Probation Officers and Parole Officers: What Is the Difference?

Probation and parole officers supervise people who have been put on probation and parole. Explore specific details about the differences between these two career fields, including job duties, educational requirements, and salary.

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Differences Between Probation and Parole Officers

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.

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Job Duties

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. These professionals 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.

Both parole and probation officers make planned visits to the homes and workplaces 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 one of these jobs may enroll in a degree program in criminal justice, social work or psychology, along with related fields. 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 expected to see 4% growth in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024. January 2016 data from PayScale.com showed that probation officers made a median income of $39,041 per year, while parole officers earned a median annual salary of $40,306.

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