Probation officers supervise people who have been convicted of a crime but, instead of being sent to prison, have been placed on probation. During this probationary period, offenders must obey all the conditions of their probation and not violate the law. The probation officer works with and monitors offenders to prevent them from breaking probation.
In some geographical areas, probation officers are called community supervision officers. They perform many of the same duties as parole officers. The distinction between a parole officer and a probation officer is that probation officers work with individuals sentenced to probation rather than prison. Parole officers supervise individuals who have been granted early release from prison.
What Does a Probation Officer Do?
Probation officers deal with offenders on a one-to-one basis. Sometimes offenders come to the probation officer’s office, other times officers meet with offenders at their homes or place of employment. Usually, a probation officer works with either adults or juveniles. In some states, juvenile probation is referred to as aftercare.
Working for the courts is also part of a probation officer’s job description. Officers investigate the backgrounds of those awaiting trial, write presentencing reports, and recommend sentences. Probation officers are sometimes called upon to testify in court about their reports. In addition, they attend hearings, updating the court on offenders’ progress in compliance and rehabilitation.
Where Do Probation Officers Work?
The work environment of probation officers can be very stressful because they are sometimes in close proximity to violent criminal offenders. They travel into high-crime areas and institutions where danger factors are enhanced.
Probation officers often work long hours, handle heavy caseloads, and must abide by court-imposed deadlines. All of these factors merely serve to augment stress levels. Conversely, probation officers enjoy high job satisfaction: They help people become productive and valuable members of society.
Qualifications vary according to geographical location, but in most states a bachelor’s degree is required to become a probation officer. Candidates must pass oral, written, physical, and psychological examinations.
Many probation officers hold degrees in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or another related field. An increasing number of officers do post-graduate studies in psychology and criminal justice, attaining master’s degrees.
State and Federal Government Info
In most states, probation officers complete training programs sponsored by their state or the Federal government. Once their training is finished, they normally function as trainees for six months to a year before becoming full-fledged probation officers.
Skills that are Helpful
It is beneficial for candidates to be computer savvy and have excellent written and oral communication skills. They also need to be intelligent, good listeners, and have refined interpersonal skills. Promotion and advancement are based on experience and performance. In certain instances, a graduate degree may be necessary for promotion.
The employment outlook for probation officers is good and expected to grow at an average rate through 2018. The average salary for probation officers is $45,910. Experience officers made an average of $78,210 per year. Officers working in urban areas make more than those in rural areas.