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Probation Officers and Parole Officers: What Is the Difference?

Probation and parole officers supervise people who have been put on probation and parole. They help to make sure that convicts who have been released from prison or who have been put on probation are integrating themselves in society. Probation and parole officers are generally required to possess a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field.

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Probation Officers' and Parole Officers' Duties

Probation and parole officers typically share the same duties with one exception. A parole officer supervises offenders who have been released from prison after serving part of their sentence. A probation officer supervises those who are sentenced to serve probation instead of being incarcerated.

Parole officers ensure that offenders register with local police agencies. They may require offenders to undergo drug testing. Parole officers set the time and place for the offender to report to the officer.

Probation officers investigate the offender's personal history, perform background checks and report these findings to the court system. Probation officers can make recommendations that revoke or modify the terms of the offender's probation. Probation officers maintain case records and assist in courtroom procedures as required. They maintain and monitor the payment orders of the court, such as fines, restitution and support orders.

Many officers make planned visits to the home and workplace of offenders. They work with neighborhood associations and religious groups to check up on the behavior of offenders. They ensure that the people they supervise enroll in substance abuse rehabilitation and job training programs as ordered by the court. It is the probation and parole officer's main goal to keep offenders from repeating past crimes or violating parole and ending up returning to prison.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree is generally required for employment as a probation or parole officer. Students interested in obtaining a job as a probation or parole officer may enroll in a degree program such as criminal justice, social work or psychology. Some states often require a prospective probation or parole officer to complete a state-sponsored training program, which may include a professional certification test.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists were to experience a 1% decline in employment from 2012 to 2022. March 2014 data from stated that probation officers had a median income of $37,564 per year, while parole officers earned a median salary of $38,547.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics