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Probation Officer

What does a Probation Officer do?

A probation officer is a person who is trained in correctional services and monitoring those who are enrolled in such programs.  The position is required by the courts and judicial systems as it serves as a way of attempting to keep someone previously involved in criminal behavior from repeating the offense.  Thus, the answer to a question like “what does a probation officer do,” is very complex and not without a mildly verbose response. Below the reader can learn everything a probation officer does and what it takes to follow a career path of a probation officer.

Who is Probation Officer?

There are several references or titles that equate to the probation officer including, but not limited to all of the following: Probation Counselor, Probation and Parole Officer, Parole Agent, Juvenile Probation Officer, Deputy Probation Officer, Deputy Juvenile Officer, Correctional Officer, and Adult Probation Officer. To answer the question, “what is a probation officer,” it becomes necessary to examine some job expectations.  As individuals that serve as part of the criminal justice system, probation officers work with offenders/criminals in an effort to help the individuals to refrain from further criminal activity and to eventually return to a normal life as possible.

A probation officer will help to ensure that the offender follows all probationary regulations assigned to them: This helps to make the community safer while simultaneously ensuring the offender doesn’t re-offend or become a danger to the community.  Probation officers work with sentencing judges and the courts as well as with law enforcement officials, those that are accused of a crime, and those identified as criminal offenders.

In many judicial systems, the probation officer might also perform investigations on those who are presently accused of a crime of a serious nature.  The investigation process may involve the exploration of an accused offender’s background, the individual’s education, and whatever environment or circumstances might have led to the initial offense.  The officer will then report to the courts in an effort to make a recommendation that the court can use when sentencing the individual.

If the offender is not violent, there is a chance they might get a sentence that includes probation.  While monitoring the individual, the officer will ensure the convicted offender is seen each week at weekly meetings.  The officer meets with the offender to make sure all probationary rules are being followed.  The probation sentence the offender receives varies with every case, but terms can include travel restrictions, the loss of the right to bear arms, restrictions on the consumption of alcohol and limitations on social interactions with select individuals.

The offender is often interviewed during regular meetings with the probation officer.  The police and probation officers work in unison to ensure that the information the offender shares during such meetings is accurate and that all restrictions are adhered to at all times.  The probation officer has the power to recommend increased or decreased restrictions as he or she sees fit, and they will report to the -courts any necessary details or proof necessary if reporting a violation of probation.

Probation Officer Job Description


The probation agent works with offenders who have been convicted of a crime and ordered to probation or offenders who have been granted parole from a prison environment. When working as an officer of the probation department the individual might work with all adults or all juveniles, depending upon the position.  If the work is with juveniles, the officer will likely ensure the probationer is attending school and/or work regularly. The job of the probation officer is attained by those who pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or sociology.  There is direct and rigorous training the individual goes through to master probationary regulations and laws within the specific jurisdiction where the individual is legally certified to work.  The individual is often expected to work irregular hours because the nature of the job involves a lot of investigatory work as well as scheduled appearances in the court and visits to offenders’ homes. Likewise, the officer is required to attend to those offenders who are on home monitors.

The probation officer job description includes a number of responsibilities.  The first task of the officer is to ensure offender probationary compliance and to report non-compliance to the courts so that further action can be taken.  The officer will monitor the offender and perform regular, random drug testing as part of compliance checks.  In addition to drug testing and monitoring, the probation agent will need to create reports about probationer behavior and progress. Recommendations for work, counseling, anger management and other beneficial programs may also be required. The officer must monitor any contact the probationer has with the police, and the agent will conduct regular interviews with friends and family to make sure the individual is adhering to all probationary regulations.

