As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows in the figures we have provided above, probation officer jobs are among the fastest growing careers in the criminal justice field. This is due to many planned retirements in coming years, which will lead to an increase in open positions. Once hired, probation officers are responsible for helping offenders who have been released from prison on parole or who have been given probation. During the time period of parole or probation, criminals must adhere to certain guidelines, like remaining drug-free and avoiding illegal activities. Probation officers help them accomplish that by assisting the offenders with treatment programs, resources, and occasional supervision. In particular, probation officer careers involve the following duties:
- Developing treatment plans for criminals who have been released on parole or given probation.
- Helping find resources for offenders to use for employment and housing.
- Assisting offenders with the transition from prison to society.
- Reporting on parole or probation violations.
Additionally, probation officers are responsible for having offenders take drug tests and take evaluations. If an offender violates his or her parole, the officer must report the violation. Officers must also keep accurate notes on the offender's progress with his or her treatment.
Job Growth for
Becoming a Probation Officer
The first step toward becoming a probation officer is earning a high school diploma or GED. While enrolled in high school, future probation officers are encouraged to take course work in psychology. Then, after graduating, it is in students' best interest to pursue a bachelor's degree. Although there are different qualifications among each probation agency, most of them require a bachelor's degree in a field like social work, psychology, or criminal justice.
During the bachelor's degree program, students will study human behavior, criminology, and rehabilitation. They will learn how to interact with offenders and how to evaluate their progress through treatments. They will also gain insight into the resources that are available to help criminals reestablish themselves outside of the prison system. Specifically, students may take the following classes:
- Individual and Society
It is common for probation agencies to only hire adults who are older than 20. Some agencies also have an age cap and will not hire individuals who are over 37. They must also pass drug tests, background checks, and psychological exams, as candidates must be able to think clearly and handle high-stress situations. After being hired, it is common for probation officers to spend at least a year working under more experienced officers before advancing into an official officer position.