Virginia Corrections Officer Job Description

Corrections is one of the fastest growing careers in the State of Virginia’s law enforcement field. The recent starting salary for an entry level officer was between $27,486-$31,812 a year, depending on previous experience and qualifications. Working as a corrections officer is quite unlike a normal nine-to-five desk job; officers assist in the reform process of prisoners while at the same time maintaining facility safety, order, and discipline.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates two major correctional facilities in Virginia.  The U.S. Penitentiary in Lee is a high security facility with an adjacent minimum security prison camp.  The Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg consists of a low security Federal Correctional Institution as well as a medium security one. In the latest population count, there were 5,039 inmates housed in these facilities.

Application and Hiring Process

Federal Correctional Officers

Federal correctional officer jobs may be found at Once there, applicants will be asked to verify their eligibility, which include

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have a criminal history without felony or serious misdemeanor convictions
  • Be between 20 and 37 years of age
  • Have a good credit history

When applying for federal correctional officer jobs, candidates may seek a GS-5 or GS-6 pay grade.  The educational and experience requirements for GS-5 jobs are:

  • Have at least three years of experience in
    • Management
    • Sales
    • Security
    • Emergency response
    • Teaching
    • Child care; or
  • Have a bachelor’s degree

The requirements for GS-6 jobs are

  • Have at least one year of experience in
    • Corrections/detentions
    • Law enforcement
    • Mental health treatment; or
  • Have at least nine semester hours of graduate study in law, social science, or criminal justice
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Virginia Department of Corrections

Applications for correctional officer jobs in Virginia may only be completed online. Those interested in applying can search for open positions on Virginia’s employment website and submit their application through an online account. There are 35 major correctional units and institutions across the state and numerous other minor facilities that post job announcements seeking corrections officers. The human resources office will review all completed applications to ensure candidates meet the minimum qualifications and pass on a list of the top names to the hiring manager.

Applicants will then have to navigate the hiring process, making it through first an interview and then a four-part agility and endurance test consisting of:

  • Push-ups: Females must complete two push-ups and males must complete 12
  • Sit-ups: All candidates must complete 12 sit-ups in one minute
  • Sprint: All candidates must complete a 51 meter/56 yards/168-foot sprint in 20 seconds or less
  • Half mile run/walk to be completed in six minutes and 30 seconds or less

If candidates are selected for hire they must also make it through a background investigation, medical screening, and drug testing.

Training for the Correctional System

Federal Correctional Officers

Federal correctional officers must initially receive 80 hours of training at their assigned facility.  They must then attend a three week training program held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy in Glynco, GA. This program will provide training in

  • Firearms
  • Marksmanship
  • Self-defense
  • Correctional policies and procedures
  • Legal issues
  • Vehicle operations

Virginia Department of Corrections

The Virginia Department of Corrections has two training academies available for its correctional recruits to attend and get the training they need to be effective and competent officers. The Academy for Staff Development (ASD) is located in Crozier, and the ASD-West is located in Marion. Both facilities offer full training services and include classrooms, dining, and housing sections, with the ASD having additional access to an adjacent state-of-the-art firing range. After new corrections officers graduate from either academy they will begin a period of supervised on-the-job training. Officers are instructed in:

  • Non-lethal weapon use and deployment
  • Prisoner restraint
  • Corrections protocol and procedures
  • Sociology and psychology

How to Become a Corrections Officer: Minimum Requirements

Potential applicants should be aware of certain minimum requirements for corrections jobs across the State of Virginia. These include:

  • A demonstrated ability to prepare workplace documentation and reports and to comprehend and read workplace procedures and policies
  • No domestic violence or felony convictions
  • High school diploma or GED
  • At least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license

Candidates who would like to increase their chances of being hired should be able to meet at least one of the following:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Able to speak Spanish
  • Military, criminal justice, or related experience
  • Coursework in higher education
  • Reliable work history

Corrections Officer Salary in Virginia

In 2012, it was found in a report published by the Department of Labor that the median correctional officer salary in Virginia was $35,120. The average, however, was 10.6% higher at $39,320.

According to the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management, correctional officers in Virginia are paid as follows:

Correctional Officer III:

  • Minimum: $24,479
  • Maximum: $54,653

Correctional Officer IV:

  • Minimum: $31,979
  • Maximum: $70,801

Here you can find the salaries of corrections officers throughout Virginia as provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford VA
Charlottesville VA
Danville VA
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN-VA
Lynchburg VA
Estimate Not Released
Richmond VA
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Winchester VA-WV
Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area

Emporia , Virginia Corrections Officer Job Description

The field of corrections is one of Virginia’s most rapidly expanding areas of employment in the law enforcement sector. Correctional officer jobs are an important part of the state economy, while they also support the implementation of justice and reform.

