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

Are you ready to embark on a rewarding and fulfilling career that makes a real difference in your community? Learning how to become a correctional officer in Virginia might be the perfect fit for you. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of becoming a correctional officer in Virginia, from meeting the necessary requirements to understanding the training, job duties, and career advancement opportunities. Get ready to unlock your future and make a lasting impact on public safety.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Virginia Correctional Officers must meet minimum qualifications including education, experience, physical and mental fitness, and background checks.

  • The application process involves an online form as well as providing valid documents for a fingerprint-based criminal history check.

  • Virginia correctional officers receive competitive salary and benefits with career advancement opportunities available through promotions or specialized units.

Virginia Correctional Officer Requirements

Certain requirements must be met before you can serve as a correctional officer in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) has established these minimum qualifications to ensure that the public safety mission is carried out by a competent and diverse workforce. These requirements include:

  • Education

  • Experience

  • Physical and mental fitness

  • Background checks

These factors are crucial in ensuring safe and secure operations in correctional facilities across the Commonwealth.

Education and Experience

Meeting the minimum education requirements is the first step towards becoming a correctional officer in Virginia. A high school diploma or equivalent GED is required to apply for a correctional officer position. However, having additional experience or higher education can be advantageous, as it may result in increased remuneration and greater opportunities for advancement.

For example, military or related experience, coursework in criminal justice, or higher education are all beneficial when pursuing correctional officer jobs in Virginia.

Physical and Mental Fitness

A secure environment necessitates that correctional officers maintain both physical and mental fitness to handle its challenges and demands. To become a correctional officer in Virginia, applicants must successfully pass a background investigation, medical screening, and drug testing. During the application process, candidates will be evaluated in areas such as agility, endurance, and strength.

Mental health requirements may also include undergoing mental health training and having the capacity to offer basic mental health services to inmates.

Background Checks and Drug Testing

Thorough background checks and drug testing are part of the hiring process to guarantee the safety and security of Virginia’s correctional facilities. The background investigations may involve:

  • Evaluation of criminal history

  • Employment history

  • Education verification

  • Reference checks

  • Credit check

  • Drug testing

Prospective Virginia correctional officers are required to undergo a pre employment drug screen as part of the application process, and random drug tests may also be conducted.

The Application Process for Virginia Correctional Officers

Once the necessary requirements are met, you can proceed to navigate the application process for correctional officer positions in Virginia. The application process involves submitting an online application, providing required documentation, and participating in an interview. Be prepared for a thorough evaluation, as the commonwealth alternative hiring process can take several weeks to a few months.

With determination and perseverance, you’ll be one step closer to a rewarding career as a correctional officer in Virginia.

Online Application

Commence your journey towards becoming a correctional officer in Virginia by following these steps:

  1. Visit the Virginia Jobs website.

  2. Search for open positions.

  3. Submit your application via an online account.

  4. Applications must be submitted before the closing date. The latest time they can be submitted is 11:55 pm.

Applying for multiple correctional officer positions in Virginia is made easy by using the interagency placement screening form through Virginia’s electronic recruitment system.

Required Documentation

Documentation verifying your identity and qualifications will be needed during the application process. This may include:

  • Completing an I-9 form

  • Providing original or certified documents that verify your identity, such as a valid driver’s license

  • Providing documentation of your education credentials, such as a high school diploma or equivalent GED

If you have prior minor offenses, a thorough investigation will be conducted, including fingerprint-based criminal history checks.

Interview Process

The interview process is designed to assess the qualifications and suitability of candidates for correctional officer positions in Virginia. During the interview, you may be asked questions about:

  • Your competencies

  • Your background

  • Your ability to manage complex situations

  • Your familiarity with correctional regulations and protocols

  • Your ability to work within a team

To ensure a successful interview, it’s crucial to be honest, transparent, prepared, and demonstrate effective communication skills.

Training and Academies for Virginia Correctional Officers

Upon completion of the application process and securing employment, the next phase of your journey, training, begins. Virginia correctional officers must complete a training academy to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively perform their duties. The training covers various aspects, such as:

  • Professionalism

  • Basic corrections officer firearms training

  • Field training

  • And more

With rigorous training, you will be well-equipped to handle the challenges and responsibilities of a correctional officer in Virginia.

Training Length and Curriculum

The training length and curriculum for Virginia correctional officers include an initial training requirement, a three-week training program, orientation training, and a comprehensive curriculum for Virginia correctional officer training. During the training, you will learn about facility policies and procedures, classroom instruction, practicum, substance abuse training, defensive tactics, and more.

