Probation Officer: Education and Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a probation officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and state certification to find out if this is the career for you.

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work, or a related field is required to begin a career as a probation officer. Probation officers work with offenders after they've been released from jail. Their goal is to help those convicted of crimes return to society and become productive members of the community.

Essential Information

Probation officers help people who have been sentenced to probation make appropriate changes to their lives. They monitor the offenders' progress and maintain contact with them and with the court system. This job requires excellent written and verbal communication skills. Education requirements for a career as a probation officer usually involve a bachelor's degree and the completion of a state-sponsored training program that includes a certification exam.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work or a related field
Other Requirements Many states call for a training program and certification exam
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Mean Salary (2015)* $54,080 for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Educational Requirements for a Probation Officer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in social work, criminal justice or a related major is usually required to work as a probation officer. Many criminal justice programs offer a corrections track or concentration, which prepares graduates for careers in probation and parole. Criminal justice programs typically include core courses in criminology, corrections and the judicial system. The curricula for programs in social work focus on human behavior and social justice. Programs also provide fieldwork experience in major areas of social work.

Additional requirements for becoming a probation officer may vary by state but generally include passing a background check and qualifying examination. Many states require individuals who pass the screening process to undergo probation-officer training, which may include topics in safety, legal procedures and counseling. Graduates from this training program are required to pass a certification exam.

Probation Officer Career Profile

Probation officers are professionals who help offenders reenter society as productive members. These professionals, who are also referred to as community supervision officers, maintain contact with offenders and their families to monitor their progress. Probation officers develop rehabilitation programs and document probationers' participation. Probation officers also spend significant time working for the courts, performing tasks like writing sentencing reports or testifying.

Career Outlook

The BLS predicted employment opportunities for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists to increase by about 4% from 2014-2024.

Salary Information

In May 2015, the BLS reported the mean annual salary of a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist was $54,080, and the top ten percent earned over $86,140. The BLS data further showed that the two largest employers for these professionals, state and local governments, were also the top paying. The average annual salaries for those working in local and state governments were $55,300 and $53,930, respectively, during this time period.

The job growth expected for probation officers from 2014-2024 is slower than average when compared to all occupations, according to the BLS. Those interested in pursuing a career in this field need to earn a bachelor's degree and may need to complete an exam, background check, and probation officer training.


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