Probation Officer Degree Programs and Majors Overview

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Students of social work or criminal justice complete general education courses in areas such as mathematics and science as well as get basic education in their specialty area. In a criminal justice major program, courses may include criminology, policing and juvenile justice. A student in a social work program may study case management and human behavior theory. In both programs, an internship may be available. Entering freshmen are required to possess a high school diploma or GED and may need a minimum GPA. Students may also enter as upperclassmen if they have successfully completed an associate's degree. Many students who complete a 4-year bachelor degree program go on to gain their master's degree.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

Students enrolled in a baccalaureate-level criminal justice program study a wide variety of topics, including corrections, investigation, law, psychology and community relations. Students learn about the nature of crime and the societal structures in place to prevent or respond to crime. Some programs are competitive, and prior human services experience may improve admission chances.

  • Corrections
  • Private security
  • Research methods
  • Ethics
  • Juvenile justice
  • Statistics

Bachelor of Social Work

Social work focuses on helping vulnerable populations, encouraging diversity and counseling those in need within the community. This program appeals to students who desire to help individuals and families face challenges such as mental illness, poverty and addiction. Educational programs focus on providing a broad education that prepares graduates to work in a variety of settings. Most 4-year universities begin social work courses during the junior year, and students spend their first two years completing core degree requirements. The following course topics are included in the professional curriculum:

  • Social welfare and human services
  • Foundations of social work
  • Case management
  • Human behavior theory
  • Field internships

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Careers for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are expected to grow only 3% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The average annual salary of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $59,910 as of May 2019, per BLS reports.

Popular Career Options

Graduates of criminal justice baccalaureate programs may work in corrections, law enforcement and public safety, the courts or homeland security. Employment is available at the local, state and federal levels. Common options include:

  • Probation or parole officer
  • Corrections teacher
  • Law enforcement administrator

Continuing Education Information

Students interested in pursuing teaching or administration roles may pursue a master's degree in criminal justice. Additionally, graduates should expect to attend seminars and workshops to remain current with legal and practical changes in the corrections and court systems.

The Bachelor of Social Work degree is often a stepping stone to a master's degree program, which is frequently a minimum requirement to practice in many settings. The baccalaureate level is most common for those working as corrections counselors or probation officers.

Probation officers generally need a degree in social work or criminal justice to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for the job. While the coursework for each degree differs slightly they can help prepare you for similar careers.

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