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Probation Officer Online Degree Programs

An online degree in criminal justice or psychology could help you develop the skills needed to provide emotional and legal support to ex-convicts. Learn about online program options and class topics.

How Do I Become a Probation Officer?

Probation officers work with people who have been convicted of crimes. Most probation officers work for government agencies and are expected to have at least a bachelor's degree (some have a master's degree) in criminal justice or psychology. Employers often require experience in a related area, such as pre-trial services, counseling, corrections or law enforcement.

The major you select may have an impact on how you'll approach your work as a probation officer. For instance, with criminal justice training, an officer may look at helping criminals through the courts and typical statistics, while a psychology-educated probation officer may look at criminals from a sociological and cultural angle. Some online psychology programs are available with concentrations or emphases in forensic psychology or criminal behavior.

Preparing for the Career Probation officers need a bachelor's or master's degree in criminal justice or psychology, and often specialized experience is desired
Online Programs Criminal justice and psychology degrees are available online for the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels
Common Courses Court systems, corrections systems, behavioral science, rehabilitation, criminology and counselling
Median Salary (2018)$53,020* (for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)
Job Outlook (2016-26)6% growth* (for all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Programs Are Available Online?

Programs at various levels are available through online study. Many junior colleges and for-profit schools offer online associate's degrees in criminal justice and psychology, which can get you started but won't be enough to secure a job. Online bachelor's and master's degree programs in these two fields are available from public schools and from private not-for-profit schools.

What Will I Learn?

The online bachelor's and master's degree programs in criminal justice examine the various court systems, law enforcement and corrections systems. Through a criminal justice program, you'll study courses like:

  • Behavioral science
  • Juvenile courts
  • Victimology
  • Criminology
  • Race and crime
  • Family violence
  • Drugs and crime
  • Rehabilitation

In a master's degree program, you're likely to take leadership courses that will prepare you for a management position in your field. Leadership courses address such subjects as policy analysis, juvenile detention center management and cost-benefit analysis as it applies to the legal system.

Online undergraduate psychology programs address the basics of the human mind and of human development. You'll look at cognitive growth, as well as exploring gender roles in crime and the cultural impacts that criminal activity places on society. Undergraduate psychology programs that concentrate on criminal behavior address concepts related to juvenile delinquency and the skills needed to work in a counseling capacity. Master's degree programs in forensic psychology provide research opportunities and include courses on community psychology, behavior pathology and the ways in which psychological principles apply to the penal system.