Get an overview of careers in corrections and probation services. Read about the degree programs that can help you prepare for a position as a corrections, patrol or probation officer, helping adults and juvenile avoid further criminal activity.
Professionals employed in corrections and probation services supervise people who have violated the law and are serving their sentences in jail, or who have been given probation in lieu of serving time. These include corrections officers, parole officers and probation officers, also known as community supervision officers. They may also work as correctional treatment specialists, such as correctional counselors or case managers. Pretrial service officers are also involved in corrections and probation, primarily in examining evidence prior to hearings.
Potential employers include government incarceration facilities or privately owned correctional facilities. General responsibilities can involve developing plans for offenders after they have been released from prison.
Probation and parole officers help juvenile and adult offenders avoid criminal activity after they've been released from prison and provide the court with accountability records. If you're employed as a probation officer, you'll communicate regularly with your clients, which might include traveling to the homes of those who are on probation. You should also be able to take calls at all times, ready to troubleshoot and handle any incidents involving your cases.
Prisons and similar institutions employ correction officers to oversee the daily activities of inmates, run rehabilitation programs and maintain order. They may be assisted in their duties by jail guards. Parole officers counsel inmates who are scheduled to be released.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, the annual average salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $52,910. Nationwide, minimal to no change in employment was expected for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov).
Academic programs range from undergraduate certificates to degree programs. For example, you might pursue an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in corrections, probation and parole. Similar coursework may be found in a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice. Some schools also offer master's degree programs in criminal justice. In addition to brick-and-mortar schools, online colleges offer distance-learning programs for probation officers.
A corrections or criminal justice curriculum can include the study of correctional rules and regulations, adolescent and human behavior, organizational procedures and counseling therapy. You might also specialize in juvenile probation, examine fairness and safety measures and receive training in public speaking. As a graduate of a certificate or associate degree program, you might be qualified for a job as a corrections officer or jail guard. Successful completion of a bachelor's degree program may help you obtain a position as a parole or probation officer.
A career in corrections and probation services requires quick decisions, clear thinking and the ability to lead others. You must also possess good eyesight and good hearing. Some states might require certain professionals, like corrections officers, to pass a background check and drug test and be in satisfactory physical condition.