Probation officers, sometimes referred to as correctional treatment officers, are criminal justice professionals who oversee and maintain records on individuals' behaviors who have been sentenced to probation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most probation officers work exclusively with either adults or juveniles. They also work closely with the courts, making recommendations and testifying about their findings. Along with understanding the legal system, they should also be knowledgeable about concepts in psychology and sociology.
While a master's degree may be needed in some cases, most jobs for probation officers require candidates to hold bachelor's degrees, according to the BLS. Individuals may major in criminal justice, justice administration, or a related field. These programs include coursework in social behavior, criminal justice processes, criminology, and ethics. Some programs encourage students to perform an internship in a criminal justice specialty, such as substance abuse or corrections, before they graduate.
Many states require prospective probation officers to complete a training program, certification test, or both before they begin work. Training programs may include coursework or hands-on demonstrations and cover topics such as state regulations and self-defense techniques. After completing state-sponsored training, potential probation officers generally work as trainees under experienced officers for a period of time, usually a year. Probation officers may be required to complete continuing education to remain certified.
The BLS indicated that most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old; potential candidates seeking federal employment must also be younger than 37 years old. Applicants may have to submit to background checks and random drug tests, and they can be eliminated from consideration if they have been convicted of a felony. They may also have to take additional tests, including those that measure their psychological or physical fitness.
Most people in the probation officer and correctional treatment specialist occupation earned between $32,900 and $86,140 in 2015, and the profession was expected to see a 4% job growth from 2014-2024, which is slower than average. Funding changes will affect job growth, but retirement offers openings on a regular basis.