Home > Blog > How to Become a Correctional Officer in California
by SJVC on April 1, 2016 · 10:00 am
[Updated with new BLS data on September 26, 2019]
California has a huge amount of correctional facilities, community corrections centers and administrative offices that require correctional officers. Those considering California corrections jobs will find plenty of career opportunities, with competitive salaries in an in-demand profession.
If you’re considering a career as a correctional officer in California, you may have the following questions:
This article will provide answers to all of these questions, along with insights from experts in the field of corrections.
Like any job with the California Department of Corrections, there are specific requirements to become a correctional officer. The requirements to become a California correctional officer include:
The application for a job as a correctional officer includes an online application process. The hiring process is lengthy, and can take as long as 12 to 18 months to complete.
Once your application has been received, you will be notified within four to six months of the date of your Written Examination¹.
Candidates who successfully complete the Written Examination will be scheduled to attend the CDCR physical test² in the following month. Candidates will be fingerprinted by Live Scan after they pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT).
Candidates are required to complete the Personal History Statement (PHS). The PHS is an extensive document used to collect information regarding applicants’ past residences, acquaintances and employment histories.
All responses to questions answered within the submitted PHS will be verified through the background investigation and Computerized Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) examination. Candidates will be scheduled for the Pre-Investigatory Interview (PII), which is the beginning of the Background Investigation (BI) process. The purpose of this recorded interview is to provide the opportunity to clarify information submitted by the candidate for the position applied.
Candidates must go through a thorough background investigation prior to their appointment or training as a Correctional Peace Officer. Once a candidate’s background investigation has been cleared, the information is sent to the Psychological Screening Unit. Candidates will be scheduled for a written Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation (POPE). This evaluation consists of a series of questions candidates respond to based upon their personal preferences. The information will be used in the Oral POPE.
Candidates also will be scheduled for a vision test. This test checks a candidate’s visual acuity and color vision. If the candidate does not have 20/20 vision in each eye, a written certification is required from an optometrist or ophthalmologist indicating that vision is correctable to 20/20 in each eye.
In addition, candidates will be scheduled for an Employment Medical Examination.
Prior to reporting to the correctional officer program, candidates are responsible for ensuring they are free from tuberculosis with a certification from their physician.
After successfully completing all of the selection components, candidates are placed on the certification list, which gives them eligibility to be appointed as a Correctional Peace Officer. All candidates eligible for appointment as a Correctional Peace Officer must successfully complete the 12-week Basic Correctional Officer Academy.
In California, correctional officers should have the following skills:
The best way to prepare for the Written Examination is to view the Sample Written Selection³ available on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) website.
While the questions are different from those on the Sample Written Selection on the CDCR site, candidates can gain a grasp of what analytical skills will be expected of them, and the scenarios officers encounter on a daily basis.
Additionally, candidates could prepare for the written examination by taking courses in Criminal Justice: Corrections, Math, and English.
In order to prepare for the CDCR physical test (also known as the Physical Fitness Test, or PFT), students should engage in a physical fitness program designed to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.
An Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice: Corrections can not only help to provide students with the analytical skills and abilities that could help them do better on the exam, but could also potentially enhance students’ ability to promote up the chain of command once they enter the profession
All correctional officers will be on probation for the first 12 qualifying pay periods. Once a correctional officer is assigned to an institution, he or she will normally be placed in a job assignment and attend orientation. New corrections officers will be assigned to one of three shifts, also known as watches.
During the two-year apprentice period, correctional officers will alternate between different job positions and watches to gain broad experience in corrections. They may also be assigned as vacation and holiday relief officers.
There are many job positions where correctional officers may work, including housing officer, yard officer, visiting room officer, culinary officer, transportation officer, search and escort officer, tower officer, and administrative segregation officer.
California is the highest-paying state for correctional officers4 (Source: BLS.gov, May 2018), with an annual mean wage of $75,400. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several of the top-paying metropolitan areas in the country for corrections officers are in California, including Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Ontario, Stockton, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
Corrections officers in California are paid at various salary ranges based on experience, education and level of training. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, correctional officer salary ranges5 are between $3,788 and $7,782 per month. Benefits include:
The criminal justice profession provides several in-demand career opportunities, including careers as correctional officers. To learn more about enrolling in SJVC’s Criminal Justice: Corrections Program, view our program details and request more information today!
¹ https://www.correctionalofficer.org/practice-test ² https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/career_opportunities/por/Selection.html ³ https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/por/wp-content/uploads/sites/162/2019/06/coycoycc-sample-test-4.pdf 4 https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333012.htm#st 5 http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Career_Opportunities/POR/Pay.html
Posted in Criminal Justice: Corrections