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

Are you considering a career as a correctional officer in Pennsylvania? Embarking on this path offers a rewarding and meaningful career, where you’ll play a critical role in maintaining security and ensuring the safety of staff and inmates within correctional facilities. This comprehensive guide on how to become a correctional officer in Pennsylvania will walk you through the requirements, application process, training programs, and career advancement opportunities to help you land the job and excel in the field of corrections.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Understand the role of a correctional officer in Pennsylvania and meet eligibility criteria such as possessing a high school diploma or GED, acceptable driving record and background investigation.

  • Complete application process including civil service exam, job interviews & selection process. Receive formal training from Corrections Training Academy & on-the-job training.

  • Advance your career through promotions/specialized positions, education/training opportunities. Gain success with strong work ethic, physical fitness & continuous learning.

Understanding the Role of a Correctional Officer in Pennsylvania

A correctional officer in Pennsylvania is responsible for maintaining security and order within state and federal correctional facilities. They have several key job duties, including:

  • Supervising inmates

  • Enforcing rules and regulations

  • Conducting inmate searches

  • Patrolling assigned areas

  • Assisting inmates with their rehabilitation efforts

The main goal of a correctional officer is to ensure the safety of both staff and inmates.

The role of a correctional officer is not limited to these responsibilities. They must also be proficient in:

  • Managing emergency situations

  • Understanding human behavior

  • Using the equipment required for their position, such as video surveillance and self-defense tools

With a starting salary of $17.75/hr for corrections officer trainees, this profession offers a stable career path for individuals with a high school diploma or GED and a strong work ethic.

Eligibility Criteria for Pennsylvania Correctional Officers

To become a correctional officer in Pennsylvania, you must meet certain eligibility criteria. These include:

  • Having a high school diploma or GED

  • Having a clean driving record

  • Passing a physical ability test

  • Passing a psychological evaluation

These job details will be detailed further in the subsequent sections.

High School Diploma or GED

The minimum educational requirement for becoming a correctional officer in Pennsylvania is a high school diploma or a state-issued GED certificate. A GED (General Educational Development) is considered equivalent to a high school diploma and can be used for applying to jobs or colleges in the same way.

Possessing a high school diploma or GED demonstrates that a candidate has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties effectively and lays the foundation for further career progression in the corrections field.

Acceptable Driving Record and Background Investigation

Having an acceptable driving record is essential for becoming a correctional officer in Pennsylvania. This means possessing a valid driver’s license with no major traffic violations or a history of reckless driving. Felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions, or DUI offenses on your driving record may disqualify you from obtaining a correctional officer position in the state.

Applicants are also required to pass an extensive background check alongside maintaining a clean driving record. This process includes a criminal history check, a review of the applicant’s driving record, and an extensive assessment of their background. Crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or drug-related offenses may disqualify an individual from becoming a correctional officer in Pennsylvania.

Physical Ability Test and Psychological Evaluation

Candidates are required to pass a physical ability test to demonstrate their strength, agility, and overall fitness, ensuring their capability to handle the demanding nature of a correctional officer’s role. To prepare for the physical ability test, it is recommended to develop a fitness plan that includes strength, endurance, and agility exercises, as well as familiarizing yourself with the specific test components.

Apart from physical fitness, candidates are also required to undergo a psychological evaluation. This evaluation is designed to assess any potential mental disturbances or personality disorders that could impact job performance. It may involve screening tests, interviews, and evaluations performed by psychology staff to ensure that candidates are mentally capable of meeting the requirements of the job.

The Application Process for Correctional Officer Jobs in Pennsylvania

Once you have met the eligibility criteria, you can proceed with the application process for correctional officer jobs in Pennsylvania. This process involves taking the civil service exam, participating in job interviews, and going through a selection process to determine the best candidates for the position.

The subsequent sections will provide a detailed overview of these steps.

Civil Service Exam

The civil service exam for Pennsylvania Correctional Officers typically comprises the following sections:

  1. Reading comprehension

  2. Written expression

  3. Basic mathematics

  4. Job-specific knowledge

  5. Memorization and recall

  6. Deductive reasoning

  7. English usage and grammar

This exam is conducted in a multiple-choice format and is administered through the State Integrated Computerized Examination system.

To effectively prepare for the civil service exam, candidates should practice with sample questions and undertake practice tests. Resources such as JobTestPrep, Prepterminal, and Practice Aptitude Tests offer practice tests, sample questions, and study guides to help you succeed. The Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission website also offers comprehensive information on the exam.

Job Interviews and Selection Process

Job interviews for correctional officer positions in Pennsylvania typically involve verifying the information provided by the applicant and exploring any information obtained during the background investigation. The interviews are designed to evaluate the candidate’s appropriateness for the role. To prepare for a correctional officer job interview, you should research the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, review common interview questions, provide examples from your past experiences, dress professionally, and demonstrate respect and professionalism.

The selection process for correctional officer jobs in Pennsylvania involves the following steps:

  1. Civil service test

  2. Conditional offer of employment

  3. Online exam or supplemental questions

  4. Screening, including background checks and drug tests

  5. Interview

This comprehensive process helps ensure that only the most qualified and suitable candidates are selected for the challenging and rewarding career of a correctional officer in Pennsylvania.

Training Programs and Academies for Pennsylvania Correctional Officers

After being selected for a correctional officer position, candidates must go through training programs and academies to prepare them for their new role. These include the Corrections Training Academy and on-the-job training during a probationary period as a corrections officer trainee.

The subsequent sections will elaborate on these formal training sessions and their contents.

