Online Colleges for Probation Officers: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online probation officer school. Read on to get an overview of the program options, qualification applications, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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If you are searching for an online probation officer program, you may want to consider several factors, such as the type of degree and whether a program is offered completely online or in a hybrid format. Some programs require in-person internships, but there are at least three schools that offer programs that can be completed entirely online.

How to Select an Online Probation Officer School

Online programs in criminal justice provide the relevant education and training for a variety of positions in the field of probation and are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree level from various colleges. Students must weigh the award level with the program delivery and technical requirements.

Award Level

While an associate's degree can be adequate preparation to work in a probation department in an entry-level capacity, a bachelor's degree is often necessary for those wishing to work as probation officers. Those looking to enter supervisory positions in probation departments often pursue a master's degree.

Program Delivery

Students must decide if they want a totally online program or a hybrid program, which is a combination of online and on-campus education. Some schools with hybrid programs offer internships through a local probation department in which students can gain valuable real-life experience. Fully online programs only require participation in class discussions and the completion of tests and exams online.

Technical Requirements

Online schools' computer systems allow students to access coursework 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students should investigate if schools have special hardware and software requirements before selecting an online program and be aware that some schools tack on technology fees that can be assessed per term.

List of Common Online Probation Officer Programs

Online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Associate's degree programs generally take two years to complete and can prepare students for entry-level positions in probation departments. Topics that may be covered involve ethics, courts, juvenile justice, police and other classes in the social sciences. Other subjects might include:

  • Ethics and the criminal justice leader
  • Criminal law
  • International criminal justice
  • Judicial administration

Online Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice

In a bachelor's degree program, students can often concentrate in areas such as security, law enforcement or corrections. These four-year programs include courses in:

  • Applied criminal justice ethics
  • Criminal investigation and procedure
  • Criminology
  • Criminal justice information systems

Online Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice

These degrees can be completed in two years and generally require 36 credits. A master's degree program in criminal justice can qualify experienced individuals for supervisory positions in corrections, probation and parole officer departments, juvenile service and criminal investigation. Courses involve criminal justice theories and students engage in practical research into the criminal justice system. Course topics for this program might include:

  • Product counterfeiting
  • Crime causation and prevention
  • Methods in criminal justice research
  • Intro to forensic science

Schools with Online Programs in Probation

Many first-time students and working professionals may wish to start a career in criminal justice by enrolling in an online program. Southern New Hampshire University offers several program options, including a justice studies certificate, an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree with six focuses and three master's degrees that do not require the GMAT or GRE for admissions. A capstone in criminal justice is required for the undergraduate degree, and the MBA in Criminal Justice prepares students for management careers in law enforcement, security, corrections/probation and other fields.

The Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville offers an online Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. All undergraduate degrees require a student to complete the school's General Education Program, and two of these courses must be approved 300-level writing courses. In addition, all criminal justice electives must be at the 300 level or higher to meet the bachelor's program requirements.

Hartnell College has a 100% online associate's degree in Administration of Justice, which can be completed in two years or in 3 semesters with the fast track option. The program offers electives in three areas: correctional science, paralegal/legal assistant, and criminal justice. This associate's degree does not meet all requirements for transfer to another school, so students are encouraged to follow the requirements of the four-year institute they intend to transfer to.

There are associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in criminal justice offered fully online at several schools around the country. Students should determine their education and career goals and select a program, some of which have specific concentrations, that will cater to these goals.

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