What Does a Probation Officer Do?

Do you believe people deserve a second chance? Do you want to make sure the law is upheld? Are you interested in helping your community? If you answered yes to these questions, then a career as a probation officer might be right for you. Keep reading to learn more about it. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

A probation officer works with people who've been convicted of crimes but were not sentenced to jail time. Instead, these offenders are given a probationary period where they must comply with all requirements set forth by the judge. These requirements may include seeking gainful employment, undergoing substance abuse treatment, performing community service, and staying out of trouble. As their probation officer, you'll regularly supervise, visit, and report on these individuals to ensure they are complying with their probation.

Important Facts About This Occupation

On-the-Job Training Short-term
Similar Occupations Correctional officer, police officer, detective, social worker
Key Skills Critical-thinking, organizational, communication, and decision-making skills; must be emotionally stable
Advancement A master's degree or sufficient experience and quality performance

Job Responsibilities

Your duty as a probation officer is to ensure an offender attends any counseling, job training, or substance abuse treatment program as mandated as part of the person's sentence. You'll check in and discuss the offender's progress with family members, church and local group leaders, and employers. You'll be expected to meet with your offenders regularly at their home, job, court, or in other settings.

Another important part of being a probation officer is that you'll have to report to the court about the progress of your offender. You'll meet regularly with judges and lawyers, the offender, his or her family, and others. You'll detail important events about the case and suggest any changes that may be needed in the probation.

When a convicted offender is released on probation, you'll help set up counseling appointments, educational programs, employment opportunities, and housing. You'll work to get them involved in social activities needed with their rehabilitation.

Education and Experience

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), most employers require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree to work as a probation officer. In some cases, you may need a master's degree if you have little work experience. Applicable undergraduate degree majors may include psychology, criminal justice, and social work. You can gain work experience from previous jobs or internships in parole, corrections, social work, counseling, criminal investigations, and probation.

When you apply to become a probation officer, you'll need to complete psychological, physical, oral, and written tests to gauge your ability to handle challenging and sometimes dangerous situations. You'll need to be at least age 21 and have a valid driver's license in most states; federal government requires applicants to be no older than 37, according to the BLS.

Salary and Job Outlook

Probation officers had a mean annual salary of $53,360, according to a May 2014 salary report by the BLS. Probation officers who worked for vocational rehabilitation services earned the most, with an annual mean salary of $58,590. By state, California had the highest national mean salary, reported as $78,060 a year by the BLS in 2014. Additionally, the BLS predicted that employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists would grow little, if at all, between 2012 and 2022.

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