Probation Officer Career, Job Description & Salary Info

Probation officer jobs involve providing supervision to persons who have been placed on probation by the courts. Many first time offenders who have been convicted of a crime are placed on probation rather than sentenced to a prison term. The goal of probation officers is to monitor the acidity of offenders so that they do not engage in any further criminal behavior.

Probation officers provide this oversight by meeting regularly with the offender as well as family members. Rather than requiring offenders to come to their offices, probation officers will travel to the home and workplace of those persons on their caseload. Probation officers work in collaboration with many community-based agencies to help offenders with a range of services such as employment, housing, accessing entitlements, or therapeutic treatment.

Some offenders are required to wear electronic “bracelets” that monitor their location. This is important as many persons on probation have curfews and must be back in their home by a certain time in the evening.

Probation officers may work with adults while juvenile probation officers work with offenders under the age of 18. Only in small communities will probation officers work with both adults and juveniles.

Probation officers spend much time working with the courts and investigate the family and social background of the adult or juvenile offender, after which they write reports in which they provide recommendations regarding sentencing. Before submitting their recommendations to the court, they review them with the offender and his or her family. Probation officers frequently testify in courts regarding their findings from the background check and sentencing recommendations. They also attend hearings to update the court with respect to the offenders’ efforts at rehabilitation.

Probation Officer Job Requirements

Some of the requirements for how to become a probation officer include passing written, verbal and psychological examinations. Prospective probation officers should also be in excellent physical shape and be emotionally stable. Most local, State, and Federal agencies require that candidates be at least 21 years of age. Candidates for a Federal Probation Officer job may not be older than 37 year of age at the time of application. Persons convicted of a felony are not eligible to work as probation officers at any level of government. A valid driver’s license is required as travel is necessary between the offender’s home and place of employment.

Proficiency in the use of computers is important since most documentation is now completed on the computer. Candidates must also be knowledgeable with regard to the laws surrounding corrections and possess excellent listening and interpersonal skills to work effectively with their clients.

Probation Officer Education and Training

In most cases, those without prior experience in a related field will need to possess a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, criminal justice or related field to obtain entry-level employment. What counts as appropriate experience may vary among agencies but could include counselor, substance abuse specialist, police officer, or social worker.

Most probation officers are required to satisfactorily complete a training program offered by State agencies or the Federal Government, after which they may need to pass a certification exam. Most probation officers are considered trainees for the first year of employment and only offered a permanent position after this period of time.

Probation Officer Salary

As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of all Probation Officers as of May 2008 (the last year for which data are available) was $45,910. 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 rather than rural areas.

Probation Officer Career Opportunities

Most probation officers work in State and local governments. In some states, probation officers may be employed on both the state and local level, while in others they are employed at only the state or local level. Within the Federal Government, probation officers are employed by the U.S. courts.

Advancement into supervisory and administrative jobs is dependent on advanced education, experience, and work performance. In most cases, a master’s degree in social work, counseling, or criminal justice will be necessary. Career paths progress from Probation Officer to Senior Probation officer all the way to Regional Director overseeing the work of hundreds of officers within the jurisdiction.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

3 comments… add one
  • Adrian m

    Do probation/parole officers have to take a polygraph exam in their background check like other law enforcement positions require?

  • unknown

    i have a question. I was told if you have ever done certain drugs and sold/bought drugs you cannot become a probation officer and also do they do lie detector tests as a probation officer? i was already two years in before i heard this and am devastated.checks?

  • Jose Rosell

    Hello my name is Jose Rosell, and I am a student at Colorado Technical University, and I was wondering if upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in Human Services would I be too old to seek employment as a probation officer at 53 years old? I have been a MotorCoach Operator for 26 years and would love to help people rehabilitate themselves back into society. I have worked closely with the community as a bus driver watching people enjoy their lives and would love to help people less fortunate.

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