The probation officer is required to use an array of tools when on the job including but not limited to all of the following: two-way radios, belt restraints, torso restraints, handcuffs, handguns, body armor, and drug testing equipment like breathalyzers.  Additional equipment includes video conferencing systems, court databases for accessing records, and in some cases, knowledge of Microsoft Access Hot is required.  The probation officer will need to be familiar with email software platforms, Internet browsers, map creating software, and Microsoft Office Suite or Corel WordPerfect Office Suite.  Sometimes familiarity with presentation software, like Microsoft PowerPoint, is also required.  Familiarity with project management software, Tyler Technologies Odyssey Case Manager software, and Microsoft Excel Hot technology spreadsheet software is also required.  Finally, the officer will need to be intimately familiar with Microsoft Word Processing and voice recognition software.

Probation Officer Duties and Tasks

  • Alcohol and drug testing administration
  • Random drug screening offenders
  • Regular meetings with offenders on probation
  • Manage parolees and probationers
  • Evaluations and reports
  • Ensuring adherence to the rehabilitation plans
  • Remedial and court action recommendations
  • Track case files
  • Record parolee/probationer records
  • Assist in parolee/probationer’s self-reflection process
  • Home visits at the residence of the offender
  • Assessing the best path for offender rehabilitation
  • Supplying job training and other resources to the probationer
  • Track law enforcement interaction with the probationer
  • Report writing and offender file maintenance
  • Pre-hearing/pre-sentencing investigatory work and recommendations

Skills Required

  • Verbal Communications
  • Case Management
  • Filing Court Documents
  • Counseling
  • Ensuring Legal Compliance
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Listening Skills
  • Monitoring/Observation Skills
  • Inductive Reasoning

Working Conditions

100506-N-8824M-026 SAN DIEGO (May 6, 2010) Navy law enforcement members participate in apprehension techniques during the Navy Security Forces Training Course at Naval Air Station North Island. The pilot program simultaneously trains civilian and military police forces during a nine-week course, which enables the different law enforcement agencies to successfully work together during operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Spencer Mickler/Released)

The probation officer is one who works irregular hours.  Deadlines are established by the court and the officer must meet such deadlines, despite how many individuals and cases one is dealing with at the time.  A lot of paperwork, documentation, and reporting is involved with this job.  Much time on the job requires acquiring information and recording it.  The individual is likely to work in a department with other officers and may have a private officer where he or she can work. Nearly 90 percent of the time on the job will involve being in contact with other individuals on a daily basis, and about 84 percent of one’s time is either in the office or out in the field having in-person discussions with probationers, law officials, and court officials.  About 90 percent of one’s time is spent indoors in controlled environments.

If the probation officer travels to speak with the probationer at a different location, like the probationer’s home, or if the officer is in the field conducting interviews, he may be armed with pepper spray or a handgun and wear body armor to remain safe in an otherwise potentially hostile environment.  Officers may be required to do property searches as well as employment checks.

This job can prove to be a high-stress occupation, especially when dealing with probationers that do not adhere to the regulations they must follow.  However, some officers find the work particularly rewarding, especially when successfully counseling individuals and helping them once again to become productive contributors to society.

The work is a full-time job and there is likely overtime scheduled as well.  Some agencies have on-call positions that are rotated between all probation officers in the department.  The number of individuals the officer manages will depend on the department, how many probation officers there are available, and how many offenders require management.  Thus, one’s caseload can vary from one agency to another.

Probation Officer Salary


Let’s addresses the question as to how much a probation officer salary is and notes that it is “impossible to make it big” as a person working in under this job title.  The average salary is about $39,000 a year, but this figure can range in extremes of $28,000 on the low end of the spectrum, and $65,000 on the higher end.  Where one lives is one of the biggest things influencing the rate of pay one receives, and tenure will also influence the amount of money one is bringing home from the job.

How Much does a Probation Officer Make?

The level of experience one has will play some role in the salary one earns as a probation officer. The answer to the question, “how much does a probation officer make,” will change based on where one lives, and the candidate’s skill level, as well as the individual’s education, might also influence the salary one receives.  The entry level salary for the job is about $35,000 a year, and this is a $4,000 decline from the $39,000 national average. By the time a probation officer reaches mid-career, the individual is earning about three percent more than the $39,000 national average.  Correctional officers with 10 to 20 years of experience end up making around $47,000 a year, and those who work over 20 years in the field can make up to $57,000.



