Career Profile: Parole Officer

Career Profile: Parole Officer

Parole officers classify and supervise prisoners who are eligible for release prior to completing their sentences in prison. Prisoners wishing to qualify for parole status must obey prison rules, demonstrate progress in rehabilitation, participate in therapy programs, and show a positive attitude in whatever prison jobs they hold.

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Where Do Parole Officers Work?

Parole officers work inside and outside of correctional institutions. Those who work inside institutions prepare reports for parole boards. The reports assess prisoners’ lives before and during incarceration, keep track of prisoners’ rehabilitation, and determine what job prospects prisoners will have upon release. Parole boards rely heavily upon the officers’ reports, interviews, and observations when making parole decisions.

Once a prisoner is paroled and returns to his/her community, the parolee comes under the supervision of a field parole officer. The field parole officer assists parolees in finding jobs, making application to schools, or suggesting beneficial therapy programs. For example, former drug addicts are required to enroll in substance abuse programs.

Additionally, if parolees have financial problems, the parole officer assists them in obtaining welfare or medical benefits. Some field parole officers oversee halfway houses, which assist parolees in re-entering society. These halfway houses also utilize therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers.

Field Parole Officers

Field parole officers visit their clients on a regular basis to evaluate their progress. Based upon the parole officer’s recommendation, if the parolee violates the conditions of his parole, the parole board may decide to send the parolee back to prison.

Degree and Education Requirements

For the most part, parole officers are highly educated. Parole departments give preference to individuals with college or university degrees in sociology, psychology, criminology, or correctional science. Additionally, most parole departments require one or two years of work experience in a correctional setting or a master’s degree in sociology or psychology.

Applicants are required to pass written, oral, psychological, and physical examinations. If they pass and are accepted, candidates attend training programs that culminate in certification tests.

Because the requirements to become a parole officer vary according to geographical location, interested parties are advised to contact federal, state, or county parole boards directly. Usually, the first step involves taking the federal or state civil service tests. Applicants who major in criminal science or sociology in college often connect with potential employers in the course of their studies.

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Career Outlook

Qualified parole officers have the opportunity to advance in their careers. They may be promoted to positions as administrators, department heads, and directors of special units. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the need for parole officers to grow at an average rate through 2014. Although because many states are reevaluating their mandatory sentencing guidelines, the need for parole officers may increase dramatically in the future.

More often than not, parole officers work independently. They must be emotionally and psychologically stable individuals, because of their working environment. Dealing with felons and community leaders demands flexibility and personal integrity. Most field officers have heavy caseloads, working more than forty hours per week.

Based on location and experience, parole officers may make $39,600 to $70,000 per years. Supervisors and directors often earn much more, and most parole departments provide excellent benefit packages.

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