Probation Officer Careers

Probation officer jobs involve duties that combine law enforcement and social services. Probation officers supervise criminal offenders as they perform their court appointed service in the community.  This entails monitoring offenders as they enroll in rehabilitation programs or treatment facilities, and as they conduct their daily affairs. Probation officers must employ a flexible approach to their professional routines, as they are often required to accommodate the instructions of the presiding judicial official.

In addition to ensuring that offenders fulfill the requirements of their probation, officers must also prepare reports and recommendations.  They may also be required to assist the offender in repaying victims some form of restitution.  They may also administer drug tests to ensure court-mandated sobriety.  If offenders fail to comply with any of the probation requirements, probation officers are charged with contacting the proper authorities so that they may detain the offender and possibly revoke the probation.

Probation Officer Salary

There are currently about 93,000 probation officers employed in the country with an average annual salary of $47,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This steadily growing profession is expected to add 17,100 jobs between 2010 and 2020. 

 

Unlike many law enforcement jobs, a probation officer is usually required to possess at least a bachelor’s degree and because there is on-the-job training no prior experience in this field is necessary.

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Alabama
880
43060
Alaska
260
59210
Arizona
2110
50230
Arkansas
920
34520
California
12930
77230
Colorado
2430
52290
Connecticut
1480
73180
Delaware
510
46020
District of Columbia
120
52200
Florida
5260
37860
Georgia
3850
35570
Hawaii
70
55200
Idaho
740
38200
Illinois
2270
62440
Indiana
2160
38850
Iowa
490
61970
Kansas
930
39040
Kentucky
770
37580
Louisiana
1340
44580
Maine
350
Estimate not released
Maryland
2020
51850
Massachusetts
390
61230
Michigan
3000
57410
Minnesota
1490
62570
Mississippi
320
30830
Missouri
2220
36640
Montana
350
38870
Nebraska
380
36660
New Hampshire
240
54960
New Jersey
2700
68870
New Mexico
1230
36730
New York
4900
64900
North Carolina
2440
38120
North Dakota
150
45050
Ohio
2740
46810
Oklahoma
610
37900
Oregon
1910
51580
Pennsylvania
3900
49690
South Dakota
390
37580
Tennessee
1970
35870
Texas
5930
40670
Virginia
2900
43150
Washington
2420
52890
West Virginia
440
30480
Wisconsin
1440
50610
Wyoming
240
47480

Probation Officer Job Description

The probation officer serves the judicial system and the community, so their first priority is to obtain a clear understanding of the offender’s probation requirements.  In order to acquire this knowledge, the probation officer may need to attend judicial proceedings, conduct meetings with court officials, or research the documents pertaining to a probationer’s case.

Once the broad’s probation terms are established, a detailed plan must be created and communicated to the offender.  Each case is unique, so developing these plans may entail significant consultation with officers of the court.  The probationer would not be involved in the planning stages, but may be permitted to discuss the terms of probation with their presiding judge, so some liaison duties may be involved.   The probationer’s attorney may also play a significant role during this process, but usually any problem with the terms of probation should be referred to the judge.

As the point of contact between the probationer and the courts, a probation officer is expected to monitor the activities of their charges regularly.  This may entail visiting them at work, school or substance treatment facilities.  Most probation officers are responsible for several offenders simultaneously; so well developed organizational skills are a must. Court mandated documents verifying that a probationer has satisfied the terms of probation must be completed and submitted to the court.  Similarly, any violations that have occurred must also be immediately referred to the presiding judge or police officials.

Some probation officers may be sworn law enforcement officers depending on the jurisdiction.  Those officers who have full arrest powers may be required to arrest probation violators and transfer them to detention facilities.

Requirements for Probation Officer Jobs

In order to serve as a probation officer a degree from an accredited four year college is required. These degrees are usually obtained in the following fields of study:

  • Criminal justice
  • Sociology
  • Law enforcement
  • Criminology
  • Public administration
  • Psychology

While no formal training is required to receive consideration for many of these jobs, there are a number of portals for prospective probation officers who wish to gain a competitive advantage in the hiring process. There are a number of preparatory and certification programs that are available through educational institutions and professional associations that can provide valuable knowledge and training.

Each state sets different qualifications for their probation officers.  The U.S.  Probation & Pretrial Office requires candidates to possess high physical fitness and expertise in close combat.  Because many of the individuals being supervised may be prone to violence, the ability to defend one’s self from attack is a highly valuable skill.  Normal vision and hearing are typically required. Only those candidates younger than 37 years of age are considered for positions within this agency, but individual states may differ in their requirements.

Many probation offices provide preference for candidates who have served in law enforcement, criminal investigations or substance treatment.  If the career is in juvenile probation, experience with minors in school, community or law enforcement settings is beneficial.

Training for Probation Officers

Most starting probation officers are required to obtain some formal or on-the-job training. Many states have developed training programs that include instruction in the following areas

  • Justice system
  • Confidentiality and information release
  • Juvenile detention
  • Report writing
  • Restitution and financial penalties
  • Casework relationships
  • Officer safety

Many states require that probation officers undergo periodic training throughout their tenure.  This may involve seminars and workshops found within the department or enrolling in courses provided by local colleges or vocational schools.

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