two-year tenure agreement.


Virginia Department of Corrections

Federal Bureau of Prisons

GEO Group (Private Prison)