Parole Officer: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for parole officers. Get the facts about education, salary, licensure requirements and job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Parole Officers Do?

When prisoners are released from prison they are monitored by state organizations that assign each former prisoner a parole officer. Parole officers are in charge of a number of ex-felons and monitor their whereabouts, employment and living conditions. As a parole officer, you'll meet with parolees in their homes and at the office to help them re-enter society smoothly. You may administer drug tests, provide resources for employment, and write reports about progress or conduct. Individuals who have served prison time often face tremendous personal challenges; parole officers should be excellent counselors with thick skin and the ability to remain calm under pressure. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a parole officer.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Field of Study Social work, criminal justice, behavioral sciences or related field
Certification Parole officers obtain state certification after attending a state-sponsored law enforcement training program
Key Skills Good communication and critical thinking skills; emotional stability in hostile environment; appropriate discernment and decision-making skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)*
Mean Salary (2015) $54,080 (all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Job Duties Would I Have as a Parole Officer?

You will generally meet with parolees at their homes or workplaces. In some cases, you might enlist the parolee's family members or local organizations to monitor and influence her or his behavior and prevent parolees from committing new crimes. You'll be responsible for smoothing parolees' transitions back into society, including making certain they have access to housing, job resources and other necessities.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for parole officers were expected to increase by 4% from 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). Laws calling for mandatory sentencing created a vast prison population. Most job openings will be created by those leaving their existing positions as parole and probation officers due to heavy caseloads and high-stress working conditions.

The BLS noted, however, that job growth was contingent upon government funding for corrections. As of 2015, correctional treatment specialists who worked in state government earned average annual incomes of $53,930, while those working in family and individual services earned $35,410.

What Educational Requirements Must I Fulfill?

Usually, aspiring parole officers must acquire undergraduate degrees. You should plan to major in an area such as social work or criminal justice. If you decide to enroll in a social work program, prepare to study courses such as diversity, social work ethics and values, sociology, philosophy and a foreign language. Undergraduate criminal justice curricula might offer courses such as criminal court procedures, police systems and practices, forensic evidence and legal writing and research.

A number of employers may require a master's degree in the same fields unless you have work experience in the areas of social work, corrections or criminal investigations. An advanced degree may also lead to career advancement and increased earning potential. A master's-level curriculum in social work might include topics such as crisis intervention, management information systems, social policy and research. Graduate degrees in criminal justice may require study in law enforcement seminars and criminal justice administration, as well as completion of thesis research.

Upon employment by a correctional agency, you'll be required to undergo a federal or state training program, and a certification examination may be given afterward. You'll need to be between 21 and 37 years of age, with no convictions. Successfully passing psychological, written, oral and medical examinations may also be a condition of permanent employment.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers in the realm of social and human services are available and require a similar aptitude for intense work environments. They include social and human services assistants, who work with civilian families suffering from substance abuse or psychological issues, and require a high school diploma and vocational training. Those who earn a bachelor's degree can become police officers and detectives to enforce laws on a local and state level. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors also require more advanced education; these professionals counsel and rehabilitate populations that suffer from extreme addiction.

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