Correctional officers in Emporia will find themselves within close distance of several important facilities managed by the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC):

  • Lawrenceville Correctional Center
  • Brunswick Work Center in Lawrenceville
  • Greensville Work Center in Jarratt
  • Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt
  • Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron
  • Deerfield Men’s Work Center in Capron
  • Deerfield Women’s Work Center in Capron

Learning how to become a correctional officer in Emporia is the first step prospective applicants can take on their way to a fulfilling and rewarding career. Candidates for these positions should begin by ensuring they can meet the initial hiring requirements. Every year the correctional officers working at the facilities around the Emporia region play an important part in managing the state’s 30,000 inmates.

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Qualifications for Hire with the Virginia DOC in Emporia

The Virginia DOC makes a distinction when considering applicants for hire between those who can meet the minimum requirements and those who can meet the preferred candidate qualifications. Candidates can have a better shot at employment if they possess any of the following attributes, as specified by the Virginia DOC:

  • Have prior experience working with the criminal justice system, military, or a similar field
  • Be able to demonstrate a consistent work history
  • Have completed college-level coursework

Having earned an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree is a good way to exhibit the preferred qualities and demonstrate an interest in self-improvement and career advancement. While any course of study is advantageous, particularly relevant subjects include:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Homeland Security
  • Communications
  • Psychology

The minimum requirements for employment as a correctional officer in Emporia with the Virginia DOC are:

  • Possession of a high school diploma or GED
  • Ability to prepare reports and follow prison policies and procedures
  • Have no felony or domestic violence convictions
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Be at least 18 years of age

Submitting an Application and Participating in Training

Applications can be submitted online through a vacant job announcement for correctional officers at any of the nearby Emporia facilities. Position vacancies are posted on the DOC’s job openings webpage. As part of the hiring process, applicants will need to complete a background questionnaire as well as a physical agility test that includes:

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • 56-yard sprint
  • Half-mile run

Upon acceptance into the Virginia DOC correctional officer force, new hires will next face the DOC’s training academy. This will prepare trainees for their duties at any of the facilities near Emporia by offering instruction that covers:

  • Prison psychology and positive reinforcement techniques
  • Prisoner search and restraint
  • Detecting contraband and improvised weapons
  • State and prison rules and regulations
  • Emergency response and evacuation procedures
  • Chain of command structure
  • Self-defense and use of non-lethal force

Upon graduation from the academy, new correctional officers will be ready to work at any of the Emporia-area facilities.

Jonesville, Virginia Corrections Officer Job Description

Jonesville, Virginia is home to United States Penitentiary, Lee, which is one of 20 U.S. penitentiaries.  USP Lee is a high security facility for males that also has an adjacent satellite prison camp for minimum security inmates.  In 2013, the Bureau of Prisons reported 1,475 inmates at the main facility and 137 inmates at the minimum security camp.  While the high security main facility utilizes a highest staff to inmate ratio and rigid security and movement protocols, the camp provides limited security measures and offers work opportunities.  Minimum security inmates sometimes offer facility maintenance services for the prison complex.

Correctional officers may join the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the GS-5 or GS-6 pay grades.  This translates into starting salaries ranging from $31,315 up to $40,706 for GS-5, and a range from $34,907 to $45,376 for GS-6.  The final pay grade that federal correctional officers may attain is GS-7 which has a salary ranging from $38,790 to $50,431.

Requirements for Employment with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Jonesville

Education – Becoming a correctional officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires first attending college.  Holding a four-year degree will allow individuals to join the BOP at the GS-5 level.  Candidates with at least nine semester hours of graduate coursework or at least one year of professional experience in one of the following fields may enter probation officer jobs at the GS-6 level

  • Correctional officer
  • Detention officer
  • State trooper
  • Border patrol agent
  • Sheriff
  • Mental health facility worker

Fitness Testing – In some cases, unpaid or volunteer experience may satisfy this requirement.  All candidates must be U.S. citizens and between the ages of 20 and 37.  A physical fitness test with the following components must be passed:

  • 75 pound dummy drag
  • Climb and grasp
  • Obstacle course
  • Run and cuff
  • Stair climb

Training – Those new to federal correctional officer jobs in Jonesville must receive 200 hours of training during the first year. The first 80 hours are devoted to orientation at the assigned correctional facility.  The remaining 120 hours are conducted at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center where they will receive instruction in

  • Firearms
  • Self-defense
  • Policies and procedures

The Cause of Growth in the Federal Penitentiary Inmate Population

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts only a five percent growth in number of correctional officer jobs between 2010 and 2020, the federal prison population has experienced rampant growth in the past few decades.  In 1980, the federal prison population numbered 25,000, but in 2012, this had grown to 219,000 inmates, a surge of 790 percent.

Federal prisons are likely to maintain large numbers of inmates due to an unyielding federal stance on law enforcement.  More than half of federal inmates are imprisoned for immigration or drug offenses. Federal courts abolished parole in 1987, so most inmates will remain incarcerated for the full term of their sentences.  Unlike many states that are utilizing diversion and community supervision to alleviate overpopulated prisons, the federal government remains staunchly committed to incarceration as a deterrent.

