How to Become a Correctional Officer in California (Steps and State Requirements)

Are you considering a rewarding career as a California correctional officer? This career path offers stability, excellent benefits, and opportunities for growth while making a positive impact on your community. To ensure success in this field, it’s crucial to understand the hiring process, acquire the necessary skills and traits, and be prepared for the challenges and rewards that come with the job. Let’s guide you through the steps and requirements on how to become a correctional officer in California, and help you stand out in the competitive job market.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Essential requirements for California Correctional Officers include being 18 years old, possessing a high school diploma or GED and US citizenship/legal permanent residency.

  • The hiring journey consists of application, testing and background checks with an expected timeframe of 12-18 months.

  • Successful correctional officers require skills such as decisiveness, observational skills and problem solving to effectively perform their duties while pursuing a degree in criminal justice can increase chances of becoming one.

Essential Requirements for California Correctional Officers

Aspiring to be a California correctional officer? There are certain prerequisites you must fulfill. Age, educational attainment, and citizenship status are the necessary qualifications for becoming a California state correctional officer. The minimum age requirement is 18 years old, and you must possess at least a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, you need to be a US citizen or a legal permanent resident.

Fulfilling these prerequisites paves the path towards a thriving career as a correctional officer. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is responsible for ensuring that candidates possess the necessary qualifications before allowing them to progress through the hiring process.

The Hiring Journey: Steps to Become a Correctional Officer in California

The journey to becoming a California correctional officer involves a series of steps such as application, testing, and background checks. It is estimated that this process will take 12 to 18 months to finish. This timeframe includes all necessary steps for completion. To begin your journey as a correctional officer, you’ll need to apply for a position and successfully complete a series of tests and evaluations. For more information on the hiring process, including the pre-employment medical examination, visit here and the following website.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is in charge of overseeing the correctional system in the state, including federal correctional facilities. They are responsible for employing correctional officers. To search for open federal correctional officer positions in California, visit

Next, we’ll examine the three primary stages of the hiring process:

  1. The online application and preliminary screening

  2. The written test and physical fitness evaluation

  3. The background investigation coupled with a psychological assessment.

Online Application and Initial Screening

The first step in the hiring process is to complete an online application. This initial screening helps the CDCR determine if you meet the basic requirements for the correctional officer position. Make sure to provide accurate and complete information in your application to avoid any delays or disqualifications.

In some cases, specific age or other requirements may apply to different correctional facilities, such as the maximum age limit of 36 for prospective federal correctional officers in Fresno County, California. Be aware of any additional requirements, such as felony convictions, that may apply to the facility you are interested in working at.

Written Test and Physical Fitness Assessment

After successfully submitting your online application, you’ll be required to take a written test that evaluates the following skills:

  • Grammar

  • Spelling

  • Punctuation

  • Reading comprehension

  • Basic mathematics

This exam ensures that candidates possess the necessary knowledge and abilities to perform the duties of a correctional officer effectively.

Beyond the written examination, candidates are also expected to participate in a physical fitness test (PFT). The PFT evaluates your capacity to execute physical activities both at the academy and during active duty. It is crucial to achieve outstanding physical fitness to pass this assessment, as it demonstrates your preparedness to handle the physical demands of the job. To help you prepare for the PFT, consider engaging in a fitness program that focuses on increasing cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.

Upon successful completion of the PFT, candidates will be required to provide fingerprints via Live Scan. This step is necessary to move forward in the hiring process and helps ensure the safety and security of both correctional officers and inmates.

Background Investigation and Psychological Evaluation

Following this, the hiring process continues with a background probe and a psychological appraisal. The background investigation includes a Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation (POPE), a Personal History Statement (PHS), and a Pre-Investigatory Interview (PII). The POPE consists of a written evaluation comprising a series of questions to which candidates respond based on their individual preferences. The PHS (Personal History Statement) is a detailed document. It is used to collect information about an individual’s past residences, contacts, and employment history. The PII offers a chance to confirm the data provided by the applicant for the role.

In addition to the background investigation, candidates must undergo a vision test that assesses visual acuity and color vision. A candidate must have 20/20 vision in each eye. If not, they must provide a written certification from an optometrist or ophthalmologist which demonstrates that their vision is capable of achieving 20/20 in each eye..

The background check process can be a lengthy one – usually lasting around 90 days. In certain situations, the process may take longer. Candidates must be able to pass these evaluations to demonstrate their suitability for the role of a correctional officer and to continue in the hiring process.

Skills and Traits of Successful Correctional Officers

Successful correctional officers in California typically have a set of specific skills and characteristics. Key skills include:

  • Decisiveness

  • Observational skills

  • Physical fitness

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Impartiality

  • Detail-orientation

  • Good communication skills

  • Ability to work in a team

Moreover, possessing essential traits such as:

  • Integrity

  • Respect for authority

  • Empathy

  • Patience

  • Adaptability

  • Self-control

  • Compassion

  • Problem-solving skills

is crucial for successful correctional officer performance. These skills and traits not only contribute to job performance but also pave the way for career growth and advancement opportunities.

