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How to Become a Jail or Prison Guard

By Edited Mar 1, 2016 0 1

Jail and prison guards make a decent wage, have great health insurance benefits, and qualify for a good retirement plan. So how do you become one? If this type of career interests you, then there are some things you'll want to do in preparation. Do you think you know how to become a jail or prison guard? It may not be as difficult as you think. Although crime isn't rising from a statistical standpoint during the recession, it only stands to reason that it will if the economic slump continues. These law enforcement jobs are fairly secure during these times.
Get an Education:
You need an education? Well....sort of. Many local jail or prison guards were able to get into their positions without any sort of education beyond high school. In fact, many agencies still have no educational requirements beyond 12th grade. Still, with more and more people in the unemployment line, it would be logical to assume that competition for these jobs will continue to rise. For this reason, you need to have something that will set you apart from the average person. If you really want to become a jail or prison guard, you will only improve your chances with a formal education in corrections or law enforcement. Give yourself the best chance possible of landing a new career.
Apply for the Jobs:
You need a professional looking resume. Many agencies will also require you to fill out an application by hand, no typing allowed. If this is the case, it will say so on the application. In case you're wondering, typing an application that states it must be hand written is immediate ground for disqualification. Read and follow all directions if you want to become a jail or prison guard.
Take the Test:
Generally speaking, if you want to become a jail or prison guard you will need to take some type of written test. Don't sweat this one, it's really pretty much common sense based. There will likely be a memory portion, and alphabetizing portion, and a logic portion, just to name a few key things. How well you do on the test will be taken into consideration. Some agencies use a simple pass or fail system, others only take a certain number of the top scores to advance to interviews. Some say there is no way to prepare for this type of test, but it sure wouldn't hurt to try.
Ace the Interview:
Do some basic investigating to find out what types of interview questions you will be asked. Why do you want to work here? Tell me about yourself? What do you like least about your current job? Those are just the basics of every interview. Make sure you are prepared to answer these questions. When you want to become a jail or prison guard, you will likely face some tougher than average questions as well. Were you ever disciplined at any of your jobs? What do you do for your community? Why were you unemployed for 6 months? Have you ever used drugs? Some agencies even require a polygraph, or lie detector test after the interview to see if you answered honestly. Large cities are typically more likely to administer this type of test. It could happen. It does happen.
Get Involved in the Community:
How does being involved with the community help me to become a jail or prison guard? That's a good question. It's not at all about knowing the right people, although that will help. It's really about matching what philosophy of most law enforcement agencies. Most agencies have adopted and philosophy called "community policing." This is really a fancy way of saying the agencies want to officers to be involved with the community in ways other than work. You may already be involved and not really know it. Do you coach your kids baseball team? If so, you're showing community involvement. Do you help to organize the annual city parade? Do you work with the boy scouts? There are literally thousands of things you can do to show involvement with your community. If you want to to become a jail or prison guard, you should take the initiative to show community involvement. Even if you move for your new position, if you were active in your current community, they will assume you will be active in your new one. The members of the county board that interview you will take notice. By the way, you should dress professionally. There's nothing wrong with wearing a suit and tie. A polo shirt and khaki pants may be a black mark.
Keep a Clean Record:
Having a minor brush with the law will not necessarily disqualify you from becoming a jail or prison guard, but it sure won't help your chances. By the way, don't think that if you were a minor those doing the interview don't have access to your record, they do. Are you sure you were a minor? Most states consider you to be a minor until the age of 18, UNLESS you commit a crime. If you are convicted of ANY crime at 17, it's likely a part of your adult record. Still, this won't disqualify you. There are jail and prison guards out there with a misdemeanor or DUI on their record. If it was long ago, you will still have a shot. Explain what you've done to change your life and you can overcome a minor record.
Credit Counts:
A credit history check is a standard part of the background investigation at most agencies. If you want to become a jail or prison guard, it will help you if you have a decent credit history. This doesn't mean that a bad score will eliminate you, but it sure won't help. Most people are fairly forgiving in this area, I think most have had their share of ups and downs. Don't obsess about it, but pay attention to it. It's simply one of those things that can be used to narrow the number of candidates.
If you've ever wondered how to become a jail or prison guard, you now have an idea of only the basics. Like any other profession, there is more than meets the eye. Make sure you don't do anything to hurt your chances. You may end up with a good paying job with excellent benefits.


Jul 10, 2010 4:24pm
Great article, Jason!
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