Career outlook for prison officer

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would supervise people who are in a prison, remand centre or young offenders' institution to make sure they are secure, safe and looked after.

You would be part of a team that would help the inmates change their behaviour so they can improve their lives when they leave.

Your exact duties would depend on the type of prison, its level of security and the age of the prisoners.

In general, you would:

  • Keep inmates secure
  • Assess prisoners
  • Carry out security checks and searches
  • Promote anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies
  • Supervise prisoners
  • Maintain order, sometimes using authorised physical control
  • Prepare inmates for release
  • Provide support to prisoners who are vulnerable
  • Take part in programmes to help prisoners understand their behaviour
  • Write reports on prisoners

With experience, you could take on extra duties such as training staff and managing a section of a prison.

You would need to have the confidence to cope with prisoners who may be abusive and possibly violent.

Working conditions


You would normally work 37 hours a week, which will usually include night and weekend shifts. There are also opportunities for part-time hours and job sharing.


You may need to be prepared to move to another part of the country for work. Although your work would mainly take place indoors, you would also have some duties outdoors, for example when patrolling the grounds or supervising recreation. This work can be emotionally and physically demanding.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Attention to detail
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  • Building relationships
  • Observation

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You'll need five National 5 qualifications including English and maths. 

You would attend an assessment centre. The assessments include numerical and verbal reasoning tests, a formal interview and fitness testing. 

Once in the role, you would complete an SVQ Level 3 in Custodial Care.


Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by most employers require)
  • English (required by most employers require)
  • Physical education
  • Social studies
  • Modern studies
  • Psychology

You will also need

  • You must be a UK National, a Commonwealth Citizen, a British Protected Person or a national of the European Economic Area
  • For some posts you must have been resident in the UK for at least three years
  • In Scotland, you must be aged 18 to 63 to apply
  • You need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland
  • To pass pre-employment checks which include character and employer references and a medical examination

Helpful to have

Qualifications that demonstrate understanding of protective services, physical and mental fitness and commitment to your community such as Skills for Work Uniformed and Emergency Services (SCQF level 4) or SQA  Volunteering Skills Award (SCQF level 3-5).