Probation officers monitor and work with probationers to prevent them from committing new crimes. To become a probation officer, you must acquire a bachelor's degree, along with the required training and certification. The following information details the educational requirements and job outlook for this occupational field.
Probationary Officer Definition
Probation officers supervise convicted criminals who serve probation instead of jail sentences. Job duties include meeting with offenders and documenting their activities to ensure that they obey the court's probation requirements. Probation officers work for state and federal governments, agencies, and jurisdictions. Most probation officers hold a bachelor's degree.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||State training program and certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)*||6% (probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)|
|Average Salary (2018)*||$58,790 (probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Probation Officer Requirements
Probationary Officer Training
Various federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies may have different entry requirements for meeting probation officer qualifications and how to become a probation officer. However, most employers require a 4-year bachelor's degree in justice administration, social work, corrections, psychology, or criminal justice. Some employers require a master's degree in one of the preceding fields. Individuals who earn an associate's degree may improve their chances of becoming a probation officer by obtaining relevant work experience in the fields of social work, counseling, criminal investigations, or corrections. Requirements for becoming a probation officer include good writing and interpersonal skills.
Most employers require applicants for probation officer positions to be at least 21 years old. Aspiring probation officers typically must pass a state or federal certification exam, depending on the employer. Requirements to become a probation officer also include passing psychological and physical exams, drug screening and a probation officer background check.
A significant amount of probation officer training takes place on the job. Newly hired probation officers must undergo a supervised training and probationary period for up to a year before they are hired full-time. Federal agencies require probation officers to have at least two years of work experience, which they typically obtain at state and local agencies.
Being a Probation Officer
Probation officers usually specialize in supervising either adults or juveniles. They closely monitor the activities of probationers by communicating with their neighbors, friends, families and community groups. They meet with offenders regularly at probation offices and at their probationers' homes and job sites. Probation officers may arrange for offenders to obtain employment, housing or alcohol and drug abuse counseling. One key job duty involves writing reports on offenders' progress and submitting the documents to courts. At any given time, probation officers may handle 20-100 cases. Probation officers often spend a disproportionate amount of time handling cases that involve high-risk offenders convicted of violent crimes, robberies, and selling drugs.
According to the BLS, employment of probation officers is expected to grow by six percent from 2016 to 2026, which is considered average. The average annual salary of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $58,790 in 2018.
Social Worker vs Probation Officer
There are some similarities between the type of work that social workers and probation officers do, but their roles serve different purposes. A social worker works to support people who have struggles in their day-to-day lives, identifying strengths and helping them accomplish their goals. The primary difference between the two careers is that social workers generally work with at-risk populations in a prevention role, while probation officers help individuals keep in line with rules that an individual who is on probation is required to follow.