What Are the Education Requirements for a Probation Officer?

Becoming a probation officer requires at least a bachelor's degree and related work-experience. There are also required training programs that candidates must complete through local or regional corrections departments. Read on to find out more about the education requirements for this career. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Degree Requirements

The educational requirements for probation officers vary by state, and a bachelor's degree in a field related to criminal justice, social work or behavioral science is usually required. Some states require these professionals to have either completed a master's degree or to have a bachelor's degree and two years of related work experience in social work or counseling.

Important Facts About Probation Officers

On-the-Job Training Minimum of one year
Key Skills Critical thinking, decision making, clear communication, emotional stability, and excellent organization
Work Environment State and local government agencies
Similar Occupations Correctional officers, police officers, detectives, social workers, social and human service agents, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Criminal Justice Degree

The coursework for a bachelor's degree in criminal justice usually covers the following topics:

  • Criminology
  • Corrections
  • Policing
  • Research methods
  • Ethics
  • Criminal law
  • Administration

In addition to required coursework, you may get to take justice courses that focus on specific groups of people, such as juveniles and families. Some programs also require an internship with an employer related to criminal justice.

Social Work Degree

Social work bachelor's degree programs typically require field experience. In addition, you might study the following topics:

  • Human behavior
  • Family violence
  • Social problems
  • Child welfare
  • Substance abuse
  • Psychology
  • Group, individual and family social work
  • Social justice
  • Research methods and statistics

Psychology Degree

A psychology bachelor's degree is another option for a probation officer career. In addition to courses, this program may require an internship or have one as an option. A senior seminar or capstone may also be required. You can expect to study the following topics:

  • Research methods and statistics
  • General psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Introduction to research
  • Psychology of personality
  • Theories in counseling & psychotherapy
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Physiological psychology

Additional Requirements

In addition to earning a degree, probation officers must undergo a governmental training program. Depending on the officer's career goals, the program may specialize in an area such as domestic violence or substance abuse. In addition, a certification test is required. A training period might then be needed before these professionals can work in a permanent position.

Probation officers must also pass oral and written competency tests. Most states require a background check and psychological exam. Candidates must be at least 21 years old and no older than 37, as well as being in good physical condition.

Job Description

Probation officers supervise criminals who have been put on probation instead of placed in jail. They make sure that offenders follow the terms of their probation, which can include getting a job, avoiding drugs and alcohol, keeping a curfew and staying in their current jurisdiction. They meet regularly with the probationers they are supervising and often enlist the help of probationers' neighbors, friends, and community groups to help them meet the terms of their probation, so this career field requires extensive travel. Probation officers must also be able to cope with the stress related to uncooperative probationers and being on call.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), little change in employment is expected for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists: there is a projected growth of 6% from 2016-2026. However, the BLS still expects several job opportunities to be available for those wishing to enter the field. In May 2018, these professionals made an annual median wage of $53,020, per BLS.

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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