The position of federal parole officer no longer exists, though these positions still exist in state and local prison systems. Officers work with parolees to help them re-enter society as well as ensure they comply with the terms of their parole. Requirements vary by state for parole officer positions and may include a bachelor's degree and completion of on-the-job training.
The Sentencing Reform Act ended parole for federal prisoners; therefore, federal parole officers no longer exist. However, state and local prison systems are still in need of parole officers, as they play a vital role in reintegrating prisoners into society. An officer who works in this field has the ability to rise through the ranks to supervisory level positions. Other related career options include correctional officers, counselors and correctional treatment specialists.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Successful completion of training program|
|Projected Job Growth* (2018-2028)||3%|
|Mean Annual Salary* (2018)||$53,020|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Requirements for Parole Officers
Education and Training
Higher levels of employment require a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology, social work or a related field. Some states consider job experience in lieu of degrees. Check job postings and requirements at department of corrections websites or offices to determine specific qualifications, since each state differs slightly.
There are no actual parole officer degrees; however, job specific training is given to all new hires. In some areas, parole officers are required to carry firearms and need to go through training and licensing procedures before beginning work. In some states, parole officers have equivalent authority as police officers and must attend some degree of police academy training.
Parole officers work with parolees and their families, all of whom may be difficult to manage. For this reason, a parole officer must be able to work in a high stress environment. Patience is a valued trait in parole officers.
Visiting or checking up on parolees comprises a large part of a parole officer's day. The officer must be able to spend many hours driving. The officer must also be able to schedule his or her day appropriately and remain flexible in cases of unforeseen circumstances. Most parole officers work full time and are also required to work on call, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Communication skills are essential. Parole officers communicate with parolees, the court system and local community services. Officers track progress or lack thereof in parolee activities and must be able to prepare reports for parole boards. Parole officers are often called upon to testify in court and at parole boards regarding the behavior of the parolee. They must have adequate computer skills in order to update databases.
An important requirement for a parole officer is a genuine desire to help the parolee find a way to return to society as a law abiding citizen. This requires patience and excellent listening skills. It also requires the ability to effectively match a parolee with rehabilitation programs that will aid in the difficult transition from prison life to civilian life.
Career Outlook for Parole Officers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of probation officer and correctional treatment specialist positions was projected to grow slower than the average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professional in the 90th percentile or higher earned $94,770 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $34,630 or less per year.
Parole officer positions require skills in communication, patience, listening and the desire to help parolees transition to civilian life. A bachelor's degree may be required and is usually necessary for advancement. Mean salaries were about $53,000 in 2019, and the job growth rate was projected to be slower for all occupations.