Juvenile probation officers monitor underage offenders, working with them to prevent future criminal activity. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology or a related area is generally needed to work in this field. However, some juvenile probation officers hold a master's degree. An internship in a probation office or correctional facility is often helpful. Probation officers usually must complete a training program offered by the state or federal government and pass a certification examination.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many juvenile probation officers hold a bachelor's degree, while a master's degree can lead to promotion and advancement within an agency. Common undergraduate majors include criminal justice, psychology, sociology, social work and behavioral science. Coursework typically involves learning about social and psychological motivations behind human behavior, including criminal acts. Completion of an internship with a local agency or correctional facility can provide students with experience and could lead to increased job prospects following graduation.
Most agencies require candidates to pass oral and written tests, complete psychological and medical examinations and hold a current driver's license. New hires must complete a training program sanctioned by the federal or state government. Individuals convicted of previous felonies are typically ineligible for these jobs. Juvenile probation officers need good communication skills in order to interact with youths, as well as other social service professionals.
Career Outlook and Salary
Although BLS data specific to juvenile probation officers isn't available, the bureau noted that employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in general was expected to increase by 4% from 2014-2024. Reasons cited include state budgetary cuts leading to reduced sentences for offenders and older employees retiring. The BLS also reported that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a mean annual salary of $54,080 as of May 2015.
Tasks performed by juvenile probation officers can substantially vary between jurisdictions and states. Almost all juvenile probation officers exclusively counsel youths, but those working in rural areas might work with both adults and juveniles. They might work in intake, which requires screening the case histories of youth; investigations, which involves examining the background and offenses committed by youths; or supervision, which gives them the authority to counsel and supervise youths who are sentenced to probation. Junior probation officers also might work at residential facilities, detention centers or aftercare programs to keep youths out of trouble and prevent recidivism.
In summary, juvenile probation officers monitor underage offenders, working with them to prevent future criminal activity. A bachelor's degree is the minimum to work in this field, while a master's degree could lead to advancement opportunities.