Probation Officer: Career Definition, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for probation officers. Get the facts about salary, employment outlook, educational requirements and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Probation Officer?

Probation officers look after probationers in order to keep them out of jail. Depending on a judge's decision, probation officers may need to keep up with a probationer's living situation, employment, and travel abilities. Their main tasks include helping probationers with things like job training, housing and medical resources. Probation officers may travel a bit to meetings with groups or probationers in their living quarters. There will be plenty of paperwork and and evaluations which need to be maintained as well.

Review the table below for an overview of what you need to know about becoming a probation officer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; some states prefer a master's degree
Education Field of Study Criminal justice, social work, psychology, sociology
Key Responsibilities Monitoring and visiting offenders on probation; court updates; working with community and rehabilitation services
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*
Average Salary (2015) $54,080 for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Would I Do as a Probation Officer?

As a probation officer, you work with individuals who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to probation. You work with community organizations, families and co-workers of criminals to guarantee that they meet their court-appointed guidelines. Contact with offenders varies depending on the crime. Surprise visits may be conducted to make sure that criminals are not breaking any laws. These visits may include random drug testing and interviewing employers, friends or family members.

You may monitor electronic tracking devices that are placed on the criminal. Another job duty may be to go into court and speak with the judge about sentencing or to provide reports of how the offender is doing. Many criminals must attend rehabilitation or church as part of their probation, so you may need to work with organizations to place offenders. Basically, the long term goal is to help offenders live positive lives, be a part of society and not commit other criminal acts.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are anticipating an increase by four percent from 2014-2024.

The BLS reports that in 2015, the average salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $54,080, and about 87,950 of these professionals were employed nationally. The five top-paying states were California, Iowa, New Jersey, New York and Illinois. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in California earned an average salary of $81,720.

What Do I Need to Study?

The BLS recommends completing a college program in social work, psychology, sociology, criminal justice or a similar program. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for some states, while others ask that you complete a master's degree program. Either way, you want to study the behavioral and community sciences. Courses teach you about the court systems, rehabilitation, human development, psychology and assessment. You also want to have strong communication, writing and interpersonal skills.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you interested in similar career options, you might consider working as a police officer, detective or social service assistant. Police officers work directly with the public in handling everything from reporting an auto accident with injuries to protecting a crime scene for detectives. Detectives investigate various crimes reported by the public including thefts, physical attacks or even deaths under mysterious circumstances. Both police officers and detectives get their primary training through police academies. Other alternative careers include those of social and human services assistants. These professionals work directly with families and clients under the supervision of psychologists, counselors or social workers to help find certain community services. These jobs typically require a high school diploma or some postsecondary education, depending on the employer.

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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