Corrections Training Academy

The Corrections Training Academy in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, is responsible for providing new correctional officers with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties effectively. The academy offers a four-week basic training program, which covers topics such as:

  • Communication

  • Defensive tactics

  • Contraband control

  • Mental health in jails

  • Officer safety

Upon completion of the basic training program, candidates must pass the following steps:

  1. Corrections Officer Examination administered by the State Civil Service Administration

  2. Medical examination

  3. Physical agility test

  4. Criminal background check

  5. Psychological exam

  6. Drug screen

Completing this comprehensive correctional officer training program ensures that new correctional officers are well-prepared to handle the challenges and responsibilities of their role.

On-the-Job Training and Probationary Period

Once the Corrections Training Academy is completed, new correctional officers undergo on-the-job training at a correctional institution in Pennsylvania. During this training, officers learn to:

  • Prepare written reports

  • Respond to emergency situations

  • Prevent and resolve problems

  • Make periodic rounds and head counts

  • Monitor the activity of inmates

The probationary period for new correctional officers in Pennsylvania typically lasts one year. During this time, officers are evaluated through monthly and end-of-probationary period performance evaluations, which assess their performance and determine their eligibility for regular status as a correctional officer. Completion of the probationary period successfully is a key step in laying a strong foundation for a rewarding career in corrections.

Career Advancement Opportunities for Correctional Officers in Pennsylvania

Correctional officers in Pennsylvania have various opportunities for career advancement. These include promotions and specialized positions within the field, as well as further education and training to enhance their skills and knowledge.

The subsequent sections will elaborate on these rewarding career opportunities and career advancement opportunities.

Promotions and Specialized Positions

Correctional officers can advance their careers through promotions, which may involve advancing to higher ranks within the Department of Corrections. These promotions may be based on factors such as experience, performance, and completion of additional training or education. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections website provides detailed information on specific opportunities.

In addition to promotions, correctional officers can also pursue specialized positions within the field. These positions may include:

  • Administrative

  • Security

  • Maintenance

  • Food service

  • Education

  • Psychology

  • Medical

  • Dental

  • Other roles requiring specialized skills or qualifications

Pursuing these specialized positions can offer new challenges and opportunities for growth within the corrections field.

Further Education and Training

Further education and training can help correctional officers enhance their skills and knowledge, leading to career advancement opportunities. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections offers a range of further education opportunities for correctional officers, ranging from entry-level to professional-level employment and training programs. Accredited schools and colleges in Pennsylvania also provide degrees and training programs in corrections and criminal justice.

Achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher can enhance a correctional officer’s career prospects in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, certifications in areas such as criminal justice administration or forensic science can also be advantageous. Further education and training enhance one’s knowledge and skills while demonstrating commitment to professional development, a trait employers value when considering for promotions or higher-level positions.

Job Opportunities and Locations for Correctional Officers in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania offers numerous job opportunities for correctional officers, including:

  • 23 state correctional institutions

  • One motivational boot camp

  • Several federal correctional facilities such as Allenwood USP, Allenwood Medium FCI, Allenwood Low FCI, FCI Schuylkill, and USP Lewisburg

These facilities are scattered across various cities and towns in Pennsylvania, providing more job opportunities for correctional officers.

The average salary of a correctional officer in various cities in Pennsylvania ranges from $41,320 to $56,888 annually. With a wide range of job opportunities and locations, aspiring correctional officers in Pennsylvania have the flexibility to choose a career path that best suits their needs and preferences.

Tips for Success in the Correctional Officer Field

Maintaining a strong work ethic is imperative to excel as a correctional officer in Pennsylvania. A strong work ethic is characterized by professionalism, integrity, and dedication to one’s duties, which helps correctional officers adhere to rules and protocols, enforce discipline, and make sound ethical decisions. Additionally, a strong work ethic can foster a positive attitude, high energy, and enthusiasm for the job, which can improve officer effectiveness and contribute to a secure correctional environment.

Staying physically fit and continuously learning and adapting to new challenges and situations is another key to success in the correctional officer field. Physical fitness enables officers to effectively fulfill their duties and reduces the risk of job-related injuries. Moreover, continuously learning and adapting to new situations is essential, as correctional officers often encounter unpredictable and potentially hazardous situations that require quick thinking and decisive action.


In conclusion, becoming a correctional officer in Pennsylvania is a rewarding career path that offers job stability and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of inmates and staff within correctional facilities. By understanding the eligibility criteria, application process, and training programs, as well as pursuing career advancement opportunities and maintaining a strong work ethic, you can excel in this challenging yet fulfilling profession. Take the first step towards a rewarding career in corrections and help create a safer and more secure environment for all.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do correctional officers get paid in Pennsylvania?

The average salary for a Correctional Officer in Pennsylvania is $56,500 per year. The Corrections Officer 2021 base salary starts at $46,051.20 and up to $59,883.20 with four years of service. On average, officers also earn an annual salary of $54,450 and hourly rate of $19.87 per hour.

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

Having a felony or a criminal record related to drug or domestic violence convictions will disqualify you from being a correctional officer in PA. Moreover, crimes of violence such as murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery will also make you ineligible.

Are correctional officers considered law enforcement in Pennsylvania?

Yes, correctional officers are considered law enforcement in Pennsylvania. They hold the authority to carry out investigations, serve warrants and protect court rooms during trials.

What training is required to be a corrections officer at a jail in WV?

To become a corrections officer at a jail in WV, prospective officers must complete the West Virginia Division of Corrections (WVDOC) six-week residential academy where they will receive eight hours of daily training on topics such as population management and subject restraint and control.

What are the key duties of a correctional officer in Pennsylvania?

As a Correctional Officer in Pennsylvania, your duties include maintaining security, supervising inmates, enforcing rules and regulations, and ensuring the safety of both staff and inmates within correctional facilities.

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