How to Become a Correctional Officer in Washington?

The Department of Corrections in Washington has more than 8,000 law enforcement personnel working for it in various prison facilities across the State. 3,000 of these are Correctional Officers that work in 12 different prisons. These officers dedicate their time and efforts to ensuring public safety along with having a positive impact on the lives of inmates. Correctional Officers act as pro-social role models for inmates by exhibiting excellent behavior and punishing them where necessary. As a Correctional Officer (CO), you will be at the center of these goals set by the Department of Corrections.

If you want to join this department, you need to follow a series of steps to become a correctional officer in Washington.

How to Become a Correctional Officer in Washington
How to Become a Correctional Officer in Washington

Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in Washington

Before you formally begin the application process, you are advised to ensure that you meet all the basic qualification requirements. These are generally on the following lines:

  • Candidate must be a US Citizen
  • Candidate should be at least 21 years of age and at maximum, 37 years of age
  • Candidate should not have any felony or serious misdemeanor convictions
  • Candidate should not have any financial issues to his name
  • Candidate ought to be in a good physical shape
  • Candidate should have at least a high school diploma or a GED for state level jobs, and at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field for federal level jobs
  • Candidate should have a valid driver’s license
  • Candidate must have a legal right to carry a fire arm

Steps to Become a Correctional Officer in Washington

Once you have met all the minimum requirements, you will need to begin the application and hiring process to get on the road to becoming a Correctional Officer in Washington. This process is split into four phases.

Phase 1

Qualifications Screening:

Once the department has received your online application, they will carry out an initial screening to determine whether you meet the qualification criteria or not.

Invitation to Hiring Event:

This will be an information session where you will be given a presentation about the Washington Department of Corrections, along with the particular facility you have applied to.

Phase 2

Hiring Event:

This would be the interview conducted by qualified staff at the facility along with staff from HR department. The questions asked here will evaluate you in terms of your experience and past employment history, along with testing your ability to work in a law enforcement facility. You may be asked competency and behavioral based questions to judge your suitability for working in a prison environment.

Professional Reference Checks:

If you successfully clear the interview, the DOC will then contact your professional references, including your past employers and supervisors. This will help them determine your performance in a professional environment and your ability to handle pressure and work load. You will be required to provide at least three professional references.

Criminal History Check:

This check is done to ensure you get clearance to the facility in case you are hired. You will be asked to complete the necessary forms during the hiring event.

Phase 3

Conditional Job Offer:

At this point, a successful completion of the previous steps would mean receiving a conditional job offer letter. This would be contingent upon the successful fulfillment of certain required tests and activities.

Psychological Battery:

This is a set of three exams meant to ensure that you are in a healthy mental condition, required for a job as tough as that of a Correctional Officer. The results for this exam are reviewed at a later stage by staff psychologists.

Phase 4

Pre-Employment Drug Screening:

If you are among the candidates who have made it to the fourth phase, you will be required to clear a pre-employment drug test.

Psychological Interview:

This would be a pre-scheduled interview with a licensed psychologist, which would last for an hour. The psychologist will judge you based on your responses on the psychological battery exams and will ask more questions to determine your potential behaviors and reactions in certain situations.

Once you have cleared phase 4, the hiring process itself has finished. The results from all the phases are compiled and presented to a higher authority for reviewing and final selection. The candidates who come out on top will be offered the opportunity to begin working at the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Your orientation at the facility will be scheduled and eventually, you will start your six weeks of paid training at the Correctional Worker Core (CWC) Academy.

How Much Does a Correctional Officer Make in Washington?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for Correctional Officers and Jailers in Washington, as of May 2017, was $55,270. The number of people employed in 2016 was 7,820, which is expected to rise to 8,380 by 2026, as per data from O*NET OnLine. This projected 7% increase in job openings, along with a relatively higher salary than the national mean, is a highly positive concern for aspiring correctional officers in Washington. Even though jobs in this category are declining in the country, it continues to be an attractive prospect for people in Washington.

So, if you are considering becoming a Correctional Officer in Washington, now would be a great time to plan your application and begin the hiring process.