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Parole Officer Education and Degree Program Information

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

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Being a parole officer takes a lot of training, both before employment and throughout your career. A bachelor's degree is a good start, although some employers may require more advanced degrees. Further training, possibly through police programs or through related associations, is also required to make sure a parole officer remains qualified for their duties.

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Essential Information

A parole officer supervises criminals who have been released from prison early and are, in effect, serving out the remainder of their sentences while living in the community. A parole officer needs at least a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, law enforcement or another relevant field, preferably in a program that includes internships. Some federal parole officer jobs require graduate study. After being hired, these professionals usually must complete an agency-specific training program and pass some examinations before they are allowed to work without supervision.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in law enforcement, criminal justice or related field; some jobs require graduate courses; post-hiring training program and firearms training
Other Requirements Psychological, oral and written examinations
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% for probation officers and other correctional treatment specialists
Median Salary (2015)* $49,360 for probation officers and other correctional treatment specialists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Parole Officer Education Requirements

Virtually all state and local positions as a parole officer require at least a bachelor's degree in areas such as criminal justice, psychology, social work or corrections. The position of federal parole officer requires at least one additional year of graduate study following the undergraduate degree.

Once an individual has been hired, the officer is required to complete an additional training program. Although the training program will vary by state or jurisdiction and may be conducted at an educational institution, a police academy or the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, it will generally consist of job-specific subjects such as cultural sensitivity, community relations, state and federal laws, criminology principles, case management and report writing.

Since a parole officer is sometimes required to act as a law enforcement officer and carry a hand gun, self-defense and firearms instruction are generally included in the training. A trial period of up to a year is typically required of all parole officers, during which time the new officer shadows an experienced officer and receives thorough on-the-job training. Toward the end of the probationary period, parole officers must pass oral, written and psychological examinations in order to become certified.

The American Probation and Parole Association offers numerous workshops and seminars on various industry practices and developments that contribute to the continuing education of a parole officer.

Degree Programs

Although degrees in psychology or social work are acceptable to qualify as a parole officer, degrees in law enforcement provide familiarity and experience with the justice system and the role played by the parole officer in it. A program leading to a bachelor's degree in law enforcement typically consists of courses that include research in criminal justice, legal issues, mid-level management, criminal justice management and a number of internships.

A law enforcement degree program at the master's level is made up of such courses as advanced research methods in criminal justice, statistics, criminological theory, management principles and administration of justice.

While not an industry requirement, doctoral programs consist of extensive study in such areas as public policy, legislative research, organizational theory and behavioral science.

Parole officers work with people who have been released from jail to finish their prison sentence in society. Training to become a parole officer includes a bachelor's degree in a related field as well as self-defense and firearms training. Parole officers are responsible for following state and federal procedures and completing administrative paperwork, and they should be knowledgeable on the state and federal legal systems.

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