How to Become a Prison Instructor

Prison Instructor

Prison instructors, also called instructional officers, equip prisoners with skills they can use to generate income after serving their sentences. These instructors can either be prison officers with teaching credentials or civilians with teaching qualifications. This job needs a lot of commitment and patience. As such, it is suitable for professionals who are passionate about helping other people learn new skills.

The work

The main responsibility of prison instructors is to teach prisoners skills that are useful in disciplines such as information technology, construction, dressmaking and cookery. To achieve this, they typically perform the following tasks;

  • Find out the skills prisoners are interested in to develop a relevant curriculum
  • Plan for each day’s lessons and prepare teaching materials
  • Give instruction to inmates on how to use the learning materials availed to them
  • Assess each prisoner’s progress and analyse his or her strengths and weaknesses
  • Guide prisoners to work toward various qualifications
  • Supervise prisoners and ensure the learning environment is safe
  • Keep records of learning materials, such as hammers, to avoid security risks in the prison.

Work Environment

Prison work takes place all round the year as prisoners don’t have holidays. Normally, prison instructors work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Depending on specialty, prison instructors could conduct lessons in classrooms, outdoors or small workshops.


The table below highlights the salaries for prison instructors with regular and advanced qualifications.

Level of qualification

Annual pay

Regular instructors

£20,000 -£25,000

Instructors with higher qualifications

Up to £31,000

Source: National Careers Service

Entry requirements

To get started as a prison instructor, complete the following steps;

  • Earn a recognised teaching qualification
  • Gain some teaching experience- You can seek paid employment or work as a volunteer in community schools
  • Obtain a Level 3 vocational qualification in your area of specialty.

At this point, you are qualified to find employment as a prison instructor. However, to increase your desirability to prospective employers, you can pursue assessment qualifications, such as the Level 3 Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement.

You will also need to meet the HM Prison Service entry requirements, as well as obtain clearance by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This allows you to work with young people children and vulnerable adults in prisons.

Important skills, abilities and qualities

To be an effective prison instructor, it is important to have the following competencies;

  • Excellent skills in your specialist area to instruct the inmates effectively
  • Good communication skills to give clear instructions to prisoners
  • The patience and willingness to give your students enough time to learn new things
  • The ability to build good relationships and gain the trust of the inmates for a constructive learning period
  • Have a good sense of judgment to identify skills that are suitable skills for specific inmates
  • An awareness of safety and security measures to handle the security risks in correctional facilities.

Career development

Prisons normally offer induction courses for beginning prison instructors to familiarise them with prison environments, as well as boost their knowledge of;

  • Equality and diversity
  • Suicide prevention
  • Dealing with challenging behaviours, such as bullying

To advance your career progression prospects, you can pursue advanced qualifications such as;

  • Level 5 integrated specialist diplomas (QCF)
  • Level 5 standalone specialist diplomas (QCF)

Employment opportunities

As a qualified prison instructor, you can be employed by;

  • The HM Prison Service
  • Learning institutions that are contracted to provide instruction in prisons
  • Private correctional facilities

With vast work experience and advanced qualifications, you can become a principal officer or move into other careers in the education sector.

This is all you need to become a prison instructor; a career that will enable you to make a difference in the lives of prisoners, some who have lost hope in life.