University Graduate Nathan is now a Prison Officer: "It's a chance to make a change"

Unlocked Graduates

What is it like to be a prison officer in the UK after university? Hear from Nathan, a graduate on Unlocked's two year programme that puts graduates and career changers at the heart of prison reform. 


What made you consider becoming a prison officer?

I took a year out after uni and didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so did some work experience in policy, some within criminal justice. I found that I wanted to do something where I could actually be on the frontline, really talking to and getting to know people rather than making decisions from afar. It’s a different job but I get to do what I love doing which is talking to people all day every day which is my main motivation. It’s a chance to make a change and try and help people who have been failed.

What’s a typical day like?

There isn’t really a typical day. You work on quite a varied schedule, so you might start at 12pm one day, you might start at 7am another. You can also be in different parts of the prison which keeps it more interesting, there’s never a week where you’re doing exactly the same thing. It all boils down to keeping people safe. You’re always having conversations with people whatever you’re doing, that’s the constant wherever you are – you’re always talking and always trying to get to know the people you’re working with.

What’s the biggest challenge?

For me it has been finding the balance between caring and discipline. Sometimes you build up a good relationship with someone, and everyone makes mistakes and things happen so you have to be able to put your relationship aside and be the corrective force you need to be, to be disciplined. This can be difficult and you do feel bad sometimes about it as you don’t want that relationship to be destroyed for the future.

Prison Officer isn’t a typical job. What opportunities does it offer?

Unlocked Graduates offers so many opportunities. In terms of personal development and training, you grow so much as a person. You have a lot of your weaknesses shown up and built upon. It’s a great salary. Also within the prison service there are loads of skills and opportunities to train in different areas, whether you are interested in dogs or security or resettling, there are so many things that you can do which people don’t realise. It’s not just unlocking doors!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to Unlocked?

The first thing that I would say is just to go for it! If you're someone who enjoys a challenge and has a passion for helping others, there's no better role available to graduates. Working in a prison is certainly out of the ordinary and becoming an officer, coupled with Unlocked's expert support and development opportunities, makes you learn so much about yourself. With Unlocked you have a unique opportunity to grow personally and professionally, whilst changing people’s lives on a daily basis.


If you want to learn more about Unlocked's Leadership Development Programme, click below to read the job description and apply.