Some skills may increase the amount of money a probation officer makes.  For example, exceptional oral and verbal communication skills can earn the candidate nine percent over the national average salary.  If the individual is skilled in counseling, this can increase might by three percent per year.  Filing court documents is a skill that might increase one’s pay by two percent. In terms of benefits and other employee perks, 91% of probation officers have medical insurance coverage from the job, while 71% have dental coverage.  The vision coverage rate for probation officers is at 62 percent, and only seven percent of probation officers are uninsured.

Probation Officer Employment

There has been a mild decline in probation officer jobs between 2010 and 2014.  In 2010 there were 89,900 positions, but this fell by 1,380 jobs in 2011, resulting in only 88,520.  There were a few hundred more jobs by 2012 however, with a noted increase from 88,520, to 86,780.  From 2012 to 2013, another small increase occurs from 86,780 to 86,210.  Finally, from 2013 to 2014 there was increase or decrease in available positions: The year 2014 saw the job positions remain at 86,610 positions.

As per information released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), correctional treatment specialists and probations officers made as much as $49,360 for the year in 2015.  The lower ten percent actually earned just under $33,000 with the median wage at $32,900, while those in the higher ten percent of workers had median wages of $86,140.


Also per information made available by the BLS, the job outlook for this career path is mildly reasonable in terms of an anticipated rate of growth.  This sector is expected to grow as much as four percent between 2014 and 2024, albeit slower than average when compared to other occupations, a growth rate is still expected.  The growth in this sector is complex because it is dependent on a number of factors, including local government and/or state funding that can be applied to the corrections sector, and in particular, the fund allotted to parole and probationary systems.  Of course, parole officers are promised a future as released convicts will continue to require the appropriate supervision.

Gender Distribution


According to the Dean of the School of Criminal Justice at Kaplan University, Frank DiMarino J.D., LLM, women are the growing percentage of employees when it comes to the position of probation officer, and statistics confirm this as it puts 55% of the jobs as being filled by skilled and educated women, with the remaining 45% of the jobs being filled by males.  The actual figures vary from one state to another and depend on the position the females are working; Some are working with adults and others juveniles, but the statistics are significant as women only made up about 12 percent of the probation officer positions in the late 1960s. Such figures are promising and indicate that females are being noticed for their ability to fulfil the job responsibilities associated with the position in question and are no longer held back by the erroneous assumption that men are more ideal for the job.

How to Become Probation Officer?


The question of “how to become a probation officer,” will herein be addressed so the reader can pursue the career path if so desired. An eligible candidate for the position needs to hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or sociology.  The individual will be required to go through a criminal background check, drug testing, and to pass a competency examination.  Interested candidates have to be at least 21 years of age and many agencies require the individual have a valid driver’s license.  To gain an edge during the hiring process it is advised the individual have some prior experience in the field, including experience in counseling, social work, substance abuse treatment, criminal investigations, corrections, parole, pre-trial services, or probation.  Additional prior experience in the field of criminal justice, working with other probation professionals, or working in a courtroom setting is also helpful.

Those candidates looking to specialize in the field of probation can either work with adults solely juveniles solely, or move up in the sector. In order to advance the individual should pursue further schooling in order to get a master’s degree with a major in psychology, social work, or criminal justice.  The right candidate for the job will have extraordinary communication skills, the ability to think about things critically, solid decision-making skills, emotional stability, and exceptional organization skills.

Probation Officer Education Requirements

The probation officer education requirements demand the individual have at least a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences, criminal justice, social work, or some other field that is aligned with this type of work.  There are some agencies that demand the need for the completion of a master’s program in order for a candidate to become eligible.  The jurisdiction where one seeks employment will define the educational and experiential requirements of the position.  Even after being educated and getting a degree, training is often involved, and such training is typically funded by the federal or local government.  The candidate will need to be certified after the program, and he may be required to work up to one year as a trainee before being offered a job with any permanency.

