Become a Federal Probation Officer | CriminalJusticePrograms

Federal Probation Officer

The US District Courts hire a wide variety of personnel to transport inmates to trial, ensure the safety of courtrooms, and help guide repeat offenders to more effective choices in life. If you want to protect your community and ensure that inmates get the help and assessment they need, you may wish to consider becoming a federal probation officer. This job involves working at one of many federal courts across the country. We want to help you find the right criminal justice program so you can prepare for the career you want. There are many avenues in this field that lead to careers in law enforcement. Contact the schools listed in your area to compare programs before making your decision.

Federal Probation Officer Job Description

A federal probation officer spends time conferring with judges, lawyers, and others who work in the court system. Judges highly values this input and uses it to determine whether or not to post bail. A federal probation officer’s documentation is typically used during sentencing to keep criminals off the street while giving those who need it a second chance. A federal probation officer may also be expected to pursue criminals, defend yourself against attacks, and subdue people as needed. These are some of the most physical aspects of the job. However, they may also spend a considerable amount of time sitting and talking to inmates, communicating with other law enforcement personnel, and completing required documentation.

How to Become a Federal Probation Officer

It’s important to become familiar with the hiring requirements of the US Probation and Pretrial Office before applying for a federal probation officer position. As part of your job duties, you may have to work with violent offenders that may be dangerous to you and the public at large. As a result, it’s important to meet the Office’s physical strength requirements. You’ll likely be tested physically in many different ways, including your cardiovascular strength, your ability to lift, and how well you handle a firearm. In many cases, federal probation officers are required to carry firearms and use them appropriately.

Education Requirements

In order to work as a federal probation officer, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a related field is required. The US Probation and Pretrial Office notes that acceptable degree choices include criminology, psychology, human relations, public administration, and criminal justice. Criminal justice may be a popular choice; the curriculum for this degree has many relevant courses, including Probation, Parole, & Intermediate Sanctions, Contemporary Police Practices, and Trial & Evidence.

Training Requirements

Your work experience must also be in line with the job duties of a federal probation officer. This work experience must be after the completion of a bachelor’s degree. You may work in fields like pretrial services, corrections, addiction treatment, criminal investigations, or parole.
According to the Probation and Pretrial Services department of the US Courts, federal probation officers go through specialized training after being hired. All training happens at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina. You go through the Federal Probation and Pretrial Services Training Academy. This program lasts six weeks; throughout the duration of your program, you learn about safely performing your job duties and using firearms in an effective, appropriate manner. You can also complete the training required to become a firearms instructor.

Federal Probation Officer Salary and Career Outlook

There are many branches of the US federal courts, leading to the need for probation officers that can properly assess inmates and provide valuable insights to judge and other criminal justice professionals. In reality, the job outlook for this specific job title varies from area to area, depending on how many courts are in your area and how many criminals go through your local court system. If you want to have a promising job outlook, it’s crucial to choose the right degree and work experience options for this career path. Federal jobs often have intense competition, and doing everything you can to qualify may help your chances.

Federal probation officers are paid via the Court Personnel System. Salaries vary widely based on experience level, education, and other job qualifications. Many officers are hired at Step 25. Starting salaries at this level range from $26,468 to $47,770 per year. However, most probation officers get raises every year. In addition, your locality pay depends on where you live. The higher the cost of living is in your area, the higher your locality pay may be.

As you progress through your career, you may be expected to regularly attend training and courses to keep up on your education. It’s important to stay on top of laws that affect those on probation and understand how different crimes are sentenced. Becoming a federal probation officer is a great way to make a difference, help people make the most of a second change, and keep your community safe.

If you want to learn more about criminal justice programs that can prepare you for careers like this, contact the schools in our directory today!

Juvenile Probation Officer Job Description and Requirements

Juvenile Probation Officer

Sometimes, youths and adolescents move off the straight and narrow path, leading them to run afoul of the law. It’s important to help them get back on the right track and start moving towards a more productive life. If you want to help juvenile delinquents change their lives for the better, you may want to use your criminal justice education to become a juvenile probation officer. If you want to help juveniles steer away from troubled lives, contact the schools in your area to learn more about their criminal justice programs.

