NOMS graduate programme

Find out how the NOMS graduate programme is structured, the career paths it opens up and the qualities you'll need to secure your place.

Please note

Recent graduates are advised that there will be no Graduate Programme for 2015/16. Please do check in September 2016 for future programme details. If you wish to find out about other opportunities please visit the Working for NOMS page


The National Offender Management Service 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:

  • work effectively with people from all walks of life
  • stay calm under intense pressure
  • meet targets
  • manage budgets

You’ll have to make sure hundreds of people get their meals, can access education and are kept safe.

Read more about the National Offender Management Service and HM Prison Service.

The programme in detail

1. From graduate to prison officer

You’ll start with 6 weeks of training at our national training centre in Rugby.

You’ll learn about prison service values and responsibilities and develop the skills you need for your first role on the programme, as a prison officer.

These skills will include using handcuffs, basic control and restraint techniques, and how to carry out searches.

Your last week of training will be spent shadowing an officer in the prison for your first posting. You’ll then take on the role yourself.

2. Developing into an effective manager

Over the next 12 to 18 months, you’ll gain more experience and responsibility, as you progress from prison officer to supervisor officer level.

You’ll then move to a different prison and take up the role of custodial manager, with a group of staff to manage.

Finally, you’ll move into a middle-management governor-grade role as an operational manager.

Here you’ll head up an entire area of a prison, such as ‘residence’. You’ll take on responsibilities that include preventing suicide and self-harm and managing all of the prisoners’ living facilities.

3. At the end of the programme

When you have completed the programme, usually after 2 to 3 years, you can apply for a managerial post. You’ll then have a number of career paths open to you.

You’ll get the chance to gain experience of:

  • different functions (eg security, reducing re-offending, performance management)
  • categories of prison (eg high security and categories B, C and D)
  • various populations (male, female, young offenders)

We’ll then encourage you to apply for senior manager accreditation.

From there you could go on to govern your own prison, or transfer into a senior management role within NOMS.

You could also develop your career outside of the prison environment.

Some of the roles available to senior managers include leading change projects, working in ministers’ private offices, and working in partnership with third sector providers. There are also opportunities to take up policy roles in the Ministry of Justice and Civil Service.

Salary and pension

You’ll benefit from a good salary and benefits package.

You’ll be paid £26,450 - £28,750 per year for the duration of the programme (plus location allowance for those based in London).

Once you have achieved operational manager accreditation, you will move straight onto the operational manager pay scale (currently starting at circa £32,000).

You’ll be entitled to 25 days’ holiday a year.

The Civil Service offers a choice of pension schemes, so you can choose the one that suits you best.

Prison leader qualities

There are a number of qualities we look for in our senior managers.

Type of person

Whether you’re a recent graduate or an experienced manager, there are certain personality traits that will set you out as a potential prison leader.

These include resilience, integrity and the ability to get through to people from all walks of life.

You’ll also need to be decisive, even under intense pressure, and be able to stay calm in emotionally-charged situations.

Skills you’ll develop

You’ll develop a number of valuable skills on the programme, such as:

  • persuading and influencing
  • building relationships and team working
  • communicating effectively
  • problem solving and decision-making

Eligibility requirements

You must:


NOMS has prisons across England and Wales, and you’ll need some flexibility to make the most of the opportunities on offer

Recruitment process

The recruitment process will be quite demanding at times, although most candidates find the experience quite enjoyable and often learn a lot about themselves.

The process will involve:

1. Short application form

You’ll have to complete an application form with with personal details and security questions.

2. Online situational judgment tool

You will be presented with a range of challenging work situations and possible actions that can be taken in response. You don’t need any previous prison experience or specialist knowledge.

3. Online numerical reasoning test

This test is administered by a company called SHL. To see what these tests look like and get a feel for the sorts of questions they ask, visit the SHL website.

4. Job simulation assessment centre

This all-day assessment consists of 4 role play simulations, which will assess 5 core prison leader behaviours:

  • non-verbal listening skills
  • suspending judgment
  • showing understanding
  • assertion
  • exploring and clarifying

This assessment will also measure your respect for diversity.

5. Written assessment and interview

The written paper will test your problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills.

In the interview, the majority of questions will be competency-based, where you need to provide examples of how you have demonstrated a competency in the past. For example, you could tell us about a time when you have overcome a setback in your life, or dealt with some kind of conflict.

Our aim is to try and predict how you’ll perform in the future by looking at what you’ve achieved in the past.

6. Medical and fitness test

You should be physically fit and will be required to pass a medical examination and a fitness test.

7. Security clearance

Your security clearance checks can take 8 to 12 weeks.

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:

  • Why do you want to pursue a career in NOMS?
  • Do you know what the work involves?
  • What is it that attracts you to the organisation?
  • What have you done to prepare yourself for a career in NOMS?
  • Do you truly believe that you have what it takes to manage in the prison environment?
Published 8 May 2014
Last updated 6 November 2015 + show all updates
  1. Updated graduate programme information
  2. First published.