The Federal Bureau of Prisons consists of more than 106 institutions, six regional offices, a Central Office (headquarters), two staff training centers and 28 community corrections offices. The Bureau is responsible for the custody and care of approximately 185,000 Federal offenders. Approximately 85% of these inmates are confined in Bureau-operated correctional facilities or detention centers, and the remainders are confined through agreements with state and local governments or through contracts with privately operated community corrections centers, detention centers, prisons and juvenile facilities.

With all these institutions, offices, centers and facilities, there are plenty of job opportunities available with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Specifically there are numerous positions for those in the field of health care. For example, physician assistants working with the Bureau provide diagnostic and therapeutic medical care and services to inmates in Federal prisons. They also assist in the observation and evaluation of patients, take case histories, conduct physical examinations and order laboratory studies.

FBP History

But let’s take a step back and look at how the Federal Bureau of Prisons was established: According to its Web site ( the Bureau began in 1930 to provide more progressive and humane care for Federal inmates, to professionalize the prison service, and to ensure consistent and centralized administration of the 11 Federal prisons in operation at the time.

The goal of the Bureau today is to protect public safety by ensuring that Federal offenders serve their sentences in facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient and secure. The Bureau helps reduce the potential for future criminal activity by encouraging inmates to participate in a range of programs that reduce recidivism.

See also
Get a Great Reference in Three Easy Steps

That’s where you would come in; the Bureau’s approximately 35,000 employees not only ensure the security of Federal prisons, they also provide inmates with needed programs and services and model positive values.

Model of Public Service

The Bureau’s mission is to be a model of outstanding public administration and to provide efficient, safe and humane correctional services and programs.

According to their Web site, this vision will be realized when:

• Public safety is assured by no escapes or disturbances in the facilities.

• The physical safety of all inmates is controlled in an environment that meets each inmate’s need for security through the elimination of violence, predatory behavior, gang activity, drug use and inmate weapons.

• Through the provision of health care, mental, spiritual, educational, vocational and work programs, inmates are well prepared for a productive and crime-free return to society.

• The Bureau is a model of cost-efficient correctional operations and programs.

• Its talented, professional, well-trained, and diverse staff reflects the Bureau’s culture and treats each other fairly.

• Staff works in an environment free from discrimination.

• A positive working relationship exists where employees maintain respect for one another.

• The workplace is safe, and staff performs their duties without fear of injury or assault.

• Staff maintains high ethical standards in their day-to-day activities.

Moving Up

There are numerous career opportunities at various locations across the United States, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site,, all employees are required to fully demonstrate their suitability for prison work in the position to which they are initially appointed. Before they are considered for promotion or advancement into other lines of work, an acceptable performance evaluation is required. Generally, employees are expected to complete, at a minimum, a 12-month probationary period before applications for reassignment or promotion will be considered.

See also
Keeping an Open Mind: My Brief Career as a Licensed Home Care Services Agency Registered Nurse

Each new permanent employee who receives a career or career conditional appointment serves a one-year probationary period immediately following his or her appointment. This period is used to determine the qualifications of the employee for continued employment. During this time, the supervisor monitors and provides guidance to the employee.

For continued employment, the supervisor must favorably evaluate the performance and conduct of the employee. This time period also helps employees determine whether the work is compatible with their skills and aspirations.

How It Works

Bureau institutions must operate around the clock, so the workday for employees is divided into three work shifts of eight hours each. Employees rotate posts, days off and shifts. All employees are hired as correctional workers first, regardless of the specific position to which they are hired (secretary, nurse, plumber, teacher, doctor, dentist, etc.).

As correctional workers, staff may be called to work correctional posts at any time in emergency situations or as necessary.

The Bureau offers a wide variety of career opportunities in medical and mental health care. There is a constant need for medical officers, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists and physician assistants.

There are two paths that health care professionals can take with the Bureau: Federal Civil Service or the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHS). Each path has its own pay structure, benefits and career progression.

Civil Service applications are processed through local or nationwide announcements and most are posted on USAJOBS, which is a uniformed service of the U.S. It follows its own commissioning standards. If you are interested in pursuing a career with the Federal Civil Service, you can visit the PHS Web site at for additional information and applications.

See also
Thriving in Your First Nursing Job

Career as a Physician Assistant

Those interested in working as physician assistants with the Federal Bureau of Prisons must be certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Physician Assistants to apply for positions. Basic qualification requirements for all positions include a broad background of the medical environment, such as would be acquired by a bachelor’s degree in a health care occupation, or by three years of health care experience and successful completion of a course of study of at least 12 months, including clinical training or preceptorship, specifically designed for professional-caliber physicians’ assistants, or equivalent education and training. The course of study or training must be approved by a nationally recognized professional body or by a panel of physicians established by a Federal agency for this purpose. Candidates must demonstrate that they have the following knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully perform their job as a physician assistant:

1. Skill in making diagnoses, selecting and providing appropriate treatment for medical or surgical emergencies (life or death or severe injury), as indicated until emergency assistance arrives;

2. Ability to assess a patient’s condition and to initiate appropriate treatment;

3. Knowledge of pharmaceuticals to treat disease and illness, to include a knowledge of the mechanism of action, side effects, toxic nature, and drug interactions of medications;

4. Ability to interpret diagnostic tests in order to determine therapeutic treatment plans; and

5. Ability to deal effectively with patients.


Do you think you have what it take to pursue a career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons? If you possess all of these facts, skills and abilities, perhaps a career with the Bureau is in your future. And if you do become employed with the Bureau, you will find a wealth of benefits. For example, the Bureau’s Awards Program encourages employees to participate in improving operations and rewards superior performance. The program provides personal recognition and rewards for contributing to better government. And awards can improve employees’ chances for advancement because awards are considered positively in competition for a promotion.

See also
Negotiating a Job Offer

The Bureau also offers substantial annual and vacation leave and generous health care, as well as other, benefits.

All information courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons

Share This