Veteran officers, including other nation service alumni, also have access to additional courses and certifications.

Academy Locations

Several training academies exist for correctional officers in Virginia, such as:

  • The Basic Jail Officer Program

  • The Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy

  • The Henrico Student Basic Jailor Academy

  • The Academy for Staff Development (ASD), located in Crozier

  • ASD-West, situated in Marion

These academies provide the essential training and resources necessary for the development of competent and skilled correctional officers.

Post-Graduation Assignments

Upon successful completion of your training and graduation from a correctional officer academy, a period of supervised on-the-job training commences. During this time, you will typically work alongside experienced corrections officers, supervising the daily activities of inmates, ensuring that inmates adhere to the established rules, and maintaining security.

This hands-on experience will further solidify your skills and knowledge as a correctional officer, preparing you for the challenges and rewards ahead.

Career Advancement Opportunities for Correctional Officers in Virginia

A variety of career advancement opportunities are accessible as a correctional officer in Virginia. With dedication and hard work, you can progress to higher ranks, join specialized units, and develop your skills through further education and certifications. Professional associations also offer valuable networking and resources to support your career growth.

By actively pursuing these opportunities with an equal opportunity employer, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling and successful career as a correctional officer in Virginia.

Promotions and Specialized Units

In Virginia, correctional officers have the opportunity to advance to higher ranks, such as Corporal, Sergeant, and Lieutenant. Specialized units also exist within the Virginia correctional system, including the Special Investigations Unit, which investigates felony and misdemeanor violations within or against the Virginia Department of Corrections.

By gaining experience and demonstrating exceptional performance, you can progress through the ranks and join specialized units, further enhancing your career prospects.

Further Education and Certifications

Further education and certifications can contribute significantly to advancing your career as a correctional officer in Virginia. Opportunities such as the Certified Corrections Officer/Provisional (CCO/P) certification, college programs, and continuing education courses can enhance your knowledge and skills, leading to increased job opportunities and career progression.

By investing in your professional development, you’ll be better equipped to excel in your career and make a positive impact in the field of corrections.

Networking and Professional Associations

For your career as a correctional officer in Virginia, networking and participation in professional associations can yield numerous benefits. Associations like the Virginia Correctional Association, the American Correctional Association, and the Southern States Correctional Association offer valuable resources, networking opportunities, and support for career growth.

By actively engaging with your professional community, you’ll be better positioned to advance your career and contribute to the field of corrections.

Working Conditions and Job Duties of Virginia Correctional Officers

Serving as a correctional officer in Virginia, your vital role entails:

  • Ensuring public safety

  • Maintaining order within correctional facilities

  • Supervising inmate activities

  • Enforcing rules and regulations

  • Responding to emergencies

While the job can be challenging and demanding, the impact you make on the lives of inmates and your community is immeasurable. By understanding the working conditions and job duties of a correctional officer, you’ll be better prepared to embrace the challenges and rewards that come with this fulfilling career.

Inmate Supervision and Custody

In Virginia, the primary responsibility of a correctional officer is to:

  • Maintain immediate control, supervise, and enforce inmate compliance with the established rules

  • Oversee the care and custody of all inmates, ensuring their safety and well-being while they serve their sentences

  • Play a crucial role in maintaining a safe and secure environment within the correctional facility

Safety Protocols and Procedures

In a correctional facility, safety is of utmost importance, and correctional officers are responsible for adhering to established safety protocols and procedures. This includes:

  • Adhering to federal, state, and local fire and safety codes

  • Emergency planning and preparation

  • Maintaining workplace sanitation and disinfecting practices

By diligently following safety protocols and procedures in your designated safety sensitive position, you contribute to the overall safety and security of the facility, staff, and inmates.

Shift Schedules and Work-Life Balance

The demanding nature of the job can make maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a correctional officer in Virginia challenging. Shift schedules may vary, with officers working 8 or 10-hour shifts and covering different shift times. Virginia correctional officers can benefit from various flexible scheduling options, including:

  • Four 10-hour days

  • Rotational shifts

  • Flexible hours

  • Job sharing

By finding the right balance between work and personal life, you’ll be able to manage the challenges of your profession and maintain overall well-being.

Salary and Benefits for Virginia Correctional Officers

As a Virginia correctional officer, a competitive salary and benefits package awaits you, including:

  • Health insurance

  • Life insurance

  • Disability insurance

  • Availability of supplemental insurances through payroll deduction

  • Paid time off

  • Retirement plans

With a rewarding career as a correctional officer, you’ll enjoy financial stability and the satisfaction of making a difference in your community.

