Juvenile Probation Officer Degrees and Careers
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. We try to provide complete listings so you can request information from several schools without searching multiple sites.
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 very well 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 may 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 U.S. 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 Information
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 U.S. 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).
The Working Life of a Juvenile Probation Officer
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.
Delinquency prevention may be another part of your job. For example, some probation officers visit local classrooms to teach them good living habits and deter crime. You may need to connect with teachers and administrators to start reaching out to the community around you. 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!
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