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How to Become a Probation Officer in California: School Overviews

A probation officer in California oversees the rehabilitation of convicted offenders by helping them obtain housing, counseling, employment and education. Every probation officer meets periodically with offenders to check their progress and assure compliance with probation rules. Several schools in the state can help prepare students for careers as probation officers in California.

Probation Officer Training Programs in California

Individuals looking to become a probation officer in California must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university in the area of criminal justice, psychology, social work or a related field. Probation officers should have good interpersonal and writing skills to meet frequent deadlines for reports and communicate with offenders, who are sometimes emotional, manipulative and threatening. A number of schools in California offer relevant degree programs, including the following:

  • California State University-Fullerton offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice, which focuses on the development of knowledge and skills that can be useful to an aspiring probation officer
  • San Diego State University offers a career-oriented Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, which prepares graduates for immediate employment.
  • La Sierra University, in Riverside, CA, also offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

Comparison of Schools

Though each of these schools offer similar programs, aspiring probation officers should also consider other factors such as tuition fees, acceptance rates, and student population. Such figures can be found in the table below.

California State University-Fullerton San Diego State University La Sierra University
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, public 4-year, private
Total Enrollment (2017)* 40,905 35,158 2,449
Campus Setting Large suburb Large city Large city
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2017-2018)* $6,850 (in-state)
$18,730 (out-of-state)
$7,460 (in-state)
$19,340 (out-of-state)
$32,130
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2017-2018)* 79% 59% 100%
Acceptance Rate (2017)* 46% 35% 48%
Retention Rate (2016)* 87% (for full-time students) 89% (for full-time students) 75% (for full-time students)
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (Students who began in 2011)* 66% 74% 47%

Source: NCES College Navigator

California State University - Fullerton

This accredited school offers a bachelor's degree program that meets the 4-year degree requirement to become a probation officer in California.

Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice

Students must complete a 120-credit program that includes core courses, such as crime and delinquency, criminal law and criminal justice research. Also included is a course in corrections that reviews the goals and strategies for rehabilitating and disciplining imprisoned adults. Elective courses include correctional rehabilitation, minorities in criminal justice and criminal justice writing. Students can also complete an internship at a public criminal justice agency, such as a probation department.

San Diego State University

Individuals who want to become a probation officer in California may choose to enroll at San Diego State, which features a relevant degree program.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

This degree program readies students for careers in law enforcement and corrections, including becoming a probation officer. The curriculum focuses on understanding and evaluating the functions of law enforcement, courts and corrections systems, including probation agencies. The bachelor's program includes courses in public administration, ethics, psychology, probation and parole, criminal justice and social control. Students must complete a criminal justice practicum. Additionally, the school's Criminal Justice Honor Society sponsors career functions and other activities involving individuals who work in the criminal justice field.

La Sierra University

Students looking to earn a relevant bachelor's degree can also consider La Sierra University, which offers a degree in criminal justice.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

The criminal justice program provides students with an understanding of the essential ideas associated with the criminal justice system. Instruction occurs through a combination of theory and field studies, with students honing their research methods as they learn about policies and systems. Course topics in this program provide extensive training in skills and knowledge relevant in a career as a probation officer, such as ethics, the American correction system, criminology, and interpersonal communication.


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