A rather important career in the rehabilitation process, probation officers help those working their way back into society. If you want to learn how to become a probation officer, you need to know the steps. Before you head down this career path, however, it’s important to know the job.
Looking at the job duties of a probation officer will help you decide if this is the career for you. It’s also important to know how to become a probation officer. Let’s look a bit closer at this career.
Job Duties of a Probation Officer
When you become a probation officer, you become a law enforcement professional. Your main job duty will be to supervise those serving probation. This may be after time spent in jail or prison. You may also be called a community supervision officer, in some areas.
The job duties of a probation officer include:
- Follow the specific requirements of those on probation you will be supervising
- Working with other law enforcement officers and with social services agencies
- Helping offenders transition into society once they have completed their sentence
- Coordinating job placement, training, education, and housing for offenders
- Monitoring the activities of offenders as they work to comply with the requirements
- Documenting the progress and status of offenders as they work through probation
- Overseeing the compliance with the specific probation order
- Conducting home visits and drug tests
- Interviewing employers
These are the main job duties of a probation officer. There are many other things you may also do, but these are the main job duties.
How To Become a Probation Officer in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Finish High School
If you want to become a probation officer, you will need to finish high school. Since you need to get a bachelor’s degree, doing well in high school is a good first step.
During high school, it’s also a good idea to shadow a probation officer and learn about the career. This can help you figure out if this is the right career option for you.
Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
Earning your bachelor’s degree is vital if you want to become a probation officer. You want to get a degree in the right area, which may include criminal justice, criminal law, human relations, behavioral science, social work, psychology, or public relations. These fields tend to be the best options.
If you want to work as a probation officer for the federal government, you will need to get a master’s degree in one of these fields.
Step #3 – Gain Experience
You will need to gain some experience to become a probation officer. If you want to land this career, getting some experience in the course system or working as an intern as a probation officer is a good choice. Any work in law enforcement, corrections, counseling, criminal investigation, or case management will help you become a probation officer.
Step #4 – Meet the Basic Hiring Requirements
Probation officers will need to meet the basic hiring requirements. These requirements can vary from one state to another. They are also a bit different on the federal level.
The most common basic requirements include:
- Be a U.S. Citizen
- Be under the age of 38 years of age when you apply
- Have a college degree and relevant training
- Be someone of decent moral characters
- Pass the written exam
- Pass the endurance tests
- Pass the capability assessments
- Pass the competitive oral, physical, and psychological exams
- Pass a background check
You cannot become a probation officer if you have been convicted of a felony.
Step #5 – Complete the Training Academy
Once you get hired as a probation officer, you will need to go through orientations and on-the-job training. This will vary from one location to another. You may need to attend continuing education, once employed, too.
Some of the training you can expect includes:
- District policy
- Court routines
- Writing official reports
- Becoming certified in first aid and CPR
- Surveillance and investigation techniques
- Firearms training
- Defense tactics
- Safety instructor training
Training for probation officers is usually around 90 days long. This will likely be your probationary period before you are considered to be a permanent employee. You may have to undergo periodic drug testing, updated background checks, and firearm testing as a probation officer, too.
Probation Officer vs. Parole Officer
as a probation officer, you will work with those on probation. By definition, probation is an extension of a prison sentence, which is completed outside of the prison sentence. Offenders on probation will be under your supervision.
Parole officers, on the other hand, work with those gaining early release from prison under specific conditions. Parole officers will supervise the parolees and help them integrate back into society.
Common Skills of Probation Officers
If you want to become a probation officer, some of the common skills to work on include:
- Communication Skills – You will need excellent verbal and written communication skills to become a probation officer. It’s necessary to communicate with offenders, law enforcement workers, social workers, and many others.
- Time Management – You will have many offenders under your supervision. You will need to manage your time effectively and keep tasks prioritized properly.
- Problem-solving – As a probation officer, you will need to solve problems often. This is an important skill to help you with your day-to-day work.
These are just a few of the many important skills you need to become a probation officer. Many other skills will be a part of your training, especially if you become a federal probation officer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Probation Officer
How much can I earn as a probation officer?
When you work as a probation officer, you will earn around $46K per year, according to Indeed.com. This is the average salary in the United States. Your actual location, experience, and skills will help to determine your salary.
Some employers pay a higher salary than the average. You might also earn more in certain locations. California, New York, Ohio, and Florida tend to be the highest paying states in the country for probation officers.
If you work as a U.S. Probation Officer for the federal government, you can earn a higher average salary of about $53K to $58K per year. This is a bit of a harder position to get with more training required, however.
What type of benefits do probation officers get?
As a probation officer gains access to many different employee benefits. You will likely get health insurance complete with vision and dental insurance. It’s common for probation officers to get paid time off, as well. In some cases, you might get help with childcare or even a gym membership.
Is there a demand for probation officers?
No. While this career option is not in decline, it’s also not growing that fast. This career is expected to grow by about 3% over the next ten years.
What is a juvenile probation officer?
If you decide to become a juvenile probation officer, you will work with younger people. You will supervise offenders under the age of 18 and work closely with social services, parents, schools, and law enforcement agencies.
What type of hours do probation officers work?
As a probation officer, you will work full-time hours. Some of your hours may be at night or on the weekend. You may also need to be on-call, in some circumstances. Some overtime is normal for this career.
What type of offenders do probation officers work with?
When you become a probation officer, you will likely work with certain types of offenders. Working with substance abusers is rather common. You can also specialize and work with juvenile offenders.
What kind of specialties can I take on as a probation officer?
There are several areas you can specialize in as a probation officer. Some of the areas you can study to help with specialization include:
- Case law
- Information gathering
- Fines and restitution
- Gang affiliation indicators
- Juvenile processes
- Probation terminology
- Interviews and counseling
- Court reports and presentation
These areas of study can help you specialize as a probation officer.
What type of crime might disqualify you from becoming a probation officer?
If you have a past criminal conviction or a felony conviction, you may be automatically disqualified from becoming a probation officer. A misdemeanor conviction may not disqualify you if it’s older. However, any recent or severe conviction will likely keep you from entering this career.
How many years will it take for me to become a probation officer?
You will likely need four to six years to complete your degree and training to become a probation officer. Four years will be necessary to get your bachelor’s degree. You will need another six to 12 months to complete training. It’s also possible you will need to work as a trainee for another year before you will be offered a permanent position.
When you decide you want to work as a probation officer, you need to learn how to become a probation officer. This can be a very rewarding career but will require a degree and the right training.