I Want to Work In … the Prison or Probation Service




Prisons and probation services in England and Wales are managed by National Offender Management Services (NOMS).
NOMS is the government agency that makes sure that people serve the sentences and orders handed out by courts, both in prisons and in the community.
NOMS is accountable for how prisons are run in England and Wales. Through HM Prison Service it manages public sector prisons in England and Wales.
NOMS also oversees probation delivery in England and Wales through the National Probation Service and community rehabilitation companies.
NOMS contract manages private sector prisons and services such as the Prisoner Escort Service and electronic tagging.
There are separate prison and probation services in Scotland (where probation work is not a separate function but is carried out by Criminal Justice Social Workers within local authorities) and Northern Ireland.

Prison Service

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.

Victor Hugo

HM Prison Service employs staff in a number of roles and grades:

Prison Officers are uniformed staff with responsibility for maintaining security in prisons and supporting the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Above these are various levels of managerial roles (governors), responsible for the management and security of the prison; the security and care of prisoners and the organisation and training of staff. A prison may have ten or more governors of various grades and specialities, such as security, residential, regimes, operations etc. They report to the “governing governor”, who provides leadership, business planning and has managerial responsibility and accountability for all prison staff. Many governors, including those on the NOMS graduate scheme, will have begun their career as prison officers.

There are numbers of other roles in prisons, such as administrative staff, psychologists, catering staff, industrial trades, along with educational and instructional staff: many of these may be employed by organisations that provide services to the prison under contract.

Prison Officer

Prison Governor

NOMS Prison Governor (National Offender Management Service) Graduate Programme

The NOMS graduate programme accepts applications every year from graduates looking for a position in HM Prison Service.
If you’re accepted on to the programme, you’ll start by working towards being a prison officer and progress to a managerial post within 3 years.
You’ll need to:

Tips for a successful application

We don’t expect you to know every little detail about the organisation, but it will help if you do a bit of research before you apply on:

Before you sit down to fill out your application, think about the following questions:

For full details of the training programme and its entry requirements, see www.gov.uk/guidance/noms-graduate-programme

NOMS Graduate Programme on Facebook www.facebook.com/NOMSGraduateProgramme

Prison education

Prison instructors, tutors or teachers provide education and training for prison inmates and young offenders, often to help prepare effectively for rehabilitation. Much of the training offered is around vocational and practical skills, such as building or IT, but it may also cover literacy and numeracy skills, English as a foreign language (EFL) and creative activities such as art and drama.
Prison tutors can be employed by a further education (FE) college or a private training organisation which has a contract to provide classes for inmates. A relevant level 3 vocational qualification and teaching qualification are needed, although you may be able to complete the teacher training while working.
Entry requirements and training are similar to those for further education lecturers and previous qualifications and experience are taken into account. A high percentage of staff are employed part time. Prison workers need to meet prison service entry requirements, including Disclosure and Barring Service clearance.

Forensic Psychologist

The Prison Service is the main employer of forensic/criminal psychologists. Part of their role is rehabilitating offenders, through both one to one and group therapy sessions. Problems with anger management or substance abuse are common among offenders and require sensitive treatment. Psychologists in the Prison Service also write reports and advise parole boards.
To apply for trainee forensic psychologist roles, you must have a psychology degree conferring Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society and be eligible for entering into supervised practice. This most usually means that you will have completed an accredited MSc in forensic psychology.

Prison employers – public sector

Prison employers – private sector

There are 14 privately run prisons in England and Wales and two in Scotland, accommodating about 15% of the UK prison population. They are run by three companies: SERCO, G4S and Sodexo.

Probation Service


The role of the probation service is to manage and rehabilitate offenders, from working with courts to organising community work opportunities. Offenders may have been placed on probation by the courts, or may have been recently released from prison.

Probation Officers work with offenders and aim to reduce rates of re-offending and protect the public.


The former Probation Service, has been split into two parts, dealing with offenders according to the risk level they present. The National Probation Service (NPS) deals with high risk offenders and the more local Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) deal with medium to low risk offenders. The NPS works with around 30% of offenders and the remaining 70% are supervised by the CRCs.

National Probation Service www.gov.uk/government/organisations/national-probation-service Responsible for overseeing offenders released from prison on licence and those who are serving community sentences.

Community Rehabilitation Companies

There are 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) across England and Wales owned by various private sector organisations, usually in partnership with social enterprises, charities and education providers.

These companies recruit individually via their websites. They generally seek qualified and experienced probation officers but also recruit into support and volunteer roles that may provide useful experience.

Becoming a Probation Officer


Kent Probation employers 475 staff including 140 Probation Officers and 90 Probation Service Officers (2014). There are opportunities in corporate services. Probation Service Officers do the same work as Probation Officers but with lower risk offenders. Volunteering and previous experience is very important for this role. Kent Probation recruit a lot of volunteers.



Getting Experience

Relevant work experience is not always essential but can be advantageous, particularly in terms of understanding the challenges of working with offenders, broadening your experience of working with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and/or being based in a prison environment.
You can gain experience of working with offenders through volunteering (see the list below for possible volunteer opportunities - https://do-it.org is also useful in searching for relevant opportunities). You can also gain relevant experience through volunteering with organisations supporting homeless people or substance abusers, many of which work extensively with ex-offenders.

You may be able to gain experience within a prison environment as a prison visitor or monitor: see below for organisations to approach. 

Voluntary Organisations and Charities




Last fully updated 2016