Becoming a Parole Officer: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become a Parole Officer?

Parole officers supervise individuals who have been released from jail to ensure they're adapting to normal life. They may also assist offenders with resources, such as job training. Almost all of these workers are employed by the federal or state government. Working with ex-criminals can be demanding and difficult; although, some professionals enjoy the opportunity to counsel those in need. Many parole officers must stay on call and work long hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is typically required
Degree Field Criminal justice, social work, behavioral science or a related field
Training Completion of state or federal government training program usually required
Experience None required for entry-level positions
Key Skills Communication, critical-thinking, decision-making, organizational, monitoring and reasoning skills, emotional stability, aptitude to administer drug or alcohol tests
Salary $53,019 per year (2015 median salary for all parole officers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, (August 2015)

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) both indicate that most states require at least a bachelor's degree for parole officers. While schools may not typically offer degree programs specific to parole officer training, students can consider programs in related majors like criminal justice. These programs include theoretical and practical coursework in the criminal justice system and social aspects of crime. Courses may include corrections principles, deviant behavior, juvenile delinquency and public administration.

Success Tip:

  • Pursue opportunities to gain experience. Some ways that one may gain experience are by completing an internship, job shadowing, or seeking community service work with a social service or correctional agency.

Step 2: Complete a Training Program

According to the BLS, most positions in probation and correctional services require the completion of a training program through the state or federal government. These programs teach trainees supervision policies, state regulations, report writing and self-defense. After a training program, many states have probationary periods in which individuals are evaluated for up to one year before they are given a permanent position. These training programs may prepare aspiring parole officers for certification exams to work in the state.

Step 3: Consider a Master's Degree

A graduate degree in criminal justice, social work or a related field may help with advancement. These programs focus on advanced social work practice and include courses on policy design and research methods. Criminal justice programs offer courses in criminal theory and policing, while programs in social work include courses in social welfare policy and administration.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional association. Parole officers may choose to join a professional association, such as the American Correctional Association (ACA). Benefits include receiving publications relevant to the field and admission to professional conferences and workshops.
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