What Is a Parole Officer?

Explore the career requirements for parole officers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth 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 Parole Officer?

Rarely does an inmate in prison complete his entire sentence. When these felons are released, they usually are out on parole and must answer to a parole officer. These men and women are tasked with watching over these ex-offenders who are transitioning back into the free world and need monitoring from where they live to where they work. It is the job of the parole officer to keep good notes and keep up with their charges until they are off parole.

A parole officer ensures that ex-offenders meet the conditions of their release to become productive, law-abiding citizens. This chart gives an overview of this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; some jurisdictions require a master's degree
Education Field of Study Criminal justice, social work, behavioral sciences or related field
Key Responsibilities Assist individuals released from prison to re-integrate into society; oversee their progress; refer parolees to appropriate services to assist with rehabilitation; maintain contact with parolees
Certification Most states require candidates to complete state-sponsored training and pass the state or federal certification test
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%*
Median Salary (2015) $49,360*

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

What Is the Role of a Parole Officer?

Some offenders display exemplary behavior while incarcerated, so they are allowed to complete their sentences within the community through being paroled. It is your job, as a parole officer, to develop and implement rehabilitation plans to help offenders successfully re enter and remain in society. You will manage case folders for every offender assigned to you.

Your duties might include writing progress reports and making arrangements for substance abuse, mental health or anger management counseling. You also make sure offenders understand the conditions of their release, such as pursuing an education or becoming gainfully employed. Sometimes, you may collect urine samples to test offenders for illegal drugs or alcohol.

What Are Some Other Responsibilities?

You will spend much of your time meeting with offenders and their family members at home, work or in your office. These meetings are designed to help you discover relevant background information and assess the offender's progress and behavior. You may be required to attend parole hearings to make recommendations regarding the future of the offender.

You may work in conjunction with correctional institutions, community organizations and psychiatric facilities to help offenders adjust to life outside of prison. You may also provide access to housing and employment assistance, drug rehabilitation and health care resources to offenders under your supervision. You are also responsible for reporting any parole violations to the appropriate governing body.

What Are the Work Conditions?

A state or local government may employ you. Employment is also found in juvenile corrections or in the U.S. Department of Justice. You may carry weapons for self-protection, such as a handgun or pepper spray. Your work may take place in dangerous institutions, or you may encounter angry family members of offenders. Although the typical workweek is 40 hours, you may also be required to remain on-call around the clock to provide guidance and assistance to offenders.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Career fields related to being a parole officer might include social and human services assistants who will need a high school diploma and some special training. A high school diploma would be needed for work as correctional officer or bailiff as well. Both jobs work with inmates or those being held by law enforcement. Another alternative field would be police officers and detectives or substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. All of these positions require a bachelor's degree to begin with and specialized study and certification work.

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