Salary Range and Pay Grades

The average salary for a Virginia correctional officer is estimated at approximately $49,507 per year or $24.39 per hour, with entry-level positions typically starting at around $39,000 per year. The pay grades for correctional officers in Virginia may vary based on factors such as experience, education, and job responsibilities.

As you gain experience and develop your skills, your earning potential will likely increase, providing a stable and rewarding career.

Health and Retirement Benefits

Virginia correctional officers enjoy comprehensive health benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. Supplemental insurances are also available through payroll deduction, providing additional coverage options tailored to your needs. Retirement benefits are provided through the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), a qualified 401(a) defined benefit plan.

These benefits ensure a secure future for you and your family as you serve your community in the field of corrections.

Vacation and Sick Leave

Each month that Virginia correctional officers work at least one full day, they accrue vacation time, with the total annual vacation days varying by county policy. Sick leave is also available, with officers entitled to 48 hours of accrued sick leave per annum.

These policies ensure that you have the necessary time off to rest, recharge, and maintain your overall well-being while serving as a correctional officer in Virginia.

Top Correctional Facilities in Virginia

Several top correctional facilities in Virginia each play a critical role in public safety and inmate rehabilitation. These facilities include:

  • Pocahontas State Correctional Center

  • US Penitentiary Lee

  • Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg

  • RSW Regional Jail

By gaining an understanding of these facilities and their unique characteristics, you’ll be better prepared to choose the right correctional facility for your career path.

Pocahontas State Correctional Center

Established in the 1990s, the Pocahontas State Correctional Center is a medium-security facility that offers various programs and services to support inmate rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community. These include:

  • Inmate Work Activities

  • Substance Abuse Treatment

  • Educational Programs

  • Vocational Training

  • Counseling Services

  • Re-entry Programs

The center can house 1,000 inmates in the general population and 24 inmates in the segregation units.

As a correctional officer at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, you’ll play an integral role in providing security and fostering an environment conducive to positive change.

US Penitentiary Lee

Located in Virginia, the US Penitentiary Lee is a high-security federal prison for male inmates, accommodating both maximum and minimum-security inmates. Established in 2001, this facility is known for its stringent security measures and diverse inmate population.

Working as a correctional officer at US Penitentiary Lee will require you to uphold the highest standards of security and professionalism to ensure the safety of both staff and inmates.

Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg

Low- and medium-security male inmates are housed at the Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg, a federal correctional facility. Established in 1932, this facility offers a range of programs and services for inmates, including:

  • Vocational training and apprenticeship programs

  • Adult Continuing Education courses

  • A prisoner re-entry program

  • A non-residential drug abuse treatment program

As a correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg, you will have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of inmates through rehabilitation and re-entry support.

RSW Regional Jail

Located in Front Royal, Virginia, RSW Regional Jail is a medium-security county/regional facility designed for male offenders. With a capacity of 375 beds and the potential for expansion to 623 beds, RSW Regional Jail offers inmates opportunities for personal growth through academic and life skills programs, as well as substance abuse treatment programs.

As a correctional officer at RSW Regional Jail, you’ll be part of a team dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment for inmates to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.


Embarking on a career as a correctional officer in Virginia offers the opportunity to make a difference in your community and contribute to public safety. From meeting the necessary requirements and navigating the application process to understanding the training, job duties, and career advancement opportunities, this comprehensive guide has provided the information you need to take the first steps towards a rewarding career in corrections. With dedication, professionalism, and a passion for helping others, you can unlock your future and make a lasting impact in the field of corrections.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is Correctional Officer training in Virginia?

Correctional Officer training in Virginia typically lasts 200 hours.

Are Virginia correctional officers law enforcement?

Virginia correctional officers are, in fact, a part of the law enforcement sector since they are employed in Virginia for their role in implementing justice and reform.

What’s the most a Correctional Officer can make?

A Correctional Officer can make up to $103,000 per year, depending on their seniority level. This professional post requires an associate’s degree or vocational school training. Average salaries for this position range from $32,830 – $69,610.

What are the minimum qualifications to become a correctional officer in Virginia?

In order to become a correctional officer in Virginia, one must possess a high school diploma or GED, a valid driver’s license, the ability to lawfully possess a firearm, and successfully complete pre-employment requirements such as medical screening, background check, and drug testing.

What types of facilities do correctional officers in Virginia work in?

Correctional officers in Virginia work in state prisons, federal prisons, and county/regional jails.

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