5 Steps to Becoming a Juvenile Probation Officer

Research what it takes to become a juvenile probation officer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook, and average salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Juvenile Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Juvenile Probation Officer Do?

A juvenile probation officer is a law enforcement official who works exclusively with convicted minors. Some of their duties include explaining the terms of probation, recommending interventions, and testifying in court. They also must help with rehabilitation, job training, counseling, and keeping up with case files. These officers meet with minors to ensure they are not causing problems in the community. Reports are written to show the progress of the minor. The table below outlines the general requirements for becoming a juvenile probation officer.

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree
Educational Field of StudySocial Work
Criminal Justice
Behavioral Sciences
Certification Required in most states
Key ResponsibilitiesAssists in rehabilitation of convicted minors; recommends rehabilitation plans; testifies in court; maintains case reports; holds regular meetings with probationers
Job Growth (2014-2024)4% increase for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*
Average Salary (May 2015)$54,080 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Juvenile Probation Officer?

A juvenile probation officer is a law enforcement official who specializes in the discipline and supervision of juvenile offenders. Your objective is to help them turn away from self-destructive, anti-social and illegal behavior and, if possible, focus on their education. Specific duties include explaining the terms and conditions of probation; holding regular meetings with probationers to assess compliance; recommending interventions or remedial action for non-compliance; preparing and maintaining case reports; testifying in court; and arranging for medical or substance abuse treatment.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Criminal justice, social work and psychology are all suitable majors for aspiring probation officers. However, a limited number of schools offer bachelor's degree programs in juvenile justice or criminal justice with a juvenile justice emphasis. Juvenile justice programs examine the nature of juvenile delinquency in the U.S. and the ways in which the criminal justice system has adapted to manage it. Adolescent development, rehabilitation and crime prevention are other possible course topics.

Step 2: Work an Internship

Employers may prefer or require that you have experience in counseling, social work or another aspect of criminal justice, such as corrections or pretrial services. An internship is one way to gain experience with the juvenile court process, apply theoretical concepts to case work and build a network of contacts. You can potentially find internships with local court systems and non-profit organizations.

Step 3: Obtain Certification or a License if Necessary

Most states will require that you hold a certification in order to work as a probation officer. For example, as of August 2011, certification requirements in the state of Oregon included a bachelor's degree, state probation officer training and nine months of probation work experience. Oregon also requires applicants to be at least 21 years old. The state of Indiana has similar age and training requirements for probation officer certification, but it doesn't require candidates to hold bachelor's degrees. Most states will also require that you pass an examination.

Step 4: Consider a Master's Degree

You can improve your employment prospects if you hold a master's degree in counseling, social work or criminal justice. Schools may offer a juvenile justice degree or allow you to tailor your degree program with a juvenile specialization. These programs typically examine the causes of youth deviancy and the role the criminal justice system and other institutions can play in their remediation. Possible course topics include youth gangs, family dynamics, child abuse and child protection.

Step 5: Pursue a Job

An estimated 87,950 people worked as probation officers as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Over the 2014-2024 decade, employment was projected to increase 4%. The BLS reports that as of May 2015 the average annual salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $54,080.

What Are Related Alternative Careers?

A career in social work is a related career option that requires a bachelor's degree. Social workers diagnose and treat those who are suffering with a variety of issues in their life. They help clients with challenges, situations, and changes. Another alternative career is in substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling. These counselors evaluate and treat those suffering from substance abuse or behavioral problems. They help clients learn how to recover from their addictions and issues, and they direct them to different resources to help them in their lives.

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