Those wondering how to become a parole officer are in luck. Parole officer job entails working with offenders who are newly released from correctional facilities. The primary responsibility of parole officers is to maintain regular contact with these clients to prevent them from engaging in further criminal activity.
While parole officers may meet with clients at their office, they also visit the parolee’s home and place of employment. The goal is to ensure that there are no adverse conditions, such as drug use by other family members or stressful job conditions that could lead to further unlawful activity.
Parole officers may also seek the assistance of community-based organizations such as housing agencies, vocational programs, and neighborhood support groups to help the parolee acclimate back into society. This is particularly important for those parolees who have been incarcerated for long periods. Some parolees are required to wear electronic devices which monitor their location, while others may be required to attend an outpatient substance abuse treatment program.
Typical case loads of parole officer’s range from 70 to 130 or more. The number of cases a parole officer may handle at any one time is dependent on the needs of the parolee. Those offenders needing more supervision and counseling will typically command more of the parole officer’s time and resources, thereby limiting the number of cases he or she may carry.
Parole Officer Job Requirements
Specific qualifications will vary by agency but a bachelor’s degree is typically required by most employers. Parole officer candidates will also be expected to pass a series of oral, written and psychological testing. They will also be expected to undergo a thorough physical examination.
Most agencies require that parole officer candidates be at least 21 years of age and, for Federal jobs, not over the age of 37. Those convicted of felonies are not eligible for employment in this and other correctional fields. In addition, a valid driver’s license is often required for travel to a parolee’s home and place of employment. Parole officers will also need to submit to a thorough background check, drug screening and obtain a license to carry a firearm.
Proficiency with the use of computers is also important as many agencies require that case notes be prepared electronically. It is also important for parole officer candidates to be knowledgeable with regard to the law and regulations with regard to the criminal justice system at both the State and Federal levels. Strong verbal and written communication skills are also important as parole officers prepare many reports and speak with a wide variety of people on a daily basis. Effective interpersonal skills are also critical so that parole officers may work effectively with parolees and their families.
Parole Officer Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, urban affairs, criminal justice or related field is typically required to obtain an entry-level position as a parole officer. Some employers require a master’s degree in any of these majors for those candidates without at least two years prior experience in the criminal justice field. What counts as appropriate experience varies among agencies, but many parole officers come from the fields of social work, counseling and corrections.
Most parole officers are required to complete a training program after hire. The program is typically sponsored by their State government or the Federal government, after which the trainee may be required to sit for a certification examination, depending on the state in which you work. Most parole officers are considered trainees for up to one year after initial hire and only then offered a permanent job.
Parole Officer Salary
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of all Parole Officers as of May 2008 (the last year for which data are available) was $45,910. Salaries can range from $30,000 for entry-level parole officers to nearly $60,000 and above for adult and juvenile parole officers. The median wages of those employed in local government was $46,420 while those employed in State government earned $46,580. Salaries tend to be higher in urban areas as opposed to more rural areas.
Parole Officer Career Opportunities
Most jobs for parole officers may be found in State and local governments and they work with either juvenile of adult ex-offenders. Jobs are more plentiful in urban than rural areas due the higher crime rates in cities. At the State level, parole officers work with the Department of Corrections and Division of Youth Services (depending on State). Within the Federal government, parole officers are employed by the Federal Justice Department.
Those who obtain a master’s degree along with several years experience may also qualify for supervisory positions and direct the work of lower-level parole officers.
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