Become a Federal Probation Officer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a federal probation officer. Learn about the educational requirements, job outlook 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 Federal Probation Officer Do?

Federal probation officers supervise federal criminal offenders who haven't been to jail by monitoring their workplaces and residences, as well as conducting surprise visits. They provide probationers with helpful resources, like job training enrollment and substance abuse counseling, and have meetings with their family and friends. More information can be found in the following table:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Training Required Internship
Education Field of Study Criminal justice, social work
Key Skills Communication, emotional stability, organization
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* (probation officers & correctional treatment specialists)
Median Salary (2015) $49,360* (probation officers & correctional treatment specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Federal Probation Officer?

Federal probation officers monitor the behavior of criminals who are on probation from federal crimes. This includes monitoring offenders who are awaiting their trial. In other words, you'll watch over criminals who haven't spent time in federal prison for their crimes. You'll work with community organizations, churches, neighborhood groups and families to observe the behavior of each offender.

Other duties include finding rehabilitation programs and job training opportunities for the criminals. You may monitor offenders through electronic tracking devices and house arrest monitoring systems. Surprise visits and random drug screenings are often part of your after-hours work. You'll also inform the courts about compliance and noncompliance when the time comes for sentencing.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work or a related field should be efficient to become a federal probation officer. You'll learn about court systems, juveniles, law, law enforcement procedures, criminal justice terminology and correctional systems theories.

Step 2: Gain Experience

You should consider experience with the corrections systems. Many government positions offer internships to college students. These internships allow you to shadow probation officers in their daily activities. You may find internships in a variety of government positions including pretrial, parole, investigations, rehabilitation or social work.

Step 3: Consider a Graduate Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), if you don't have experience as a probation officer, you may be expected to have a master's degree (www.bls.gov). Just like a bachelor's degree, you can consider programs in criminal justice, psychology, sociology or a similar field. Some programs may include a corrections concentration, aiming studies toward the corrections systems. Studies may include subjects in ethical issues, risk identification, treatment applications, criminal psychology and criminology.

Step 4: Apply as a Probation Officer

In order to become a federal probation officer, you must pass a number of tests supplied by the government. These may include background tests, drug tests, physical screenings and psychological evaluations. You'll also complete exams that test you on your corrections knowledge. The BLS reports that most federal probation officer positions require you to be over the age of 21 but under the age of 37 at the time of applying.

Step 5: Enter a Training Program

You'll likely be employed by the U.S. court system. The federal government provides training programs to prepare you for work as a federal probation officer. The BLS states that you'll probably be put on a probationary period before being hired as a permanent federal probation officer. Along with the training program you may undertake a gun safety program.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors assist those struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and/or other disorders in modifying their behavior. These professionals must also have a bachelor's degree. Social workers have similar roles as probation officers as they work to help individuals overcome problems. A bachelor's degree is necessary in this field, but clinical social workers will need a master'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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