How to Become a Probation Officer

Become a Probation Officer

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If you are thinking about a career change in today's economy, sometimes it can pay to think creatively or pursue avenues you once may not have considered. If you have a background in social work, social services, law enforcement, or criminal justice, you may have a set of career skills that could suit you for employment as a probation officer.

Probation Officers

Probation officers traditionally work with either juvenile or adults and usually have diverse job descriptions. From working with the court system to dealing with individuals who have been incarcerated, probation officers are an important part of the legal system.Through personal contact with past offenders and, sometimes, their families, probation officers supervise offenders to keep them out of prison.

If you can be tough-minded in difficult situations, and yet also have the interpersonal skills to make rapport with a variety of people, you should be in position to succeed as a probation officer.

Career Advice: Improve Your Skills

In order to become a probation officer, you may need to improve your career skills through continuing education. The typical educational starting point for employment is a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work, or a related field. You can get started on your career retraining by enrolling in online probation officer training courses either through a campus-based or online degree program.

Your career retraining may include classes in counseling, corrections, substance abuse treatment, probation, criminal investigations, and more. You can use online probation officer training courses to get started while working at your current position.

As you look to retrain your career skills, consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of probation officers to increase in the near future--offering new employment opportunities to qualified individuals.

Career Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: In May 2013, the Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists earned a median annual salary of $52,910 with top 10% making more than $84,160.
  • States with Highest Employment: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania.
  • Top Paying States: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Illinois.
  • Popular specializations: adult offenders, juvenile offenders
  • Typical job duties: background investigation, presentence reports, testify in court, attend hearings, recommend sentences
  • Job benefits: telecommuting, travel, 40-hour work week, personal satisfaction of serving the community
  • Job challenges: heavy workloads, court-imposed deadlines, stressful work environment with potentially violent offenders
  • Advancement: supervisory positions (may require graduate degree training)
  • Recommended/required training: state or federal training program, bachelor's degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, related field
  • Requirements: good physical and emotional condition, at least 21 years old, no older than 37 (federal employment), pass background check
  • Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists employed in 2008: 97,130
  • Typical employers: state and local government
  • Highest employment opportunities: urban areas
  • Related careers: social workers, counselors, social and human service assistants, correctional officers

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, May 2013 Wages