Probation Officers and Parole Officers: What Is the Difference?

Aug 04, 2018

Probation and parole officers supervise people who have been put on probation and parole. Explore specific details about the differences between these two career fields, including job duties, educational requirements, and salary.

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Probation vs. Parole Officers

The roles of probation and parole officers are quite similar, with a couple key differences. An educational background in areas related to criminal justice make either option a viable career path. Probation and parole officers typically share similar duties with one main exception. A parole officer supervises offenders who have been released from prison after serving part of their sentence, while a probation officer supervises those who are sentenced to serve probation instead of being incarcerated. Both positions' main goal is to keep offenders from repeating past crimes or violating the court's terms of their probation or parole.

Job Duties

Let's compare and contrast the job duties of these two positions. Parole officers ensure that offenders register with local police agencies, undergo drug testing, and report to the officer at a specific time and place.

Probation officers investigate the offender's personal history and perform background checks, then report these findings to the court system. Probation officers may also make recommendations that revoke or modify the terms of the offender's probation, maintain case records, assist in courtroom procedures, and maintain and monitor the payment orders of the court, such as fines, restitution, and support orders.

Both parole and probation officers make planned visits to the homes and workplaces of offenders. They work with neighborhood associations and religious groups to check up on the behavior of offenders. They ensure that the people they supervise enroll in substance abuse rehabilitation and job training programs, as ordered by the court.

Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree is generally required for employment as a probation or parole officer. Students interested in obtaining one of these jobs may enroll in a degree program in criminal justice, social work, or psychology. Some states often require a prospective probation or parole officer to complete a state-sponsored training program, which may include a professional certification test.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists were expected to see 4% growth in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024. March 2017 data from showed that probation officers made a median income of $40,265 per year, while parole officers earned a median income of $41,459 per year.

Both probation and parole officers seek to prevent offenders from repeating their past mistakes or making new ones that violate the terms issued by the court. Probation officers work with those that are serving probation in place of incarceration, while parole officers work with offenders who have already served part of a prison sentence and must now integrate into society.

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