Juvenile Probation Officer Job Description

As a juvenile probation officer, you may be responsible for interacting with adolescents, their parents, their teachers, and other important adults in their lives. With this information and with your criminal justice background, you can help create a plan that helps them make good choices and avoid re-offending. You may also work closely with other criminal justice professionals, like judges, lawyers, and correctional officers. This career requires excellent communication and teamwork skills.

Working as a juvenile probation officer gives you lots of responsibility. Your actions and the communication you have with juveniles may shape the course of their lives. As a result, you need a strong educational background in criminal justice to qualify for this job. Depending on the needs of your local correctional department, you might also need to meet other requirements as well.

How to Become a Juvenile Probation Officer

If you want to become a juvenile probation officer, you should plan out your degree choices and work experience accordingly. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of employers require probation officer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. You may be able to study criminal justice, social work, or psychology.

Criminal justice may offer the most targeted and relevant coursework; for example, you may take courses like Juvenile Justice and Delinquency, Strategies in Correctional Rehabilitation, and Criminal Procedure. Some schools allow you to choose a specialty field of study—you may choose to focus on juvenile justice or juvenile delinquency at some schools.

Many employers look at the skills you have as well as the education you’ve completed. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice examines applicants’ work history to see how well they can complete required job tasks. You must be able to interpret and enforce policies used by the Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as provide appropriate and effective counseling services to youths. In your previous jobs, you should have demonstrated an ability to analyze issues and come up with effective and practical solutions. Having experience with the Juvenile Justice Information System can give you an advantage over other applicants.

You may need to pursue probation officer certification. The Indiana Judicial Center requires all potential probation officers to become certified by the state. This process requires you to take a comprehensive examination that tests your knowledge of juvenile law, probation matters, and criminal sentencing. After completing all required testing for a juvenile probation officer position, you may be selected for a job. You’ll likely need to attend a training program before you can work independently. In the course of your training, you may learn how to work with juveniles, how to assess and respond to risks, and how to navigate the justice system of your state.

Juvenile Probation Officer Salary and Career Outlook

According to the BLS, there are approximately 91,300 probation officers across the United States. They expect this number to increase by 5,200 by 2026. At 6% growth, this profession is growing at about the average rate for jobs in the US. Job growth may vary from state to state, depending on how large the area’s correctional facilities are. California currently employs the most probation officers, followed by Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

The BLS indicates that the average nationwide salary for a probation officer is $51,410 per year. Since this job involves working for the state or county, you may receive a wide range of benefits. Probation officers often receive health insurance, life insurance, a pension, and other benefits. You may earn a higher salary in some areas, since juvenile probation officers may have to be on call or respond to emergencies. For example, in California the average salary for a probation officer is $84,870 per year (BLS 2017).

Working in this field can be mentally exhausting, but it can also be extremely rewarding. You may have to work long nights, weekends, or holidays. Some juvenile probation officers head to the local juvenile detention center after work each night to visit with adolescents on their case load. This can make a big difference in the lives of the people you serve, since you may be a reliable role model for at-risk youths.

To thrive in this job, you should have strong communication skills, a fervent desire to serve your community, and the ability to provide thorough and accurate documentation. While much of your time may be spent meeting with teens and handling probation issues, you must also keep documentation of everything you do. Your notes may be used in probation hearings and other types of legal proceedings, so this is a crucial part of the job.

Find out how you can work with juveniles with a degree in criminal justice. Contact the schools in your area to learn more today!

Probation Officer Schools & Degrees | Criminal Justice Programs

How to Become a Probation Officer

Although probation officers are sometimes seen as the “bad guy” who cracks the whip, in fact they perform an important service: to help offenders become contributing members of society. This in turn can reduce the chance that they will commit another crime.

Probation officers who work with juveniles (JPOs) have an even greater responsibility with regard to rehabilitation: preventing youth from going on to become criminals is critical to our society at large.

Read on to learn how you can enter this challenging yet rewarding field.


Probation Officer Job Description

A probation officer has two main jobs: to monitor convicted criminals who have been placed on probation and to perform presentence investigations to help judges make sentencing decisions. Probation is a type of sentencing that allows offenders to remain in society rather than going to prison—as long as they follow certain conditions.

