How to Become a Correctional Officer in California?

Correctional officers work for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). It is one of the biggest law enforcement bodies in the country. A correctional officer’s job is considered an entry-level position, which requires rigorous training and preparation.

How to Become a Correctional Officer in California
How to Become a Correctional Officer in California

California is home to several federal correctional facilities and community corrections centers. Have a look:

Facility Level of Security Gender
Federal Correctional Institution Herlong Medium and Minimum Security Males
Federal Correctional Institution Dublin Low and Minimum Security Males & Females
US Penitentiary Atwater High Security Prison and Low Security Camp Males
Federal Correctional Institution Mendota Medium and Minimum Security Males
Federal Correctional Complex Medium, Minimum and Low Security Males
Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles Detention Males & Females
Federal Correctional Institution Terminal Island Low Security Males
Metropolitan Correctional Center San Diego Awaiting Trial or Transition Males & Females
Federal Correctional Complex High and Medium Security Males

If you want to join any of these as a correctional officer, the following information on how to become a correctional officer in California would be of use to you:

Minimum Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in California

Before you begin the application process, it is important that you meet a certain set of minimum requirements, as laid down by the state. These are as follows:

  • Candidate must be a US citizen (or should have applied for it)
  • Candidate should be at last 21 years of age
  • All applicants need to have a high school diploma or a GED at least
  • Applicants shouldn’t have felony convictions
  • Candidates should be eligible to own a firearm in the state of California

Steps to Become a Correctional Officer in California

To become a correctional officer in California, you will need to follow a series of steps. Before you begin the application process, you need to determine whether you want to work at the state, local or federal level. If you are interested in working at federal facilities, it will be preferable for you to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related subject. Similarly, if you want to apply to higher ranks, a 4-year long bachelor’s degree may be needed. Once you have met all the requirements, you will need to begin the application process.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a correctional officer in California:

Step 1: Pass the Written Exam:

You will be notified about this exam within 10 days of submitting your application. The notification will give you details such as your ID number and login instructions. The historic pass rate for this entrance exam is 87% and you will be given one hour and forty-five minutes to complete it. Preparation materials and sample tests are available on the CDCR website.

Step 2: Clear the Physical Fitness Test (PFT):

The PFT will test the ability of the candidates to perform various physical activities at the academy and on active duty. You will be required to complete the following:

  • A 500-yard course on different surfaces
  • Carry two 45-pound heavy kettle bells for a 50 yard distance
  • Carry one 45-pound weight for 75 yards
  • Carry one 30-pound weight for 110 yards

This course needs to be completed within 5 minutes and 5 seconds, or less.

Step 3: Clear a Background Check:

This would be a comprehensive check about the applicant’s employment history, residence, relationships and financial records along with criminal records. You will also be required to submit your fingerprints for further processing and screening. For verification purposes, past co-workers, family members, etc. will also be contacted.

Step 4: Pass a Vision Test:

You will need to have 20/20 vision in each eye. If not, you will need to provide a written certificate from an optometrist stating that your vision is correctable to 20/20 in each eye. You will need to inform the department if you use any kind of corrective lenses.

Step 5: Pass a Psychological Exam:

This will be divided into two sections – (1) A Written Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation (POPE) and (2) Peace Officer Psychological Screening Interview. Candidates will be emailed by the Psychological Screening Program for the interview scheduling, which will be conducted by a licensed psychologist. Make sure you check your email on a daily basis, including the “spam” or “junk” folders.

Step 6: Clear the Medical Screening:

The Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEM) will be a comprehensive test administered by a licensed physician. This test cannot be rescheduled, and candidates who fail to appear for it, will be disqualified from the application process.

Step 7: Become Eligible for Hire:

Once you have completed all these steps, you will be placed on a certification list, from where you will be appointed as a Correctional Officer when the need arises.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Correctional Officer in California?

The application and hiring process to become a correctional officer in California may take 12 to 18 months. Once your application has been received, you will be notified within 10 days of your exam date. Candidates who pass this exam successfully will have a physical fitness test scheduled for the following month. The background check that follows takes approximately 90 days to complete, and may take longer in certain cases.

How much does a Correctional Officer make in California?

O*NET OnLine lists the salaries of Correctional Officers and Jailers as $75,480 annually in the state of California. The national median salary for correctional officers is $43,540. Even though the percentage change in employment due to growth and net replacement is low, the higher salary offering makes the job of a correctional officer in California a very attractive prospect.