How to Become a Parole Officer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a parole officer. Learn about the job duties, education requirements and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Parole Officer Do?

A parole officer supervises and counsels convicted criminals upon their release from prison and in the months and years immediately following. They set up regular meetings with released criminals and make sure they are abiding by the conditions of their parole. They also provide resources for individuals who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, anger problems or family issues and may recommend various forms of counseling and treatment. The following table provides information for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree (minimum), master's degree (recommended)
Education Field of Study Psychology, social work, criminal justice
Training Required State-sponsored training program
Key Responsibilities Work with convicted felons upon release from prison, interact with families, maintain records, perform random drug tests
Job Growth (2014-24) 4%* (probation officers & correctional treatment specialists)
Median Salary (2016) $42,294**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is a Parole Officer?

A parole officer works with convicts who have been released from prison (state or federal; minimum, medium or maximum security). This profession shouldn't be confused with a probation officer who works with criminals who may or may not have gone to jail (typically at the county level for much shorter periods) and are on probation for less serious crimes.

Step 1: Research a Parole Officer's Duties

You'll work with convicted felons as they are released from prison. You'll help these individuals become members of society, possibly after years of incarceration. Criminals will need your help to find homes, jobs and community services. By working with families, communities and ex-convicts, you'll encourage reintegration in society and work toward the prevention of additional crimes. Along with records, random drug tests and visits to the home, you'll prevent further incarceration and promote the safety of the community.

Step 2: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

You'll first want to earn a bachelor's degree. You should seek a degree in psychology, social work, criminal justice or a similar area. In any case, you'll want to focus your studies on law enforcement, psychology, behavioral science, data analysis, ethics, sociology, human development, welfare, family services and community organizations.

Step 3: Complete an Internship

Many state and county organizations welcome interns. As an intern, you'll be a helpful addition to the workplace by completing simpler tasks and helping when things become overwhelming, all while gaining valuable experience with the criminal justice system. Internships can count as credit towards a degree program and can be helpful when looking for jobs.

Step 4: Earn Your Master's Degree

A master's degree program trains you in the corrections systems, population, social behavior, culture and social structures. While focused on research, you'll likely complete an additional internship. According to Salary.com, a bachelor's degree is sufficient to become a parole officer. However, a master's degree may be required by some states and may improve your career advancement opportunities.

Step 5: Apply for a Job

Most parole officer positions are offered through the state government. You'll need to sit for the civil service test given by your state. These civil service exams will then be your application for any parole officer openings. You'll be informed of any opportunities and called in for interviews based on your score. If you're offered the position, you may need to submit to drug and psychological testing.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Depending on your specific interests and skills, there are a number of other jobs you may be interested in. You could pursue a job as a correctional officer if you are interested in working in a prison setting, or you could find a job as a bailiff if you want to work within a court system; both of these careers require applicants to have completed high school. If you are interested in providing more direct care and assistance to individuals, you could also pursue a job in social work as a substance abuse counselor or a human and social service assistant. As a human and social service assistant, you will need to have a high school diploma, but a career as a substance abuse counselor will require a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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