How to Become a Corrections Officer With the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

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The Department of Corrections for the state of Pennsylvania provides corrections officers for over 65 state, community and contract facilities that house over 50,000 inmates as of July 2011. These corrections officers have a wide variety of duties, from maintaining secured facilities to the transportation of inmates. Regardless of their particular duty though, most Pennsylvania corrections officers follow the same path for entry into the system--a path that begins with a civil service exam followed by training through the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Training Academy, and ends in a uniformed position with the department.

Contact the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission’s Information Services Unit at 717-787-7811 to determine the next date and time that the computerized civil service exam is given for Corrections Officer Trainee positions. The exam is usually available at the Civil Service Commission offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Monday through Friday.

Take the computerized Civil Service Exam for Corrections Officer Trainee at the provided location on the next available date. They may also present the exam in paper form. You have 3 hours to complete the exam, covering a variety of topics including problem solving, observation, understanding regulations, and following oral and written instructions. There are 120 questions on the exam and your position on the job seeker’s list for an opening is determined by how well you do. The exam also acts as an application for employment with the Pennsylvania Civil Service.

Select a list of Pennsylvania counties in which you’ll be willing to work when you fill out your exam. When a position becomes free in an institution in one of the counties, you’ll receive a conditional offer of employment by the institution. Fill out the form requesting additional information with the offer and sign the form giving permission for a background check.

Report to the location to which you are directed for testing. You’ll need to pass a physical ability test, medical exam, psychological evaluation, the background check and a drug test. If you pass them all, you’ll be sent to Elizabethtown, PA., to attend the five-week training program at the Department of Corrections Training Academy.

Pass the weekly test given at the training academy to pass the training course. Training includes defensive tactics, first aid, weapons training and conflict resolution, and lasts 200 hours in total. You’ll need a minimum of 70 percent to pass, and you’ll also need to qualify with both the .38 caliber revolver and 12-gauge shotgun. Upon passing the course you’ll begin working a one year probationary period at the institution that sent you the employment package. After the successful probation period, you’ll receive a promotion to Corrections Officer 1.

Tips & Warnings

  • You must be a Pennsylvania resident and 21 years of age to apply for a position as Corrections Officer Trainee.

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