Probation officers oversee the progress of convicted criminals who have been placed on probation. They check in on job status and make sure that the offender is staying out of trouble. The role is similar to that of a parole officer, except that parole officers work with former inmates who have been released on parole. In some States, the jobs of a probation and parole officer may be unified in a single position. The probation officer's ultimate goal is to help former offenders successfully reintegrate into society. To accomplish this, probation officers work directly with criminal offenders, meeting with them regularly and ensuring that they are complying to the terms of their probation or parole.
Probation Officer Job Description
The primary aspect of a probation officer's job involves regular progress meetings with offenders, as well as their family members and employers. Depending on the individual case, probation officers may be required to provide a variety of services to help the offender stick to the "straight and narrow." These services could include anything from helping a convict obtain employment training to arranging for substance abuse counseling.
Probation officers must keep detailed records of their clients' progress and setbacks. This paperwork is essential, as it may later be used for legal purposes. In many cases, probation officers are actually asked to testify in court and give recommendations regarding the future of their clients' probation status.
Probation Officer Requirements
Most probation officer jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in an area like criminal justice, psychology or social work. Many employers in the field ask potential candidates to also pass oral and written exams, as well as a psychological exam. A potential probation officer has to be emotionally and mentally ready for the often difficult job of dealing directly with convicts.
Although it's not always required, many individuals pursuing this career earn an advanced degree such as a master's in a related field. Some kind of related work experience in corrections, criminal justice, social work and/or counseling also plays a huge role when it comes to securing a position. In addition, most probation officers must complete a formal training program, which is often government or state-sponsored, before they can start working independently.
Probation Officer Career Outlook
Job prospects for probation officers are expected to be excellent in coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is expected to jump 19 percent from 2008 to 2018. The median annual salary for probation officers is $46,530, according to the BLS.
Probation Officer Trends
In recent years, the prison system has shifted its focus towards rehabilitation in an attempt to ensure that former prisoners are able to stay out of jail. As this trend continues, it's likely that demand for skilled probation officers, who keep track of offenders progress, will increase as well.