What is a Probation Officer? - Job Description, Duties & Requirements

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  • 0:04 What Is a Probation Officer?
  • 1:06 Responsibilities
  • 3:04 Requirements
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cori Buggeln
So, you think you want to be a probation officer? A probation officer is an individual who meets with adults or juveniles who have been placed on probation by an order of the court because of a conviction for a criminal offense. This lesson goes over the many duties and requirements to work in this field.

What Is a Probation Officer?

A probation officer is an officer of the court who regularly meets individuals who have been sentenced to complete a period of supervised probation. These individuals are typically misdemeanor offenders and some lower-level felony offenders. First-time offenders form a large majority of those placed on probation. Placing someone on supervised probation is a way in which the court diverts individuals away from incarceration in jail.

Those on probation live in our communities, remain at home, are employed or enrolled in an educational program, and raise their families. The goal of the justice system is to have an individual who is placed on probation be a proactive member of society while maintaining interaction with their family and sources of support in the community.

While on probation, an individual may be ordered to participate in substance abuse or domestic violence assessment to discern if counseling is in order. Additionally, individuals may have to participate in monitored sobriety by doing breathalyzer or urinalysis tests. Requiring an individual to continue their schooling and/or work is another typical condition.


A probation officer will need to meet with their client on a monthly or sometimes weekly basis. Based on a risk/needs assessment, the probation officer will determine the level of supervision a person requires (minimum, medium, or maximum level). This helps to determine how much support and supervision an offender needs.

Assessments gauge how involved an individual is in a community, often referred to as their community ties. The assessment also tests how likely someone is to commit further crimes. Each time a probation client meets with his/her probation officer, they will need to fill out a report form.

Peoples' lives often change due to unemployment, gaining employment, or divorce. Meeting with a client allows the probation officer to see where additional support is needed so the client can be successful.

Therefore, while a person begins at a maximum level of supervision (weekly meetings), this does not mean that they will continue at this level throughout their probationary term. Probation officers are required to consistently revise a probationer's case plan, a notation in the client's file of:

  • What counseling services the client is seeking
  • Where they are working
  • What goals the client has for the short and long term
  • What struggles the client foresees in staying sober, and
  • What resources the individual has to overcome obstacles

Changes in the level of supervision can occur because the probationer becomes more involved in the community or their risk for drug usage is reduced. The probation officer may determine that the client is now at a minimum risk of reoffending. As long as the client complies with the terms and conditions of the court, they will now only need to meet with their probation officer once per month.

Probation officers also need to be skilled at collaborating with external agencies. For instance, if you were a juvenile probation officer, you would typically be required to meet with school officials; parents; social service workers; therapists; and a GAL (guardian ad litem), an attorney appointed by the court to ensure that the best interests of the juvenile are followed.

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