Career Options Within the Department of Juvenile Justice

May 10, 2021

There are many career options for those interested in working in the field of juvenile justice. Jobs can include being a juvenile correctional officer, a juvenile correctional counselor, a juvenile probation and parole officer, or a juvenile defense lawyer.

Essential Information

There are many career options within a juvenile justice department, including correctional officers, correctional counselors, probation or parole officers and defense lawyers. Read on to learn more about the available career options in this field.

Required Education High school diploma or GED
Other Requirements Bachelor's degree in social work or related field for advanced positions
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*
Median Salary (2020)* $55,690 annually for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Juvenile Correctional Officers

The juvenile correctional officer works directly with inmates of a juvenile correctional facility, drug treatment centers or juveniles involved in a rehabilitation program. Using qualities of both a correctional officer and a social worker, they maintain the security and safety of youths in the justice system, enforce facility rules and monitor and report prisoner behavior to correctional counselors. Educational requirements vary by state and position; however, most employers desire that the applicant have at least a high school diploma or GED combined with some prior experience as a law enforcement officer.

Juvenile Correctional Counselors

Juvenile correctional counselors, also referred to as correctional treatment specialists, work with juveniles who have been convicted of a crime to determine the best course of action to take in order to rehabilitate them. They work in coordination with correctional officers, probation or parole officers and judges to develop a series of activities and meetings for convicted juveniles. Correctional counselors help the child address and change behaviors that might lead to more criminal behavior. Most employers seek correctional counselors that have previous experience working in counseling and a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as sociology or psychology.

Juvenile Probation Officers and Parole Officers

Juvenile probation officers work with juveniles that have been deemed delinquent but suitable to return to society in a supervised program of rehabilitation. Probation officers serve as mentor and enforcement to these youths. They may work with family or caregivers to provide structure and accountability for youths on probation, accompany them to therapy appointments or to volunteering positions and community events. Juvenile parole officers have a very similar job description and educational requirement to that of the probation officer; however, the offenders they work with have served and been released from a term in a correctional facility. As both jobs involve many of the features of social work, most positions require a bachelor's degree in social work, criminology or related fields.

Juvenile Defense Lawyers

Many attorneys who feel strongly about the treatment of young criminal offenders work in the juvenile justice department as juvenile defense lawyers. The issues surrounding punishment and rehabilitation of delinquent youth are very volatile. Lawyers who choose to pursue juvenile defense must prepare to be emotionally as well as intellectually invested in their client's case. Juvenile defense lawyers must incorporate child psychology and development, social work and knowledge of programs in community health and alternative educational in order to appeal for the best possible outcome for their client.

Interested law students should refer to available juvenile defense opportunities through their school, with many law schools offering semester- or year-long clinics that prepare law students for the juvenile justice courtroom, educate them on juvenile and criminal litigation and often provide simulated court trials.

Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are expected to experience a 4% increase in job opportunities from 2019 to 2029. The BLS also reported that these professionals earned a median annual salary of $55,690 in May 2020.

It may be possible to enter the field of juvenile justice with a high school diploma. Juvenile probation and parole officers and juvenile corrections officers may be able to secure an entry-level position without postsecondary training, but will need a degree in criminal justice or a related field to advance. Juvenile corrections counselors need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as psychology, and criminal defense attorneys must have a law degree and pass the state bar exam.

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