Enhancing Your Candidacy: Tips for Standing Out

Earning a degree in criminal justice and preparing for the physical fitness assessment can give you an edge over other contenders for a correctional officer position in California. Education showcases your knowledge and abilities, while physical fitness preparation demonstrates your readiness to perform the duties of a correctional officer.

We’ll delve into the benefits of obtaining a criminal justice degree and how preparing physically can boost your prospects of securing a correctional officer position in California.

Pursuing a Degree in Criminal Justice

Obtaining an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice can equip students with:

  • Analytical skills

  • Capabilities that could assist them in performing well on the exam

  • Potential for improvement in their prospects for advancement within the profession.

In addition, a degree in criminal justice can offer correctional officers in California a range of advantages, such as:

  • Increased remuneration and advancement prospects

  • Enhanced knowledge and capabilities

  • Professional accreditation

  • Career mobility

  • Personal growth and development

By pursuing a degree in criminal justice, you’ll not only gain valuable knowledge and skills but also demonstrate your commitment and dedication to the profession, making you a more attractive candidate for correctional officer positions.

Physical Fitness Preparation

For prospective correctional officers, being physically fit is paramount. It not only aids in performing duties efficiently and prevents injuries but also promotes overall health, strengthens mental resilience, and sets a good example for inmates. To improve your physical fitness, you should:

  1. Set achievable goals

  2. Devise a workout plan

  3. Maintain a balanced diet

  4. Ensure adequate rest

By following these steps, you can enhance your physical fitness and excel in your role as a correctional officer.

Remaining motivated and consistent with your physical fitness routine is crucial for success in this demanding profession. By focusing on both the intellectual and physical aspects of the job, you’ll be well-prepared and ready to excel as a California correctional officer.

Life as a California Correctional Officer: What to Expect

As a California correctional officer, you can expect to be responsible for overseeing inmates in a correctional facility, as well as providing guidance and support to inmates. In this role, you will also be known as a correctional peace officer. Correctional officers can choose from a variety of positions. These include housing officer, yard officer, visiting room officer, culinary officer, transportation officer, search and escort officer, tower officer, and administrative segregation officer.

Moreover, there are numerous career growth opportunities available for correctional officers in California, such as promotions, transfers, and specialized assignments. The rewards and challenges of this profession offer a fulfilling career for those dedicated to ensuring public safety and rehabilitation.

Compensation and Benefits for California Correctional Officers

California correctional officers can expect competitive compensation and benefits packages. The salary of a correctional officer in California varies depending on the level of experience and rank. For more detailed information on salary ranges and job outlook, refer to the following subsection.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) also offers excellent benefits for correctional officers in San Diego, such as healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off. These benefits contribute to the overall appeal of a career as a correctional officer in California.

Salary and Job Outlook

The starting salary for California state correctional officers is $3,172 per month. The most senior employees have a monthly salary of up to $6,644. Supervisory positions for correctional officers in San Diego have a salary range between $57,000 and $106,000. Federal correctional officers at the GS-5 level can expect a salary range of $31,315 to $40,706, while GS-6 officers have a range of $34,907 to $45,376.

Some of the highest-paying metropolitan areas in California for corrections officers include Bakersfield, Stockton, San Bernardino, Ontario, Sacramento, San Diego, and Fresno.

The job outlook for correctional officers in California is favorable, with the CDCR anticipating the need to recruit additional correctional officers in the foreseeable future. The potential for growth within this field is an attractive aspect of the profession, making a career as a California correctional officer an appealing choice.

Navigating the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is the penal law enforcement agency responsible for overseeing the State of California’s prison system, including community corrections centers, with an emphasis on public safety, rehabilitation, community reintegration, and restorative justice. To effectively understand the CDCR and its hiring procedures, it’s beneficial to acquaint yourself with the resources available for prospective correctional officers.

Some resources to help you better understand the CDCR process include the department’s official website,, and the California state government’s job portal, These resources offer valuable information on the hiring process, requirements, and available positions for correctional officers in California.


In conclusion, a career as a California correctional officer offers stability, excellent benefits, and opportunities for growth. To succeed in this field, it’s essential to understand the hiring process, possess the necessary skills and traits, and be prepared for the challenges and rewards that come with the job. By meeting the essential requirements, completing the various steps in the hiring process, and enhancing your candidacy through education and physical fitness preparation, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling career as a California correctional officer.

Embark on this rewarding journey today and make a difference in your community while building a successful career as a California correctional officer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a degree to be a correctional officer in California?

Yes, you need either a high school diploma or higher degree from an accredited college or university to become a correctional officer in California.

How much does a correctional officer makes in California?

The average salary for a correctional officer in California is $54,681 per year, ranging between $48,688 and $60,679. The maximum salary potential can be up to $127,000, depending on the skills, experience, employer, bonuses, tips, and other factors.

What will disqualify you from being a correctional officer in California?

Failing to meet the minimum Peace Officer Standards or having a criminal record including drug-related crimes, violent crimes, and active criminal warrants will disqualify you from becoming a correctional officer in California.

How many hours do correctional officers work in California?

California Correctional Officers work twelve-hour shifts, alternating four days and three days per two-week period, as part of their rotation among correctional facilities.

What are the essential requirements to become a California correctional officer?

To become a California correctional officer, applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and be a US citizen or legal permanent resident.

Scroll to Top