How to Become a Correctional Officer in Washington

Correctional Officers with Washington State’s Department of Corrections are tasked with maintaining safety and security inside the prison. They serve as pro-social role models for adult inmates by modeling appropriate behavior and holding them accountable for their actions when necessary. This is an important and meaningful career working face to face with the population that this agency serves. Having the opportunity to impact lives daily and being a first-hand witness to positive change is a unique reward that Correctional Officers have. Correctional Officers are critical contributors to rehabilitating incarcerated persons and to DOC’s mission “to improve public safety.”


Correctional Officers may have opportunities to serve in various posts, including Response & Movement, Transportation, Recreation, and many more. Each of these posts is an essential part of the operations at the facility. Officers may also have the opportunity to serve on specialty teams such as Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), Quick Response Strike Team (QRST), and Inmate Recovery Team (IRT), to name a few.

This job class is designated as in-training.  The employee will advance to CO2 after completing the CO1 training requirements satisfactorily.
In an adult correctional facility, Correctional Officers provide safety and security and assist in controlling, directing, and monitoring the activities and movement of incarcerated individuals. This includes maintaining the security of the institution and controlling movement into, out of, and within the institution per established department methods and procedures.
Correctional Officers are expected to be positive role models and work with incarcerated individuals to help them become productive members of society from the day they arrive under supervision. Correctional Officers use interpersonal and good communication skills to correct and counteract criminal thinking while maintaining safe confinement environments for the individuals to pursue a successful re-entry into communities. The successful candidates for Correctional Officer 1 will possess creative thinking, self-confidence, robust role modeling, and good physical and mental conditioning.

Overtime is an essential function of this position.

illustration of correctional officer watching cell


The Department of Corrections employs over 3,000 correctional officers in 12 prison facilities throughout the state. The first step to becoming a Correctional Officer is to apply online.

Below is a summary of the CO hiring process:

Phase 1

  • Qualifications Screening – Once we receive your application, we will conduct an initial screening to ensure you meet the minimum required qualifications. In cases where there are many applicants, your responses to the Supplemental Questions may be used for additional screening to narrow down the first-round candidate pool.
  • Invitation to Hiring Event– During the Correctional Officer Hiring Event, you will be given a brief presentation about DOC and the facility you’ve applied to, along with further details about the job. Afterward, you will have the opportunity to interview for the position.

Phase 2

  • Hiring Event– The Hiring Event interviews are conducted by a panel of facility staff and local Human Resource staff. They will ask questions regarding your experience, employment history, and behavioral competency-based questions to assess your aptitude for working in a corrections environment.
  • Professional Reference Checks– If you are a top candidate after the interviews, we will contact current and former supervisors and professional associates to gauge your performance in a professional work environment. This is a requirement, so please be prepared to provide at least three Professional References, including current contact phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Criminal History Check– Candidates who are successful during the interviews will be subject to a background/criminal history check. This is needed to obtain clearance on facility grounds if hired. During the Hiring Event, you will be asked to complete the forms necessary to conduct a criminal history.

Phase 3

  • The Conditional Job Offer– If you have completed all of the previous steps, you will receive a conditional offer of employment, contingent upon completing a number of required activities, including a pre-employment drug screen, a psychological interview, and vaccine verification. The 1st and 2nd dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is required before hiring or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Pre-Employment Drug Screening– Candidates who have advanced to the third phase of the selection process will be required to complete a pre-employment drug screen.

Phase 4

  • Psychological Battery– The Psychological Battery is a series of three (3) exams. The results from these exams will be reviewed later by one of our Staff Psychologists. The psychological battery is intended to ensure that you have the mental conditioning necessary to succeed as a Correctional Officer. The exam will be virtual and conducted within 60 days of hire.
  • Psychological Interview– In the last phase of the selection process, candidates attend a pre-scheduled interview with one of our Staff Psychologists. During this 1-hour meeting, the psychologist will review your responses from the psychological battery exams and ask additional behavior-based and job-related questions to assess your psychological competencies and mental conditioning.
  • Correctional Worker Core Academy (CWC)– You must complete this 6-week academy.


Correctional Officers must complete Correctional Worker Core (CWC), a six-week academy for all correctional workers employed in DOC prison facilities. We know that managing difficult people takes more than force. It takes observation, knowledge, skills, and continual practice. Every DOC employee is provided with initial training designed to help assure safe working conditions and will continue to get on-the-job training throughout their employment.

The Correctional Worker Core (CORE) curriculum is a foundational set of courses that introduce new Correctional Officers and those working in prison facilities to the knowledge, skills, and basic work functions at the core of corrections. Practical skills application and testing are conducted via skills clinics and class quizzes throughout the course. It is based on performance standards specific to achieving the department’s mission, including individual, teamwork, and organizational competencies.

Correctional Officers’ work and the required training can be physically demanding at times. The physical activity will place repeated stress on the joints and muscles of the abdomen, back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders, hands, wrists, and elbows. Participants will sustain moderate to high impact on all parts of the body. Participation in this training will require repetitive balance disruption positions and repetitive getting up and down from a grounded place. Training requires moderate pressure applied to the person’s back while lying in a prone position. Physical training activities are scheduled in 2-4 hour blocks and spaced in segments throughout the academy to allow for appropriate rest and recovery to minimize the risk of injury.

CORE Instruction Blocks

  • Proper Use of Physical Force
  • Security Management
  • Professionalism
  • Interpersonal Communication for Corrections
  • Supervision / Discipline / Inmate Manipulation
  • Inmate Mental Problems
  • Booking and Intake
  • Fingerprinting
  • Gangs
  • Practical Law for Corrections
  • Hostage Survival
  • Critical Incident Survival
  • Report Writing

The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) also requires all custody staff who disseminate Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) to attend an initial training and exposure session by a certified DOC instructor. 


The Corrections Officers Equivalency process is 80 hours long and represents an alternative to the regular Academy program.  It is available to previously employed corrections officers upon the request of the respective agency head.  The academy is classroom-based and will cover the following topics:

  • Combating manipulation
  • Professionalism
  • Corrections Crisis Intervention Training
  • Legal issues in jails
  • CO survival
  • Nobility

Upon successful completion of the academy, the Corrections Officers Equivalency certificate places the recipient in the same stead as if he had completed the regular academy program.


The Washington Department of Corrections does not require a college degree or coursework as part of the minimum requirements for Correctional Officer positions. However, all experience and education will be considered during the selection process.

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

Washington State University: Criminal Justice and Criminology

Eastern Washington University: Criminal Justice


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average salary for Correctional Officers in Washington as $62,960.

Washington State offers one of the most competitive benefits packages in the nation.

Washington State provides a selection of health and retirement plans, paid leave, staff training, and other compensation benefits that employees can mix and match to meet their current and future needs.

Department of Corrections (DOC) employees and their families enjoy an impressive number of benefits that include:

  • Complete compensation package
  • Family medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Up to 22 days of paid vacation per year, depending on years of service 
  • Of 12 days of paid sick leave per year
  • 11 paid holidays each year
  • Retirement plan
  • Group life insurance plan
  • Tuition waiver at state colleges and universities
  • Long-term disability insurance
  • Deferred Compensation
  • Dependent Care Assistaof nce Program 
  • 21 days of paid military leave
  • Moving expense reimbursement for hard-to-fill positions
  • Stable employment
  • Abundant promotional opportunities
  • Access to the Employee Assistance Program


The Department of Corrections (DOC) employs over 8,900 staff in many occupational fields inside and outside prison facilities across Washington State. The DOC is frequently advertising Correctional Officer positions throughout the state.


Department of Corrections Washington State

Federal Bureau of Prisons