Qualifications to Be a Probation Officer

by Amy Cocke

Probation officers are responsible for supervising offenders in the community released on probation. Job opportunities are expected to be good and there are several ways to advance in the field. A bachelor's degree is normally required, and applicants must pass tests and may serve as trainees before becoming full probation officers.

Degrees

Probation officers usually need to have a bachelor's degree. The most common degree is criminal justice, but related degrees such as social work, psychology, political science and sociology are also good choices. There may also be employers who want master's degrees from applicants who have no related work experience.

After College

Before applying for a probation officer position, you must 21 and cannot have any felonies on your record. After applying you may be asked to take oral, written and psychological examinations, and pass a state training program. You may then work as a trainee or under probation for up to a year before being a full probation officer.

Other Skills

Probation systems like to hire people with certain skills. Probation officers should have good writing and technical skills because of the reports that must be completed. Probation officers should also have good interpersonal skills in order to work with offenders well. A probation officer also needs to be able to learn and keep up with changes in laws and regulations affecting probation and parole.

Employers

Probation officers are usually hired by government agencies at the local, state and federal levels. Most of these jobs are available in urban areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects growth to be average, but more emphasis is being placed on probation so more jobs may open up. There are also large numbers of offenders being released on parole. However, the number of jobs depends on the amount of money budgeted to probation systems.

Advancement

There are good opportunities for advancement as a probation officer. There are several ranks of probation officers; you can also move into supervisory positions. Though not required for advancement, a master's degree may help, especially when applying for supervisory positions.