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What Are the Disqualifying Factors to Becoming a Correctional Officer?

As you probably can already gather, becoming a correctional officer and getting the proper training is not a guaranteed path of employment. There are a number of requirements that must first be met prior to you becoming eligible to be placed into a position as a correctional officer.

There are disqualifying factors throughout the application and hiring process that you must be aware of for any correctional officer job that you may apply for, some are obvious requirements, like an application must be a minimum age of 18 years old, and some requirements and leave room for confusion, such as an applicant must have stable credit.

Does stable credit allow for a person with bad credit that’s on the road to recovery, or is anything other than stellar credit accepted? These are the questions that want answers to, but it isn’t possible to cover every potential location for their particular list of items that would disqualify you from becoming a correctional officer in a single article.

So with that said, we will focus on the main items that you should focus on when applying for a correctional officer job and you think you might have a potentially disqualifying matter.

1. Minimum Requirements

Not meeting any of the stated minimum requirements for a dept. of corrections position or for a particular correctional officer position would be one of the first areas of opportunity for being disqualified for the job you are seeking. The minimum requirements are usually pretty simple, normally including age, education, and level of experience that must be met.

2. Background Check

Filling Out Criminal Background Check FormWhen it comes to completing a background check for a correction officer job, people have the most questions and concerns about if this act or that act that occurred in their past will disqualify them from consideration. Keep in mind that all departments will have slightly different hiring processes, and with that, they will also have different views on what they will consider a disqualifying condition and what is not.

Generally speaking, if you have ever been convicted of a felony you would have a 99.9% chance of being disqualified for the position. Felony convictions are usually automatic disqualifiers unless the offense happened while you were a minor. If you have a misdemeanor conviction on your record, your chances would slightly improve based on the type of misdemeanor.

Misdemeanors convictions involving violence, dishonesty, unlawful sexual conduct, and the manufacture, possession, or selling of a controlled substance may be considered indicators that you may not meet the required moral standard and thus you would be disqualified. In most cases, time truly heals all wounds as some departments will require a minimum of one-year time to have passed to allow you to apply for the position. The amount of time required can be increased depending on the type of misdemeanor.

Having a bad driving record can be an issue. A history of DWI’s, excessive tickets, or violations can become a serious problem if not addressed properly.

Prior service military veterans that were discharged from any branch or military service with a dishonorable discharge could potentially disqualify you from a correctional officer position. It’s best to first check with your state or local agency to see how they handle military discharges and if it will be held against you. Don’t give up before you even try.

Finally, ensure that if you have a bad credit history that you are taking the necessary steps to pay off your debts and that you have a plan in place prior to apply for a correctional officer job you’re selected.

3. Physical Condition & Medical Considerations

One of the more well-known requirements to becoming a correctional officer is completing some form of the COPAT or Correctional Officer Physical Agility Test. The COPAT measures a potential correction officer’s level of physical fitness through a series of strength and agility tests. Not meeting the stated goal for any particular event would most likely result in a retest of the failed event, but continued inability to perform the prescribed tasks would ultimately result in disqualification from the position.

4. Social Media Usage

We’re all living in the technological age and most if not everyone is engaged in social media in one form or another. The problem may present itself in not that you are using social media, but what you have on your social media. What you post about your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, and YouTube accounts in the past may present you with a serious problem in the future.

If you know that you have anything on your social media accounts that display you in a negative light, such as excessive drinking, drug use, gang signs, revealing pictures, hate speech or abusive language, you might want to consider hitting the delete button on these types of items.

These days, hiring departments are beginning to seek out this type of information on their potential employees as a potential disqualifying factor for many positions. So do all you can to ensure that your “good name” is properly represented is someone were to do a Google search on you.


Again, I want to reiterate that every department is different and that you should visit our correctional officer training page and select the state in which you are interested in applying for, and find more detailed information. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

30 Responses to What Are the Disqualifying Factors to Becoming a Correctional Officer?

  1. Gerald June 7, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    I had gotten a bad conduct discharge from the military because I went Awol right after boot camp…Father was on drugs and Step Daughter was in the hospital for Brain Damage and was laying on death bed. I know its not an excuse to do what I did but I am a changed person I work a full time job now which I run the night crew as a supervisor for Brinks. I also haven’t gotten into trouble ever since is there a chance I can become a NJ State Correction Officer?

  2. shannon July 24, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    My fiance has a dismissed felony theft on his record will he be able to get a job as a CO?

    • Robert September 8, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

      You only need to report crimes of any kind that you have been convicted of in a US Court Of Law. Any dismissed charges is not considered a crime. A person is innocent until proving guilty in a court of law.

