Probation & Parole Officers: Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a probation or parole officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and in-house training to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Parole and probation officers work with criminals and their families to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders. Their duties may include arranging for mental health services, jobs or housing and monitoring their behavior. The differences between these jobs vary by state, as do the requirements, but most states call for at least a bachelor's degree for either job, generally in criminal justice, social work or a related field. These programs often include a research project or field experience. Both parole and probation officers must complete agency training programs after they are hired.

Required EducationBachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work or related field plus in-house training program
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 1% decline for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Median Salary (2013)* $48,440 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Probation and Parole Officer Job Description

Parole and probation officers counsel and supervise criminals and their families while the offenders work toward reintegration to society. While probation officers work with adults or juveniles who've been convicted of a crime but typically haven't spent time in jail, parole officers work with individuals who've been released from prison after serving all or part of their sentence. States may regulate other variants between these positions; for example, in California a probation officer is hired only at the country level while the state hired parole officers. Federal agencies employ joint parole/probation officers who almost exclusively work with adult offenders.

Parole and probation officers are assigned a caseload consisting of multiple offenders; for example, this may be 80-120 or 60-150 at a time, respectively. They supervise the law offender and make them aware of the conditions of their freedom while on probation parole. They accomplish this by staying in contact with the parolee or probationer, who may report to the officers if they don't instead visit them at home, work or a rehabilitation facility. Parole and probation officers may also arrange for their offenders' substance abuse, mental health or medical treatment. Probation officers work with courts and civil agencies while parole officers report directly to a parole board.

Educational and Training Requirements

While each state has its own requirements for becoming a parole officer, most states require these workers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Aspiring parole or probation officers can obtain an accredited bachelor's degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, sociology or another relevant field. Useful coursework may address an array of topics in social policy and human behavior. Some curricula include a capstone project or field practicum.

Government agencies typically provide parole and probation officers in-house training. Probation officers may need to complete a training period and pass a psychological test before they're offered a permanent position.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for correctional treatment specialists and probation officers are expected to drop by about 1% for the years 2012 to 2022 (www.bls.gov) due to government funding cutbacks. The BLS also reported that the median salary for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $48,440 in 2013.

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