Working as a prison guard, more commonly called a corrections officer, is a demanding and rewarding career. You need a diverse set of skills to succeed in a prison environment, which constantly changes and presents new challenges. Though most institutions require only a high school diploma to apply for employment, some require a bachelor's degree or several years of related experience. Once you are employed by a correctional institution such as a jail or prison, you will receive extensive training on the job to prepare you for this challenging work.
Obtain your high school diploma. Many correctional institutions require only a high school diploma for applicants. However, to work in a federal prison you will need to obtain a bachelor's degree as well.
Gain related job experience. Though it is not always required that you have experience related to corrections work, it will make your application stand out. Experience with counseling or supervising individuals is helpful. Military experience is always viewed favorably on an application to a correctional institution.
Be in good health. Some correctional institutions require you to pass a physical exam. Even if they do not, being in good physical health and in good shape is encouraged for corrections workers as you may have to physically engage with incarcerated individuals on rare occasions. You will also need to pass a drug test.
Apply with your local department of corrections if you are interested in working in a state prison or jail. You can typically find employment information and application steps on the department's website. If you want to work for a federal prison or other federal institution, you need to apply with the Bureau of Prisons (see Resources).
Complete the training academy. Once you are hired by an institution you will spend from several weeks to months in training. In this training you will learn institution policies and procedures as well as other vital skills for succeeding as a corrections officer. You will likely have to pass a written examination at the end of your training. Federal corrections officers must complete an additional 200 hours of training during their first year of employment.