Parole Officer School and College Program Options

Criminal justice is the most appropriate field of study for parole officer training, and bachelor's and associate's degree options are available. However, a bachelor's degree is the standard. These programs can introduce students to concepts and practices not only in probation but in criminal law, policing and courts.

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Parole officers supervise and provide assistance to criminals who have been released from jail, with the ultimate goal of helping these offenders successfully re-enter society. The most relevant field for parole officer training is criminal justice, and degree programs are available across the country.

Top Ten Criminology Schools*

The best ten criminology schools are listed below, with information on tuition costs and the types of degrees offered:

University/College Location Institution Type Degrees Offered** Tuition and fees (2015-2016)***
University of Maryland at College Park College Park, MD 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $9,996 in-state, $31,144 out-of-state
University at Albany--SUNY Albany, NY 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $8,996 in-state, $22,116 out-of-state
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $11,000 in-state, $26,334 out-of-state
University of Missouri--St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $9,394 in-state, $23,812 out-of-state
Pennsylvania State University--University Park University Park, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $17,514 in-state, $31,346 out-of-state
University of California--Irvine Irvine, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's (online), Doctoral $13,252 in-state, $37,960 out-of-state
Florida State University Tallahassee, FL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $6,507 in-state, $21,673 out-of-state
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,560 in-state, $36,360 out-of-state
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey--Newark Newark, NJ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,597 in-state, $28,987 out-of-state
CUNY John Jay College New York, NY 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $6,810 in-state, $13,920 out-of-state

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **School websites, ***National Center for Education Statistics

College Selection Criteria

Students should consider the following when choosing a parole officer school:

  • Internships or on-the-job training may help to better prepare students for a career as a parole officer, so students should research each program's offerings in that area.
  • Understanding the minds of criminals is essential to being an effective parole officer. Students should consider choosing a school with reputable psychology professors.
  • The curricula typically cover topics in criminal law and the court system as well as psychology and the social sciences.
  • Most programs incorporate both a physical training and self-defense portion. Some bachelor's degree programs offer internships. Additional training could be required beyond these academic studies.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice is often preferred by employers of parole officers. This 4-year program starts with many of the same foundational topics covered at the associate level, but then it continues on to upper-division courses and electives that delve deeper into the subject area. Students may have the option to choose a parole officer or corrections concentration. Topics covered may include incarceration alternatives, juvenile justice system, criminal justice research methods and law. Internships may be available or required for this degree program.

Continuing Education Information

A master's-level criminal justice program is designed to help students develop advanced critical-thinking skills and compete for leadership positions. Emphasis is placed on public policy, law formation, justice systems and law enforcement. Courses may focus on issues like criminal profiling, sex offenders and domestic violence. Students can also learn to support and counsel victims.

Students interested in working as a parole officer will likely complete a degree in criminal justice. There are a number of programs available that cover relevant topics, and those that offer internships or other experiential education may better prepare students for a career than those without. Continuing education is available as well, as are opportunities to choose a particular concentration.

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