Prison Officer

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects
Openings 5 years to November 2018: 10,001 to 25,000
Salary Range
Median weekly earnings: $1201 to $1500 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
If a discipline-oriented career that involves supervising others appeals to you, then why not consider becoming a prison officer?

There are currently around 400 prison officers employed in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the personal and other services industry. Most persons in this occupation are male and over half are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has an older age profile with over half of prison officers aged 45 years or older.
  • If unlocking and locking doors is all that springs to mind when you think about a prison officer at work, then think again. Its but one of a number of duties that prison officers undertake in their responsibility for the custody, care and supervision of people in prisons and other correctional services. Upholding discipline and security is an important part of the job.

    Prisoner officers observe and supervise offenders, ensure that they do not possess any prohibited substances or objects and report on unruly behaviour. They check that cells, doors and windows are secure, and that offenders have been locked in their cells at the appropriate times. However, they also deal with the health needs of offenders and advise if an offender needs special attention, such as a medical consultation. In addition, they handle administrative duties, including the reception and induction of prisoners, and assist in the rehabilitation of offenders by working with small groups on re-education and rehabilitation programs. They may also be required to work as a field supervisor on a work camp. Tasks will vary according to the security level of the prison in which they are employed.

  • Of those currently employed there are 41% who have either a Certificate III or IV, 5% who have either and Advanced Diploma or a Diploma and 42% have no post school qualifications.

    You can work as a prison officer without formal qualifications, but employers usually require Year 10. To gain employment you will need to complete an assessment examination with the Department for Correctional Services. The assessment includes literacy and numeracy tests and a psychological questionnaire. Successful applicants are then interviewed and are required to undergo a pre-employment medical examination and pass a National Police Check. If offered employment you must complete an induction and training and show satisfactory performance in the 12-month traineeship period. You will be required to undertake the training necessary to achieve competence in the Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial).

    A current South Australian Driver's Licence is essential and you must obtain a Senior First Aid Certificate prior to employment.

    TAFE SA offers Provide First Aid short course. Check the website for further details.

  • Demand for prison officers is affected by the level of government funding for prisons and correctional institutions, crime levels, alternative strategies such as home detention, community service orders and the consequent size of the prison population. Vacancies generally only occur as existing staff resign. Typically, there are more applicants than positions, and competition for vacancies is intense. Although current demand is low, there is moderate employment growth predicted, and coupled with above average job turnover, job prospects in the longer term are cited as good.

  • Prison officers are responsible for the custody, care and supervision of inmates in prisons and correctional centres. Their duties increasingly involve the care of inmates and their welfare needs. They may be involved in searching inmates and cells for illegal articles, drugs, valuables and weapons. They also observe the conduct and behaviour of inmates to maintain control, discipline and security within the correctional centre. They also provide advise if inmates need special care, such as a visit to a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker. Other duties include patrolling assigned areas and report to superiors or other workers any breach of rules, unsatisfactory attitudes or adjustment problems of inmates and guard inmates in transit between correctional centres and court rooms, police lock-ups or other institutions. Prison officers also prepare a variety of reports including admission and incident reports as well as assist in the risk/needs assessment of inmates and have input into their case and sentence management. They also provide leadership and act as a role model to assist the rehabilitation process within a correctional institution

    Prison officers can be required to work shifts including weekends and public holidays and may be transferred anywhere within their state or territory. In some states, case management is an important aspect of their work. This gives individual officers the chance to work with small groups of 10 to 15 inmates within a re-education and rehabilitation program.

  • Prison officers must be self-disciplined, assertive, have excellent conflict resolution skills, and be physically fit with good vision. It's also important to work well with a broad range of people and be able to follow orders. Honesty, professionalism, a sense of responsibility, being a team player and being considerate of others, are important qualities.

    Significant improvements are underway in the administration of prison services, which will impact on the type of person recruited as a prison officer. ''These changes will ensure that prison service programs are amongst the best in the world.

    Research indicates a trend towards focusing on custody and well-being, reparation and rehabilitation. Therefore, the Ministry is looking for high calibre staff who have good people skills, are able to accept responsibility, have good judgement and use their initiative.'' Reducing the number of people who re-offend and return to prison is the overall objective of the Ministry of Justice, which employs prison officers. Only Australian citizens who pass an Australia wide police clearance can work as a prison officer.

  • Prison officers are required to work on a shift basis within a planned roster system. This includes work on weekends and public holidays but can allow for up to six consecutive days off. The majority of shifts are of 12 hours duration. Prison officers must be willing to work at any of the prison centres throughout the State.

    They may also specialise in areas such as dog squads, transport and escort of offenders, and field supervision on work camps.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online