Monitoring Convicted Criminals

Probation officers work directly with criminal offenders to ensure that they are complying with the terms of their probation. To do this they typically:

  • Conduct intake of new probationers
  • Explain the terms of probation and discuss goals
  • Meet regularly with offenders
  • Talk to family members and employers
  • Monitor and report on probationers’ progress and compliance
  • Recommend a course of action if terms are violated
  • Screen for drugs or alcohol

Depending on the individual case, probation officers may be required to provide a variety of services to help the offender stay on the “straight and narrow.” For example, they might:

  • Help a convict get employment training
  • Arrange for substance abuse or mental health counseling
  • Find housing
  • Implement an overarching rehabilitation plan (usually created by rehabilitation specialists)
  • Make referrals to various inpatient and outpatient programs and services

Probation officers need to 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 asked to testify in court and make recommendations regarding the future of their clients’ probation status.

Performing Presentence Investigations

After a defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest, or if a jury finds the defendant guilty, a presentence investigation report (PSIR) is ordered. A PSIR provides the sentencing judge with information concerning the defendant’s life and the circumstances surrounding the offense. The judge uses this information to make a sentencing decision.

To create a comprehensive profile of the offender, probation officers interview family, friends, past employers, and other key figures. They also conduct computer research to examine past criminal history.

The officer then writes a report that provides a summary of the offender and a detailed description of their social, criminal, and substance abuse history. They are often asked to present their findings in court testimony.

Juvenile Probation Officers (JPOs)

Juvenile probation officers work solely with juveniles who are on probation. They are responsible for monitoring the offenders according to the terms of probation. However, an even more important responsibility is to help juvenile offenders learn life skills that will help prevent them from turning into lifelong criminals.

These officers perform many of the same duties as adult probation officers. However, they often get involved in more aspects of the offender’s life, such as home, school, work, and places in the community that they frequent. A JPO might make unplanned visits to ensure that the juvenile is avoiding drugs and alcohol and abiding by curfew.

What Is the Difference Between a Probation Officer and a Parole Officer?

The main difference between a probation officer and a parole officer is when they are involved with the offender. A probation officer monitors offenders who don’t go to prison but instead are placed on probation. A parole officer works with criminals who have gone to prison but are released on parole before the end of their sentence.

However, both officers have the same overarching mission: to monitor offenders as they integrate into society, with the goal of reducing recidivism and holding them to the court’s probation or parole conditions.

The Road to Becoming a Probation Officer

Following are the basic steps for becoming a probation officer:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field of study
  • While in college, find a job in the criminal justice field (such as Boys Town or working at a jail, prison, or a residential treatment facility)
  • During college, complete an internship at a probation office
  • Meet the requirements of your state
  • Apply for an open position as a probation officer
  • Go through the interview process
  • Pass a background investigation
  • Pass an oral and written exam as well as a psychological exam, if requested by the employer
  • Get hired as a probation officer
  • Get trained on-the-job once hired

Although it’s not always required, many individuals pursuing this career earn an advanced degree such as a master’s. Related work experience in corrections, criminal justice, social work, or counseling can be very helpful in securing a position. In addition, most probation officers must complete a formal training program, which often includes government or state-sponsored probation officer classes, before they can start working independently.

Probation Officer Education

There are numerous colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. Most programs take about four years to complete if you attend school full time.

Courses may vary depending on what school you attend and the major you choose. The following list of criminal justice classes are typical of the types of courses you will take in an undergraduate program:

Introduction to the Criminal Justice System

This course covers the history and philosophy of criminal justice and ethical considerations. It also provides an overview of the three parts of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, court systems, and corrections.


In this course you will learn about the scientific study of crime, including its causes, responses by law enforcement, and methods of prevention. You will review the many different theories of criminology that result in deviant behavior.

Criminal Law

Criminal law courses look at criminal law principles and concepts, focusing on both the procedural aspects and the substantive elements of various crimes and criminal court decisions.

Introduction to Corrections

This course examines the historical development of corrections and trends in the field. You will learn about theories of retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and other aspects of correctional reform.

Police and Society

In this course you will study the critical issues facing police officers and administrators when it comes to the relationship between police and communities. It usually emphasizes community relations in diverse societies, with a particular focus on the history of police.

