How to Become a Probation Officer
Probation officers are responsible for overseeing people who are convicted of crimes, but who have been released on probation or parole. They fulfill many roles for these individuals, including offering treatment options, helping them find jobs, and keeping track of their progress. They also write reports documenting progress and hold meetings to discuss different options. Ultimately, they serve as supervisors and mentors for offenders who are trying to get back on their feet.
Potential probation officers must have strong communication skills, as they will be communicating with offenders, their families, treatment specialists, and judges on a regular basis. They must be prepared to handle high-stress situations, and must also be highly organized. Because probation officers frequently write reports, they must also have strong writing skills.
Education & Training
At a minimum, probation officers should have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to human service. The best degrees for probation officers include social work and criminal justice. Other possible areas of study are psychology, sociology, or criminology. Students who are currently working can pursue online degrees for probation officers and complete course work from their own homes.
Exact training requirements vary by employer, however it is typical for probation officer candidates to have some law enforcement training prior to applying. Ways to gain experience include serving as a corrections officer, police officer, or similar law enforcement agent. Students may also want to consider pursuing internships within the fields of social work or counseling, as such positions will improve the skills they need to be successful probation officers.
Probation officers typically need to complete background checks and interviews before being hired. The career field is set to grow by 18%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On average, probation officers tend to earn around $47,200 annually, the BLS reports. The top 10% earns around $80,750 a year, while the bottom 10% earns around $30,920 annually. Exact salary figures will vary depending upon experience, employer, and location. The longer an individual works as a probation officer, the higher his or her salary may be.