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Probation Officer Job Description, Career as a Probation Officer, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

officers offenders county trial

Education and Training College plus training

Salary Median—$39,600 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Probation officers monitor offenders who get sentences of supervision—known as probation—instead of or in addition to jail time. They meet with offenders regularly to check their activities and to evaluate their progress. They make regular reports to the courts about the offenders' behavior. Sometimes they may arrange substance-abuse rehabilitation or job training for their clients. Officers generally work in the adult, juvenile, or family divisions of probation departments. Some officers work for state or county courts; others work in the probation office of the U.S. District Court.

Probation officers handle twenty to one hundred cases at a time, depending on the jurisdiction and the risks that offenders pose to the public. Technology allows efficient supervision: some clients are required to wear electronic devices so their location and movements can be more easily monitored, and computers and cell phones allow officers to handle their caseloads from home or on the road.

Probation officers also conduct pretrial investigations, interviewing those who have been accused of crimes, their families, and their coworkers. If they conclude that the accused are unlikely to commit other crimes, they may recommend to the courts that the offenders be placed under supervision instead of going to trial.

When they conduct presentence investigations, probation officers probe the character, background, and previous criminal records of people who have been tried and convicted. They then recommend punishment to the court: prison sentence, probation, or a combination of the two. In making their recommendations, they must consider the possible harmful effects to society if certain people are not imprisoned.

People who are arrested may be released pending trial if they pay a sum of money to the court. A portion of the money, called bail, is returned if they appear at the trial. Probation officers may make bail recommendations to the

After interviewing each divorcing parent, this probation officer in a family division will make recommendations to the judge for custody, living, and visitation arrangements for the children. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

courts—high, low, or no bail—depending on whether they think the accused are likely to appear at trial.

In large offices probation officers may specialize in one aspect of probation work, such as job placement. In rural districts where there are few clients, they often handle all kinds of probation matters and may work with both adult and juvenile offenders. Those who work in family divisions may make custody investigations and recommendations in divorce proceedings. Others work in halfway houses for offenders. They are often members of teams that include psychiatrists and social workers.

Education and Training Requirements

Bachelor's degrees are required, preferably with majors in sociology, psychology, or criminology. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with master's degrees in one of the behavioral sciences. In addition, candidates should have one or two years of work experience in social welfare agencies or correctional institutions. Probation officers are trained on the job by experienced officers.

Getting the Job

Most jobs in probation are at the county level. Job seekers can contact probation offices directly and take the required civil service examinations. College placement offices usually have job listings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Probation officers receive promotions and salary increases by passing additional civil service tests. They may become supervisors of other probation officers, chief probation officers, or directors of probation departments.

The employment of probation officers is expected to grow as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. The increasing number of cases before the courts should spur demand. However, increased job opportunities for probation officers may be affected by public funding.

Working Conditions

Probation officers generally work forty hours per week, including some weekend and evening appointments. They often drive considerable distances to meet with offenders in their homes and at their jobs. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
1625 L St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 429-1000

American Probation and Parole Association
2760 Research Park Dr.
Lexington, KY 40511-8410
(859) 244-8203

National Council on Crime and Delinquency
1970 Broadway, Ste. 500
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 208-0500

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary widely, because county, state, and federal governments have different pay scales. In 2004 the median salary for all probation officers was $39,600 per year. The most experienced officers earned more than $66,660 per year. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health and life insurance, and retirement plans.

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over 5 years ago

is there reallly a high risk for me since i am a female if i wanted to become a probabtion officer.?

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almost 7 years ago

Hello I am graduating from college with a BA in criminal justice/ minor in communcations May 14, 2011. I have a internship with sacramento county starting June 1. I was wondering how can I get hired as a probation officer. I contacted the departments and nobody is hiring. How can I begin my career.

Thank you for your time

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over 7 years ago

What are the physical requirements as far as fitness exams, egility test, if any?

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almost 10 years ago

i really like your site it helps me find what i need.

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over 5 years ago

zach is stupid

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over 5 years ago

Probation Officer Job Description, Career as a Probation Officer, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

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about 6 years ago

Michelle, to answer your question, different counties and different states have different rulings for what is considered, "acceptable pasts" of an applicant. However, in the event that you are going to apply for a job as a Probation Officer, a law enforcement agency that deals closely with the courts of that area, you should take time to "Google" things. Slip-ups like saying "mister minor" instead of the correct word "misdemeanor" may give the impression that you are either not that bright, or that you are simply too lazy to look things up that you are not 100% sure about.

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over 6 years ago

hello...i wanted to know if someone would be eligible to be an probation officer if i have a mister minor in my record

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about 7 years ago

I am already working for Probation in the UK but would like to work in the USA as a Probation Assistant. I would be most grateful if you can send me information of where I can apply for jobs. Thank you

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over 7 years ago

Hi is it possible to e-mail me more info about probation officers, like how hard could it be to get in, im almost done with my asociate in criminal justice, than i will go for the bachelors, just need to know how could i get my foot in the door now..thank you

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over 8 years ago

wow that information was very useful to know.... Thank u so much oh can u please write about cheif probation officers as well

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almost 9 years ago

This was very useful information. very very information and opened my eyes even more. im even more interested in the field. thanks for the information. can u also provide me more information about the california, orange county area also. anything about internships (to maybe better my chance (increase my chances) on getting a job). thank you.

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almost 10 years ago

thanks alot for the information it is helping me write a good paper thanks.

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about 10 years ago

Hi, is it possible that you can e-mail me more recent and updated information please, about the employment outlook, the education required, and the annual salary concerning probation officers and also ride along opportunities for the state of California (specifically, the city of Los Angeles and the surrouning communities)?

Thank You