Probation officers can make a positive difference in the lives of criminal offenders, providing them with the accountability, skills and resources to avoid further brushes with the law. These professionals help offenders comply with the conditions of their supervised release and community control, working in close coordination with the justice system.
The need for probation officers is on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says the field is expected to grow 6% through 2026, although the growth rate may vary in each area by the amount of funding available for individual programs.
Probation officers may interact with court and law enforcement officials, healthcare providers, employers, and offenders’ relatives and associates. Among their duties:
- Investigating offenders that go before the court
- Recommending and instituting treatment and rehabilitation plans
- Meeting with offenders in halfway houses or under house arrest
- Monitoring an offender’s activities while on probation
- Reporting on any updates to an offender’s probationary status
Probation officers earned an average annual wage of $55,380 as of May 2016, according to the BLS. People interested in this career field should conduct independent research, as salary potential and employment opportunities may vary depending on factors such as education, experience and regional market conditions.
How to Become a Probation Officer
A number of employers want probation officers to possess a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice or psychology, and some may prefer candidates with work experience. Requirements may vary by jurisdiction. Most agencies require candidates to be at least 21 years old, and may require a background check, drug screen, according to the BLS.
In addition to classroom and real-world education, probation officers should expect specialized training from the agency that hires them. They may have to work for a year on a probationary basis until they are offered a permanent position, according to Discover Corrections, the American Probation and Parole Association’s career site.
Successful probation officers will be able to handle stressful situations calmly, manage multiple cases, make well-informed decisions, and communicate expectations and recommendations clearly to all stakeholders.