5 Steps to Becoming a Juvenile Probation Officer

Those looking to become a juvenile probation officer to help juveniles get their lives on track need to have formal education and training. Below, we discuss the steps to becoming a probation officer, along with additional juvenile probation officer qualifications, like age and skill sets. Schools offering Juvenile Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Become a Juvenile Probation Officer

Those wishing to start a juvenile probation officer career to work with young probationers and their families need a combination of education and training to prepare for the unique challenges of the field. Generally, these steps can be summarized by:

  • Education
  • Certification
  • Applying
  • Training
  • Advancing

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree
Degree FieldCriminal justice, psychology, or behavioral sciences
Other RequirementsState certification, training
Annual Mean Salary (2018)*$58,790 (for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)*6% (for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Meet Probation Officer Education Requirements

Most probation officers need to have at least a bachelor's degree, but there are a variety of online courses for aspiring juvenile probation officers available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Usually, students will pursue a degree in the area of criminal justice, and there are even some free online courses in criminal justice available. Other major options may include:

  • Social work
  • Counseling
  • Psychology
  • Juvenile justice

Step 2: Obtain State Certification

Most states require juvenile probation officers to be state certified to work with probationers. Typically the process to obtaining state certification requires a Civil Service Exam or Probation Officer Certification Examination that may need to be passed prior to employment or soon after employment, such as within the first 6 months. There is usually a fee associated with this exam, and it may cover topics like:

  • Juvenile law
  • Criminal justice
  • Counseling
  • Probation procedures

Step 3: Apply for a Position

When seeking a position, applicants usually need to apply through the juvenile court system. Many states have juvenile probation officer requirements that include:

  • Being a citizen
  • Being at least 21 years of age
  • Passing a background check and drug test
  • Holding a bachelor's degree
  • Holding a valid driver's license

Step 4: Complete Training

After accepting a position as a juvenile probation officer, most officers are required to undergo a training program that may last several weeks and/or be considered a trainee for up to 1 year. During this training, officers learn about case management, juvenile law, drug identification, suicide prevention, legal liabilities, and more.

It is also common for new officers to be monitored and evaluated by senior-level officers. Some states may also require ongoing professional development and/or periodic recertification.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Juvenile probation officers can advance their careers primarily through experience and education. Officers can move on to senior-level positions after so many years of experience and good job performance. Other officers may choose to pursue their master's degree in subjects such as psychology, criminal justice, or social work.

Helpful Skills

Besides the formal juvenile probation officer qualifications usually established by each state, these professionals also need to be emotionally stable and have important skills in areas like:

  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Critical-thinking
  • Organization
  • Problem-solving

These skills combined with their education and training prepare these officers to help juveniles refrain from illegal activities and lead productive lives.

How Much Does a Juvenile Probation Officer Make?

In 2018, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $58,790. According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary specifically for a juvenile probation officer was $40,443 as of June 2019.

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