Richmond, Virginia Corrections Officer Job Description

Just 25 miles southwest of Richmond is the Federal Correctional Complex at Petersburg.  This complex has two main facilities that house male offenders, the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution Medium, and the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution Low, which also has an adjacent minimum security work camp.  Petersburg FCI Medium has 2120 beds and reported a population 1,764 in 2013.  Petersburg FCI Low reported a population of 1,280 inmates at its main facility and 345 at its attached work camp.  The Petersburg FCI Low facility supports a staff of 352.

Requirements for Correctional Officers in Richmond, Virginia

The Federal Bureau of Prisons hires correctional officers to fill jobs in Richmond at FCC Petersburg. The starting salary ranges from $31,315 up to $40,706 for GS-5 and from $34,907 to $45,376 for GS-6, but federal correctional officers may complete their career at GS-7 pay grade that offers a top salary of $38,790 to $50,431.

In order to become a correctional officer in Richmond and join the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the GS-5 level, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree.  To enter at the GS-6 pay grade, candidates must have at least nine semester hours of graduate coursework in criminology, social science, law or criminal justice.  GS-6 candidates may substitute graduate study with at least one year of professional experience in corrections, law enforcement, or mental health treatment.

Training is conducted at the assigned correctional facility and the Staff Training Academy.  The first 80 hours of training serve as an introduction to the facility’s policies and procedures.  The remaining 120 hours will include classroom and practicum instruction in firearms, self-defense, correctional procedures, and physical training.

Inmate Programs Available in Richmond

One of the most productive programs at FCI Petersburg is the UNICOR Scholarship Program that provides funds for inmate workers to pursue a collegiate education.  Eligible candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Full time work
  • Recommended by correctional officer supervisor
  • Maintenance of “C” grade or higher

UNICOR is a government corporation originally founded in 1934 that employs federal prisoners to produce goods and services.  These products may only be sold to federal government agencies.

The Sex Offender Management Program utilizes assessment, treatment and monitoring to manage sexualized behavior. The assessment phase is mandatory for convicted sex offenders, but the treatment is voluntary.  Monitoring and management is also required of all sex offenders. Inmates who engage in deviant behavior in prison may be subject to a Correctional Management Plan which restricts movement and social interactions.

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The Residential Drug Abuse Program is an intensive, nine month program.  Using a modified therapeutic community system, RDAP uses a supportive and cooperative group setting to facilitate accountability and self-disclosure.  Eligible candidates must have at least 36 months of incarceration remaining.  Participants who complete the 500 hours of RDAP are eligible for placement in a residential reentry center for six months upon release.

St. Wytheville, Virginia Corrections Officer Job Description

Wytheville is centrally located within proximity to four Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities. Correctional officers in Wytheville serve in one of the state’s fastest growing law enforcement sectors, which saw a new prison facility open in October 2013. This alone will provide correctional officer jobs for up to 350 local residents.

The four correctional facilities near Wytheville are:

  • Pocahontas State Correctional Center in Pocahontas – a new prison opened in 2007 that sees an average daily inmate population of 910
  • Bland Correctional Center in Bland – a prison with a large agricultural program that provides dairy and meat products for other regional prisons with an average daily inmate population of 621
  • Marion Correctional Treatment Center in Marion – housing an average of 203 prisoners each day, this facility serves as a mental health treatment prison for male offenders
  • River North Correctional Center in Independence – opened towards the end of 2013, this prison contains 1,024 cells

Meeting Virginia DOC Correctional Officer Job Qualifications

The Virginia DOC maintains two sets of qualifications by which it evaluates applicants for correctional officer jobs in Wytheville: minimum requirements and preferred qualifications. It is important that applicants interested in standing out from their competition considering both of these.

Applicants are given preference if they can show any of the following attributes:

  • Coursework in college-level education in any subject
  • Bilingual in Spanish
  • Stable employment history, especially in the military, criminal justice, or corrections fields

Having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields will demonstrate the preferred level of education and field-specific knowledge:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Police Science
  • Law

The state DOC’s minimum requirements to become a correctional officer at any of the facilities near Wytheville are as follows:

  • No felony or domestic violence convictions
  • At least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Good physical health
  • Have the abilities to carry out correctional officer duties

Training to Become a Correctional Officer in Wytheville

Vacancy announcements for correctional officer positions at the facilities near Wytheville are posted on the Virginia DOC’s careers website. Candidates will need to apply through the individual job announcement and also fill out a background questionnaire. Before being approved for hire, candidates will also need to complete a physical agility test with portions devoted to:

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Short distance run and sprint

Correctional officer training begins at the state DOC’s training academy, where new COs will receive critical instruction on topics that include:

  • Emergency procedures including evacuation, disaster, and hostage situations
  • Prisoner search and restraint
  • Cell search, especially for contraband, improvised weapons, and other forbidden small objects
  • DOC rules and Virginia laws
  • Prison psychology
  • Use of non-lethal force

There are two DOC training academies in the state, one of which is located in nearby Marion, known as the Academy for Staff Development-Marion. Here new COs will find the staff development center includes:

  • Dining facility
  • Eight classrooms
  • Conference room
  • Housing facilities

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