Probation Officer: Career Definition, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for probation officers. Get the facts about salary, employment outlook, educational requirements and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Probation officers monitor and work to rehabilitate individuals on criminal probation. Review the table below for an overview of what you need to know about becoming a probation officer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; some states prefer a master's degree
Education Field of Study Criminal justice, social work, psychology, sociology
Key Responsibilities Monitoring and visiting offenders on probation; court updates; working with community and rehabilitation services
Job Growth (2012-2022) -1% for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*
Average Salary (2013) $52,910 for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Would I Do as a Probation Officer?

As a probation officer, you work with individuals who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to probation. You work with community organizations, families and co-workers of criminals to guarantee that they meet their court-appointed guidelines. Contact with offenders varies depending on the crime. Surprise visits may be conducted to make sure that criminals are not breaking any laws. These visits may include random drug testing and interviewing employers, friends or family members.

You may monitor electronic tracking devices that are placed on the criminal. Another job duty may be to go into court and speak with the judge about sentencing or to provide reports of how the offender is doing. Many criminals must attend rehabilitation or church as part of their probation, so you may need to work with organizations to place offenders. Basically, the long term goal is to help offenders live positive lives, be a part of society and not commit other criminal acts.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are anticipated to decrease by one percent from 2012-2022 ( This decrease is most likely due to federal and local funding cuts for probationary systems.

The BLS reports that in 2013, the average salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $52,910, and about 86,810 of these professionals were employed nationally. The five top-paying states were California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Illinois. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in California earned an average salary of $76,540.

What Do I Need to Study?

The BLS recommends completing a college program in social work, psychology, sociology, criminal justice or a similar program. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for some states, while others ask that you complete a master's degree program. Either way, you want to study the behavioral and community sciences. Courses teach you about the court systems, rehabilitation, human development, psychology and assessment. You also want to have strong communication, writing and interpersonal skills.

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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