Should I Be a Youth Parole Officer?
Youth parole officers, also known as juvenile probation officers, monitor juvenile offenders after the end of their court-imposed sentences, which includes designing specific parole plans for each offender. Their job duties can also include testing parolees for drugs, confirming they meet curfews, and helping them reach established goals.
The majority of parole officers, including those who work with young people, are employed full-time by local or state governments. Job duties associated with this career can often take more than 40 hours a week, and hours are most often irregular. This career can be highly emotionally satisfying and very stressful, especially for those acting as youth parole officers. It carries a potential risk of personal danger, as some parolees can become violent or run, causing the parole officer to bring them back into the system, physically, if necessary.
|Degree Level||Varies; bachelor's degree common|
|Degree Field||Behavioral science or related fields|
|Certification||Certification as a peace officer is required in some states|
|Key Skills||Communication, writing, critical-thinking, organization, and decision-making skills; stable and capable of coping with stress; know legal codes, security policies, and clerical procedures|
|Salary (2016)||$40,306 (median for parole officers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job listings from employers (2012-2015), Various state peace officers standards and training boards, O*Net Online, Payscale.com
Steps to Be a Youth Parole Officer
What steps do I need to take to be a youth parole officer?
Step One: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree in a behavioral science, criminal justice, or a related area can prepare an individual to work as a parole officer. Programs in psychology or sociology cover topics like experimental psychology, statistics, developmental and abnormal psychology, social systems, and personality. Some programs allow students to specialize in areas like mental health psychology, human services, child and adolescent psychology, or criminal justice.
Bachelor's degree programs in social work are also available, and classes in these programs cover topics like children in at-risk environments, human behavior and the social environment, the anatomy of violence, and the foundations of social justice. Students who major in criminal justice will study areas that include criminal law and procedure, ethical issues in criminal justice, police and society, report writing, and criminal justice assessments.
Complete a field experience or internship to increase your chances for success. Field experience or internship opportunities are available in many types of degree programs. These experiences can enhance a student's understanding of the types of tasks that workers perform in the field, as well as help them stand out with prospective employers.
Step Two: Complete the Necessary Training
Some youth parole officers have law enforcement powers, may be required to carry a gun, and are classified peace officers. As peace officers, they must take the appropriate training, which can be done at a police academy, government agency, or other institution.
Parole officers often work initially as trainees. During this time, they get on-the-job training. After approximately six months, they may work for a year under supervision. They learn to help their clients find jobs, housing, medical care, and appropriate social activities. They investigate any violations of a client's parole conditions. Generally, parole officers monitor a juvenile's reentry into society and provide the released individual with resources they might need, such as counseling or job training.
Step Three: Become Certified
Many youth parole officers may be required to complete a certification exam after completing their training. Specific requirements vary depending on the state. The state's Commission of Peace Officers Standards and Training regulates peace officer requirements, which typically require completing of a degree program, passing multiple exams, and agreeing to a background check and drug testing.
You may want to complete advanced education for further success. A master's degree may be required for advancement to positions such as juvenile probation counselor. A master's degree in criminal justice is acceptable for some positions, while others require a master of social work (MSW) and licensure as a clinic social worker. A typical master's degree program would offer coursework in the juvenile justice system, criminal justice statistics, community corrections, social control, corrections, law enforcement, juvenile community treatment, and policy and planning administration.
Be sure to research recertification requirements. Officers should know their state's requirements for maintaining certification, which can include completing continuing education or taking an exam.
Youth parole officers monitor juvenile offenders after their court-imposed sentences. They have college degrees, professional communication skills, and the ability to handle stress. And they earn a median annual salary of $40,306.