Before criminals are fully released from jail into the community, they are often put on probation or supervised release. Some minor offenders are also put on probation or house arrest instead of being sentenced to prison. Probation officers are the professionals who supervise the activities of these offenders.
See Also: How to Become a Probation Officer
1. What Do Probation Officers Do?
In detail, they perform the following tasks:
- Monitoring all the activities of the offenders on probation ensuring they comply with terms of release
- Rehabilitating the offenders – This involves assessing the conditions and developing rehabilitation programs
- Training the offenders to equip them with various occupational skills
- Providing substance abuse counseling to offenders with drug addictions
- Compiling reports detailing the offenders’ progress and presenting them to probation case managers
- Meeting with offenders’ family members, as well as professionals from social services and law enforcement agencies
Importantly, probation officers play a key role in helping court systems to determine whether offenders on probation should be released back into the community. In their reports, they indicate whether an offender is likely to commit another crime after release from probation.
2. Work Environment
Probation officers work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Depending on the terms of an offenders’ probation, the officer could spend his or her day within the offenders’ home (if under house arrest). Nonetheless, many officers spend their time in prisons and other types of correctional facilities.
The work can be potentially dangerous, as it may involve working with criminals who may pose a threat to your life.
The annual average salary for probation officers in the US, according to Indeed, is $44,000.
4. Entry Requirements
To become a probation officer, you must have an intricate understanding of the American justice system, law enforcement procedures and criminal justice principles. To obtain this knowledge and qualify for employment, pursue a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:
- Criminal Justice
- Social work
- Law enforcement.
It is also possible to get started by pursuing an associate degree in these fields. Through this route, you will begin as residential or detention officer and work your way up as you increase in experience.
5. Important Qualities
To be an accomplished probation officer, you need:
- Excellent interpersonal skills to work with offenders from diverse cultural backgrounds
- Excellent analytical skills
- Excellent decision making skills
- Good coordination skills
- The ability to work without being judgmentall
- The willingness to help others
- Good planning and organizational skills
- Good report-writing skills
- Emotional stability
- Critical-thinking skills
6. Career Advancement
Once you are hired as a probation officer, it is important to engage in professional development activities to heighten your chances of getting ahead in your career.
The American Probation and Parole Association allows newly qualified probation officers to become members. Some of the membership benefits you get include:
- Access to training workshops
- Access to industry publication and reports
- Networking opportunities
- Access to the Career Center
After that, supplement your undergraduate training with a master’s degree in criminal justice.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of probation officers include:
- State departments of Justice
- Juvenile detention centers
- County probation departments
- Organizations that provide vocational rehabilitation services
- Residential care facilities
With vast experience as a probation officer, you can advance to become a probation case manager. A master’s degree will open doors for senior opportunities within the criminal justice system, such as the director of probation for a state government.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes there is little demand for probation officers, the fact that alternative forms of punishments are being used means more probation officers will be needed within the next decade.
So if you have an interest in community justice initiatives, and you would love to see a crime-free society, then maybe you can become a probation officer.