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Corrections Officer Exam Information

Corrections officers require significant formal training. Learn about the education, job duties and testing requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Corrections officers work in prisons, penitentiaries and detention centers. They are responsible for overseeing detainees and prisoners and maintaining their facility's policies and security. Prospective corrections officers must pass a qualifying exam in order to begin a career as an officer.

Required Education Variable according to work setting; a high school diploma, some college credits or a bachelor's degree, and on-the-job training at a law enforcement academy
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 5%
Median Annual Salary (May 2013)* $39,550

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is the Corrections Officer Exam?

Questions on the corrections officer exam typically cover memory, situational reasoning, grammar, mathematics, reading comprehension, inmate security and decision making ability. Most exams are about three hours long and composed of 100 multiple-choice questions. The majority of corrections officer exams are written exams, but some states, like Maryland, require both written and video-based exams. Usually, the exams are scored on a scale of 100 points, and most states require a minimum passing score of 70.


Before a prospective corrections officer can take the qualifying exam, he or she must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Some states also require prospective corrections officers to have completed a minimum number of college credits, but often this requirement will be waived if the officer has previous law enforcement or civil service experience. Many exam applicants have graduated from a law enforcement academy. Though this is a requirement in some states, it is not mandatory in all states.


Prospective corrections officers interested in taking the exam must first apply to do so at their state's corrections agency. Most states charge an application fee and ask applicants to provide information about their educational background, any law enforcement academy training and previous professional law enforcement experience. Exams are offered several times during the year, so applicants are also asked to request an exam date. Applicants will need to consult their state's law enforcement agency for the exam schedule.

What Happens After Taking the Exam?

Most states require a score of 70 or above to pass the corrections officer exam. A higher score on the exam will make an applicant more desirable to both private and state corrections agencies. After prospective officers pass the exam, they typically take an entry-level position in a correctional facility and enter further job training. States also have specific policies for candidates who fail their exam and wish to retake it. In most states, prospective corrections officers are able to take only one exam per year.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics