A career as a parole officer involves working with inmates before and after incarceration. Parole officers evaluate prisoners' readiness for parole during incarceration, and then work with parolees after release to help with a smooth transition from prison life. They also monitor parolees to ensure they are meeting the terms of their parole.
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Parole officers work in two worlds: inside correctional institutions and on the outside. The work inside includes assessing prisoners' lives and activities before and during confinement, determining possible job prospects if they are paroled and preparing reports for parole boards who ultimately make the decisions to release inmates early. They do this by monitoring adherence to prison rules, job performance within the prison and progress with any applicable therapy or rehabilitation programs.
Once an offender is out on parole, a parole officer's job shifts to facilitating a smooth transition into society for a parolee. This can include attending periodic meetings to discuss progress, helping to obtain training and/or jobs and even assisting drug addicts in finding rehabilitation programs. Other possible duties can involve working with therapists, social workers and psychologists regarding the welfare of parolees and even supervising halfway houses with multiple people on parole that can support each other. In instances where parole is violated, parole officers can recommend revocation of parole and even assist in arresting offenders.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in criminal justice, behavioral sciences, social work or related field|
|Other Requirements||State and/or federal training program and certification|
|Projected Job Growth||4% from 2014-2024 (for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$50,160 annually (for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Excellent communication skills are vital for parole officers. They must be able to communicate effectively and positively with a diverse assortment of people with varying personalities on a day-to-day basis. In addition, one must have very good writing skills because parole officers write reports regularly that track progress and behavior within and outside of correctional facilities. Other helpful skills include an ability to work in a stressful environment, capacity to juggle heavy caseloads and a resourceful and positive attitude toward those looking to stay out of prison.
Qualified parole officers can work in many capacities within local and state governments or on the federal level within U.S. court systems or the U.S. Department of Justice. Earnings vary widely depending upon experience and location, but tend to grow in supervisory positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the median annual earnings for correctional officers (which includes parole officers) were $50,160 in May 2016. The BLS also expects employment to increase 4% during the 2014-2024 decade
A person with at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as psychology, criminology or sociology, coupled with a year or two of work experience in a social service setting will find a more favorable job outlook than those with less education or experience. Most states require additional training and certification beyond the bachelor's decree before one can become a parole officer.
Positions as a parole officer usually require a bachelor's degree. They may also require completion of a training program and obtaining certification. The job growth outlook for parole officers is slower than the job market as a whole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.