Juvenile Probation Courses

Those who are studying to become juvenile probation officers will typically focus on topics such as:

  • Developmental psychology
  • Juvenile justice
  • Juvenile forensic psychology
  • Social work
  • Counseling
  • Substance abuse
  • Legal system
  • Public administration
  • Computer systems
  • First aid/CPR

Probation Officer Requirements

States (and even regions within a state) vary in their requirements for probation officers. In general, they will have basic requirements such as:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Be between 20 and 38 years of age
  • Be in exceptional physical, emotional, and mental health (this may involve a physical examination and psychological evaluation)
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have no felony convictions

Some states may have more stringent requirements. Florida, for example, will not accept those with a misdemeanor that involves perjury. Some counties in Ohio require officers to be fluent in a second language.

Finally, a number of states require some type of certification. This typically involves attending a certification academy and passing a state or local Civil Service Examination.

Traits of Successful Probation Officers

Being a probation officer requires you to be tough but empathetic. Other important traits and skills include:

  • Communication skills: To effectively interact with criminals and legal teams and administrators, probation officers need to be good communicators. An important part of communicating involves engaging in active listening and understanding what others are saying. Probation officers must learn to read body language.
  • Critical thinking skills: Good critical thinking skills allow probation officers to pick up on the validity of a convict’s argument and recognize if what they’ve said is true or false.
  • Decision-making skills: Making decisions requires confidence and the ability to follow through. While not always easy, probation officers must weigh the pros and cons of a decision and implement it.
  • Emotional stability: Probation officers witness a lot of tragic circumstances. They must be able to deal with difficult emotional situations in a professional setting and not let their emotions get in the way of performing their job.
  • Organizational skills: Probation officers typically juggle multiple cases at once. An ability to multitask, keep detailed records, and stay on top of community resources can help them manage complex caseloads.
  • Writing skills: One of the duties of a probation officer is to write regular reports that are used by the courts. An ability to write professionally enables them to effectively inform and influence judges, attorneys, and defendants.

Probation Officer Salary and Career Outlook

The mean annual salary for probation officers is $58,790, according to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salary can vary according to geography and industry.

The states that offer the top five mean annual salaries are:

StateMean Annual Salary
Rhode Island$83,060
New Jersey$73,810
New York$70,690

The top-paying industries are local and state governments.

Although career outlook in general for probation officers is a little slower than average, at 2% to 3%, in some states growth is projected to be faster (or much faster) than average:

West Virginia+12%
New York+10%

Probation Officer-Related Careers

Pretrial Services Officer

Pretrial services officers determine whether the offender can be safely allowed back into the community before their trial date. They investigate the offender’s background, assess the risks, and make a recommendation to a judge. The judge then determines whether to grant probation and the bond amount. If an offender is allowed back into the community, pretrial officers supervise them to make sure they are following the terms of their release.

Correctional Treatment Specialist

Correctional treatment specialists typically develop rehabilitation plans, which are then implemented by probation officers. They meet with offenders before probation, parole, or release to determine what services they will need.

Parole Officer

A parole officer is assigned to a parolee after their release from prison to assist them as they adjust to their transition back into society. They may help with everything from job searches to staying drug free. Parole officers are typically responsible for a large load of cases at one time.

Social Worker

Within the criminal justice system, social workers play a number of roles. For example, they might counsel law enforcement employees, diagnose defendants, provide information in the courts, or serve as victim advocates.

Substance Abuse or Mental Health Counselor

Substance abuse and mental health counselors advise current and former inmates who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, or other behavioral problems. They treat and support clients recovering from addiction or problem behaviors.

Probation Officer Resources

  • American Probation and Parole Association (APPA): The goal of this organization is to reduce recidivism by providing support and resources for the corrections industry. They have a comprehensive professional training program that can be delivered onsite, online, or through a training or leadership institute.
  • American Correctional Association (ACA): The ACA website provides a wide range of resources in areas such as professional development, standards and accreditation, government and public affairs, and upcoming conferences.
  • Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association (FPPOA): The FPPOA provides the latest information for probation and pretrial officers at the federal level through articles and newsletters.
  • Middle Atlantic States Correctional Association: This professional organization is comprised of members from CT, DE, MD, NJ, PA, NY, and DC. Their website provides news, resources, and information about scholarships and awards. They also host an annual conference.
  • American Society of Criminology (ASC): The ASC is an international organization that promotes the study of crime and delinquency. They offer online articles and publications and provide employment information and job listings.
  • Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA): Public law enforcement agencies can become accredited through the CALEA. The accreditation process is comprised of five steps: enrollment, self-assessment, assessment, commission review and decision, and maintaining compliance and reaccreditation.