Probation Officer Education Requirements

If you've ever wanted to know how to become a probation officer, keep reading. Find job duties, probation officer career requirements, online and traditional education, and general salary information for this career.

Probation Officer Job Duties: What You'll Do

Probation officers and parole officers are often lumped together when people think about them. They do have some common duties, such as working within the corrections system and being employed by county, state or federal corrections departments. Sometimes they even take on dual responsibilities, functioning as both probation and parole officers. Probation officers perform many duties specific to probation and deal with offenders who have been convicted of a crime but not sent to jail.

Probation officers work with offenders who have been sentenced to probation and will therefore not go to prison for their offense. Probation officers conduct pre-sentence investigations and write reports on convicted criminals to help the courts decide on sentencing and what level of probation the offender may receive. These presentence investigation reports (PSIs) also include recommendations regarding the likelihood of rehabilitation and recidivism (the chance that an offender will re-commit his or her crime).

Probation officers evaluate their clients by conducting interviews with family members, employers and counselors, and use drug testing and GPS monitoring. Probation officers handle anywhere from 15 to over 100 cases, depending on their district or territory. The workload can be very heavy and is often dictated by the level of offender the officer is dealing with. Probation officers may generally work with either juvenile or adult offenders.

In certain states, probation officers carry the dual title of probation and parole officer. The probation officer duties do not change, but the officer may also conduct the duties of a parole officer.

A career as a probation officer can be stressful and on occasion dangerous. But those who pursue this career find it challenging as well as rewarding.

Probation Officer Requirements and Qualifications

The majority of corrections departments require probation officers to have a bachelor's degree from a 4-year college or university. A bachelor's degree in corrections, criminal justice, psychology, social work or another related field is preferred. Some positions, such as federal and higher-level positions, may require a master's degree in criminal justice, social work, counseling or a related field.

Most departments require applicants to be at least 21 years of age, not to have been convicted of a felony, and to have strong writing and interview skills. Computer skills have become necessary as well due to the technological advancements in the field. Some states may require probation officers to have at least two years of corrections, parole, correctional treatment specialist or probation experience. Previous social work or counseling experience where the objective was to guide a subject through difficult situations is also looked upon highly.

Probation officer instruction differs depending on the department, but usually includes a six month to a year probationary period during which a new probation officer works along side a supervisor or experienced probation officer. The application and hiring process may also involve physical and psychological examinations, and there are often written tests and oral interviews. Most states require probation officers to pass certification exams when hired and at specified times during the career.

If you feel you meet the basic qualifications and would fit well in a probation officer career, contact the department you are interested in working for to review their specific probation officer requirements.

Probation Officer Salary

Now that you know the probation officer requirements, you're probably wondering how much they make. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that the median annual probation officer salary was $48,190. Keep in mind that those earning higher salaries often have more education, experience and responsibilities.

If you're set on a career as a probation officer, find the education you'll need at one of the schools below. Request information from schools to determine which one is best for you.

Online Criminal Justice Schools

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • BSCJ - Corrections
  • MSCJ - Corrections

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts - Social and Criminal Justice - Corrections Management (Online)

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Program outcomes vary according to each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.
Earning a degree may not qualify you for specialized careers that require more education or experience in the field.