How to Become a Parole Agent: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a parole agent. Research the education and training requirements, as well as the work experience needed for starting a career as a parole agent. View article »

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  • 1:04 Career Requirements
  • 1:42 Steps to Become a Parole Agent

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Parole Agent?

Parole agents assist individuals who have just been released from jail and need to serve parole for a period of time as a condition of their release. Parole offers give ex-convicts a chance to continue their rehabilitation by helping them find employment and receive counseling. Parole agents also meet with offenders and their families on a regular basis to help with the transition from incarceration to freedom. Some parolees need to be monitored by electronic devices and take random drug tests.

Parole agents might have to work long hours and in hostile environments, particularly during home inspection visits made to their parolees. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job openings for all types of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are expected to drop 1% between 2012 and 2022 due to funding constraints. However, this can be a very rewarding career when agents help former inmates successfully readjust to life outside of prison.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree and master's degree
Degree Name Criminal justice, social work, psychology
Training Completion of a state training program is required
Key Skills Emotionally stable, able to handle hostile or stressful situations, strong communication and decision making skills; must have driver's license, meet age requirements, pass drug tests, and possess felony-free backgrounds
Salary (2015) $49,360 per year (Median salary for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, which include parole agents)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Steps to Become a Parole Agent

What steps do I need to take to become a parole agent?

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

Prospective parole agents can pursue majors in social work, psychology, or criminal justice to prepare for careers in the field. Courses include communications, parole and probation, criminal behavior, sociology, counseling, and corrections. Opportunities are also available to learn about working in communities and helping others obtain the resources they need.

Consider a master's degree to enhance your opportunities. While a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for parole officer work, a master's degree may be preferred if you have no experience in the field. Pursuing graduate degrees in social work, criminal justice, or psychology are all options.

Step 2: Complete a State Training Program

Parole agents will need to complete a state training program. The requirements and terms of these programs vary between states. For example, New York requires parole and probation officers to complete a two-week Fundamentals of Probation Practice program, in addition to a week of peace officer training. Illinois requires that officers complete 40 hours of training on topics such as substance abuse, differential supervision, and ethics. North Carolina's Probation Officer Training Program is 160 hours and must be completed within four weeks.

It's a good idea to look into specialized training. Some states, like New York and Connecticut, offer specialized training programs. These programs include Violence Against Women Act Project, Sex Offender Caseload, Motivational Interviewing, and Mental Health Caseload.

You will want to stay current. Many states require parole and probation officers to complete continuing education each year. This usually involves about 20 hours of education through classes, conferences, or Web-based media

Step 3: Join a Professional Organization

Aspiring parole agents might consider joining a professional membership organization, such as the American Probation and Parole Association, which offers training, networking, and career development opportunities, as well as other resources for professional growth and advancement in this field.

Parole agents assist individuals who are serving parole in their transition from incarceration to freedom. They have college degrees and state-mandated training, along with emotional stability and strong communication skills. And they can earn a median annual salary of $49,360.

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