What Does a Probation Officer Do?
By Eric Hammer
A probation officer (also known as a parole officer - in most
cases, the two jobs are done by the same person) works with people
who have recently been paroled from jail or who have been given
probation (i.e. they were convicted of a crime, but not sent
to jail. In this case, they must report to you periodically for
help and training to make sure they don't get into trouble).
In both cases, this means that your job is in essence to make
sure that the people you work with are not reoffending and are
going to try to lead productive lives going forward rather than
ending up back in jail or in jail to begin with.
The job is very much like being a parent to these people since
a probation officer must be both encouraging and strict. On the
one hand, you need to be encouraging to help your charges to
reintegrate into society after they have served their time in
jail or to prevent them from going to jail in the first place.
On the other hand, as a probation officer, your duty is to report
violations by your charges of the terms of their parole and to
help arrange to send them to prison if they do violate their
parole or probation.
Probation officers sometimes do have some leeway, to allow
minor infractions to slide, depending on who you are working
with and how serious the offense is. For example, if you are
a probation officer for someone who had gone to jail for a serious
crime and the person is then picked up for shop lifting a $5
item, you may be able to intercede on behalf of the person you
are working with if you feel, in your professional judgment that
it was a one-time event and not a pattern beginning to develop
(assuming of course the store owner doesn't choose to press charges).
How Much Can You Make?
According to salary.com, the average salary for a probation
officer is approximately $50,144 per year as of 2011. This can
of course go up or down depending on experience and location.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Remember that a probation officer acts mostly like a parent
to the parolee or the person on probation. You are responsible
for helping them to smooth over the rough spots in their lives.
This includes helping them get settled into a halfway house and
finding their first job after prison or helping them to find
productive work so that they don't end up in prison to begin
with. Once the person has gotten himself or herself settled in,
you are going to have ongoing meetings with the person to ensure
that they are functioning well in society.
At the same time however, you are also responsible, just like
a parent, for punishing the charges under your care. This means
that you occasionally do surprise inspections of the people who
you are responsible for and report parole or probation violations
to your supervisor as needed.
The job is a very tough one since you in essence must be willing
to deal with people who are not necessarily interested in being
rehabilitated. You also must deal with people who may have emotional
problems which landed them in prison or in the court system to
begin with. That said, some probation officers report that they
find the job very rewarding since they can often see progress
in the lives of the people they are charged with supervising.
Qualifications / Requirements
Generally, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in order
to work as a probation officer. You'll often require some experience
in criminal justice as well and may work as an assistant probation
officer before you land a job on your own.
Start by going to college and earning a degree in criminal
justice, psychology or a related field. Then, contact city agencies
and find out about openings for probation officer jobs in your
area. Be sure to ask about requirements in advance and make sure
that you qualify before you apply for the job.
All Criminal Justice Schools: Parole and Probation
Officer - A guide to becoming a parole or probation officer
(as noted above, these are generally the same, the difference
being that someone on probation didn't go to prison but must
report to a probation officer whereas someone on parole has served
some time in prison but must still report to you for a few years).