Corrections Officer Exam Information

Oct 20, 2021

To become a correctional officer, passing an exam is required. Once complete, on-the-job training will ensue. Some correctional officer positions will also require college credits or previous civil service or law enforcement experience.

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; may include 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 (2019-2029)* 7% decline (for correctional officers, jailers, and bailiffs)
Median Annual Salary (May 2019)* $45,300 (for correctional officers and jailers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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.

Correctional officer exams are available multiple times throughout the year in every state. A high school diploma or GED is the main requirement; however, college credits might be required in some cases, and previous law enforcement experience can be beneficial. The current prospective job growth for correctional officers is expected to decline through at least 2028, according to the BLS.

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