Prison Officer Apprenticeship

Prison Officer Apprenticeship

Your primary duties as an apprentice prison officer are custodial chores, which include overseeing and regulating the inmates and ensuring that they are in a safe and secure environment. In addition, you’ll be in charge of locking and unlocking their doors, monitoring activity around the jail, and keeping track of prisoner numbers and locations.

To achieve rehabilitation, you must also establish and maintain excellent working relationships with the inmates, combining authority with understanding and compassion. This entails infusing convicts with the motivation to do what is best for themselves and others.

Because of the nature of the work, you must be able to think on your feet, make fast decisions, and deal well with unexpected situations.


Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:

  • keep inmates secure
  • carry out security checks and searches
  • supervise prisoners and maintain order – this can involve authorised physical control and restraint
  • support vulnerable prisoners
  • promote anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies
  • go with prisoners on external visits like court appearances or hospital appointments
  • prepare inmates for release through rehabilitation programmes
  • update records and write reports on prisoners.


  • London salaries start at £22,000 for an apprentice and can reach £31,728 (inner London) and £30,149 to £32,149 (outer London) when quilted.
  • In the South and South East, you can earn £27,118 to £29,118 once qualified.
  • In many other locations in England and Wales, you’ll earn £24,118 once qualified.
  • In Scotland, the starting salary for operations prison officer recruits is £20,805 rising to £26,903 over a four-year period.

Working hours

Frequently, you will be required to work unsocial hours, such as nights, weekends, and bank holidays. Standard working hours are 37 or 41 hours per week. During your training, you will work 37 hours each week.

Salary and work hours vary in every prison, so carefully review them before applying.

Working environment

You could work in a prison.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.


Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice prison officer include:

  • Level 3 Custody and Detention OfficerEntry requirements for this level include 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship. This qualification will take 12 months to complete.


On a prison officer apprenticeship, you’ll learn:

  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • leadership skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device.


The main employers of prison officers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are:

Professional development

A 12-week course is required to become a prison officer. Weeks 1 and 2 are spent at your assigned prison, becoming acquainted with the layout and duties, and later consolidating and applying your learning from the 10-week Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) course you will have completed at one of the training sites located throughout England and Wales.

The probation period for prison officials in England, Scotland, and Wales is one year, and your basic training continues throughout this time. To properly complete your probationary period, you must pass all components.

Unlocked rapid leadership development programme trainees begin their training with a six-week residential course incorporating traditional jail officer training. Throughout the training, trainees are allocated a mentor jail officer who will advise and support them. As part of the programme, you will also complete a half-time Masters degree and have the option of writing a policy paper.

The employer determines the training and development possibilities in private prisons.

In Scotland, new officers begin their careers as operations officers, responsible for the security and running of the jail. They must finish the SVQ in Custodial Care at SCQF Level 7 within their first two years.

Prison officers have access to various career training and development activities, including equality and diversity, dealing with problematic behaviours, suicide prevention and anti-bullying programmes, and opportunities to attend promotion programmes.

Career prospects

The apparent path to progression is via roles with more responsibility and staff management. Other alternatives include working at training or service headquarters or in specialised programmes within the service, such as rehabilitative work with specific groups of convicts or their families.

Officers with promise are encouraged to pursue advancement as soon as they think they are prepared. This comprises a series of selection procedures designed to assess abilities and the ability to perform at the next level.

Opportunities for secondments to other institutions and postings at HM Prison Service headquarters in London and local offices around England and Wales may arise.

You may rise via managerial roles to get additional experience in various prison jobs like security, performance management, other kinds of imprisonment, or different prison populations, including mothers and babies, vulnerable criminals, or juvenile offenders. After that, you may pursue senior management certification and operate your own prison. For example, jail governors oversee a team of jail officers, duty governors, and other workers.

You might move to a senior management position within HMPPS or a career outside the prison system. For example, senior managers may pursue policy positions inside the Civil Service or the Ministry of Justice, work with third-party vendors, or serve in ministers’ private offices.

In Scotland, officers may rise to the positions of residential officer, officer instructor/vocational training officer, first-line manager, and senior manager. You will be entitled to seek promotion after completing the one-year probationary period, which will be based on individual merit and ability.

Updated on December 1, 2022

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