  3. ck August 3, 2014 at 1:23 am #

    I got offered to take the post physical fitness test at high desert state prison in nv. I have a misdeaminor on my record. I am good or should I be worried

  4. Gary Williams October 19, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    What are the minimum standards for both correctable and uncorrectable vision, for an Indiana Correctional Officer?

  5. Hanna December 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    My ex bofriends has a criminal history, he also has prior gang affiliations. I visited him in jail a few times will that affect my hiring process as a CO? This happened about 2-3 years ago.

    • laura September 2, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

      Did u get the job iam in the same sitiatiin for cdcr

    • Anonymous January 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

      They ask you if you have anyone incarcerated. They ask you who and you have to list theif names. They aren’t suppose to snub you but more likely they will and you cannot lie ir they will find out.

  6. Lucas January 26, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    what questions will they ask about drugs? what is the most recent i could have used?

    • Aileen June 17, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

      Did you get an answer for this question?

  7. chris March 19, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    I have a record as a minor. I was tkld that jubenile adjudicstions dont count as convictions but i was discualified even though i dont have any felony convictions.

    • Dy May 11, 2016 at 9:57 am #

      What was your charge?

  8. Aileen June 17, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    What questions do they ask about drugs ? What is the most recent you could have used them?

  9. vt July 30, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    Was a corrections officer for a state prison and was fired for violating a policy I wasnt aware of at the time so can I be hired as a corrections officer at a county prison?

  10. Liz January 12, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Hello. My father had applied for a corrections officer position in Ohio. He passed all of his tests and his interview. They called him an hour after he walked out of there offering him a job. He then went through the background check and they still haven’t called him back. The only thing bad on there happens to be a misdemeanor with child support over 10 years ago on his son (my brother, were from different mothers) that is now 21. I read above the background check policies, but I was wondering how serious something like that would be now, being taken into consideration by the people going over his background?

  11. joe February 4, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    if you apply for ssdi during the background check process, will it disqualify you as a candidate for correctional officer trainee?

  12. Leandra March 8, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    I have a assault charge from 2013 will that affect my job to apply at a prison to be a guard?

    • Anonymous January 21, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      You’re disqualified because of the violent offense

  13. cindy May 5, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

    I have a question am pregnant but can I still take the correctional officer exam or should I wait until I give birth ? Pls I need help

  14. Chris May 13, 2016 at 6:10 am #

    I made minor mistakes filling out my corrections packet . I just crossed out my mistake and corrected it . Will they hold that against me when I meet the investigator ? I accidently put my exam number in my rank number spot

  15. Lani May 16, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    im 17, graduating high school with 2 misdemenors and my charges are still pending, they are marijuana charges.
    i want to graduate and go to a trade school after i go to court for these charges or wait a couple years so its not so fresh; i was convicted once about 2 months ago and another time in january.-_- but i want to go to become a juvenile detention officer.
    its something i really want to do, ill be able to pass a drug test and ill be completey honest about it.
    Someone please tell me if im going to be waisting my time! & wish me luck in my days.

  16. Oscar perez May 30, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    I got a dui 1year ago live in california would i be diqualified

  17. sam torres October 20, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    I am a convicted felon i have been to prison for almost three years i lived with the lifers there i know what they do and I want to do the honors of gaining the responsibilities of being a corrections officer and I believe that people like me who want to help protect inmates and ffellow guards should be able to prove our selves and not be known as a felon with no hope in law enforcement give us a chance its not right

    • Jeremy January 24, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

      I do agree. I myself am in the same boat. I served with lifers at Stateville and have a felony DUI conviction. Wanted to be a correctional officer because I know both sides and could be a great attribute.

  18. Ashley February 27, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    Section 4, paragraph 2 should state revealing instead on reviling. I have a hard time taking websites seriously when I point something out such as this.

  19. Savannah March 5, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    If you’re getting an SSI check after the age of 18, could you still become a corrections officer?

  20. Joanna March 14, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

    Hello there, I got a speeding ticket last year in July (2016) and unfortunately again in January this year. I’ve never had any tickets before and my record is clean, good credit and stable job for the last 8+ years. The ticket I got this year in January is being taken care of by an attorney so I don’t have to go to court, traffic school etc. Will it be an issue for me for the background process? I am applying for Henderson Corrections. Your response is greatly appreciated in advance. Thank you.

  21. AnitA Garza March 28, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    Just found out IRS has no record of my 2013 taxes. Filed but was told it would take up to 6-8weeks to know the amount I owe with penalties. Can I be disqualified for that?

  22. Mckenzie April 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    If you have hand tattoos with that eliminate your chances of being a CO?

  23. Ben April 12, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    Can you get a new tattoo? when going thourgh the process.