Probation officers ensure that criminal offenders comply with the requirements of their supervised release or community control. That includes monitoring offenders’ activities, such as employment, training and court-mandated counseling or treatment for substance abuse and other mental health issues. They may work with offenders who are in halfway houses or on house arrest.
Probation officers, who also are known as correctional treatment specialists, make recommendations regarding treatment or rehabilitation plans and report on an offender’s progress during a period of supervised release. Their findings help determine whether an individual is found in violation of the terms of his or her probation, which can result in the offender serving the remainder of a sentence behind bars.
A probation officer’s duties typically require interaction with court and law enforcement officials, healthcare providers, employers, and offenders’ relatives and associates.
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Probation Officers
There were more than 87,000 probation officers and correctional treatment specialists employed nationwide as of May 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual wage for those professionals was $50,160, with the top 10% earning more than $88,930.
Employment of probation officers is expected to grow by 4% between 2014 and 2024, the BLS reported.
In addition, the large population of current prisoners will require supervision upon their eventual release, the BLS reported. That will create employment opportunities, as will the anticipated retirements of a significant number of current probation officers.
Education and Training for Probation Officers
The minimum education requirements for adult and juvenile probation officers may vary depending on the state in which a candidate seeks employment. According to the BLS, most states require that probation officers have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as criminal justice or psychology, and some may prefer applicants who also have related work experience.
The successful completion of aptitude and personality tests is a common requirement for job candidates, who generally also undergo training administered by a state or federal agency. Certification may be a requirement, and some probation officers complete specialized training in order to handle specific types of cases, such as substance abuse or domestic violence, the BLS reports.
Probation officers should be able to calmly handle stressful situations, and clearly communicate expectations and recommendations. Organizational skills are also important in order to juggle numerous assignments.
According to the BLS, the majority of law enforcement agencies require that probation officers be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license and not have any felony convictions. Federal agencies additionally mandate that applicants be no older than 37. Probation officers usually must submit to drug testing.