Probation Officer Colleges

There are a number of exceptional probation officer colleges across the nation.  Students will want to find a school to enroll in that has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, criminal justice, or criminology.  The school selected will be expected to ready the candidate for state certification, psychological exams, written exams, and oral tests.  Below are the leading schools for those looking to become probation officers:

  1. Arizona State University
  2. Miami Dade College
  3. Ohio State University
  4. The University of Florida
  5. The University of Minnesota
  6. The University of Central Florida
  7. Michigan State University
  8. Pennsylvania State University
  9. Indiana University
  10. College of Southern, Nevada

Major Subjects

The subjects one can expect to study during the course of pursuing a degree include criminal justice, sociology, psychology, social work, and law. The student will likely also study constitutional law, self-defense tactics, firearms training, report writing, investigations, the democratic political process, executive orders, government regulations, precedents, court procedures, legal codes, behavioral disorders, and public security and safety. The individual will need to be in good health, both physically and mentally and examinations in both areas are required.

Probation Officer Specializations

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Specializations in this sector include positions like the Juvenile Justice position where the probation officer works with those under the age of 18.  The candidate will need knowledge of psychology, American government, criminal justice, criminal procedures and the courts, fundamental criminal law, sign language, juvenile justice systems, sociology, and ethics.

Also, over the past 20 years, agencies are starting to have more probation officers focus on working with specific types of offenders – this allows the probation officer to specialize on specific offenders and to learn from their similar and dissimilar behaviors.  Specialized caseloads include domestic violence offenders, sex offenders, mentally ill offenders, and ex—gang member offenders.

Professional Associations of Probation Officers

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) is among the known Associations of Probation officers available and open for membership. The APPA is an organization with an international reach that serves to empower and the APPA seeks to challenge every one of its members and constituents through training, teaching, advocating, influencing, and communicating with members of the organization. The APPA is a conduit of knowledge, offering support, ideas, models, and suggesting standards that are constantly evolving and improving, all while behaving as a valuable resource to the APPA members and community. Members of the APPA originate from Canada, the United States and a number of other countries that participate in both juvenile and criminal justice arenas where a pre-trial, probation, corrections that are based within the community, and parole options.

This organization was first established in the state of Texas. In the early 1970s in the city of Houston, the APPA got its start. The organization was established by people who were otherwise unhappy with the status quo and not having any kind of representation for correctional officers. The organization puts out the journal entitled “Perspectives” on a regular basis, with the first issue released in January 1976. By 1977, Canadian members were allowed entry into the organization. By the late 1990s, the organization had four educational institutions, nine corporate members, 26 library subscriptions, 55 affiliate members, 165 agency members, and 3000 individual members.

Probation Officers FAQ

What is the job outlook in association with the probation officer career?

According to reports put forth by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly earnings a probation officer receives is around $48,190, and the upper ten percent of individuals in the position are earning as much as $83,410 every year. The agency estimates that between the years 2010 and 2020, there will be a growth in the demand for probation officers during the ten-year period; the anticipated demand for trained, knowledgeable, and qualified probation officers is expected to be around 18 percent, which is four percent higher than any other occupation’s anticipated growth during the same timeframe.

What are some of the things a candidate can benefit from knowing before becoming a probation officer?

Besides the obvious fact that one must consider the dangers of the job, there are several things a candidate can benefit from knowing before pursuing a career as a probation officer. While there is the element of danger, and therefore some potential excitement, there is another part of the job that can prove a bit boring, and for some, it can seem even droll. Essentially, if you do not like handling paperwork and dealing with a lot of written materials, then the role of probation officer may not suit your personal preferences. You will have to have remarkable organizational skills as well, and time management is an important part of the probation officer’s job description. The officer must create reports for the court and interact with the judge and lawyers during hearings and trials, and the job, therefore, calls for impeccable reading, writing, and communication skills.


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