Have you ever thought about becoming a probation officer? If you have an interest in helping people who have been convicted of crimes who are on probation find jobs, help them with any therapies they might need and keep track of their progress becoming a probation officer could be a good career for you. A probation officer acts as a mentor and supervisor for individuals who have committed crimes who are trying to get back on the right track.
As a probation officer you will need to have excellent communication skills. This is critical because you will communicating with a wide range of individuals including the offender, therapy specialists, offender’s family and judges. You’ll need to be quick in response since you will be handling high-stress situations. It also helps to be very organized as you will be writing a number of reports which also means you need excellent writing skills.
Also keep in mind that you will have to complete a background check and be interviewed before you will be hired. Job wise this field is reported to be growing by about 20 percent between 2010 and 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics probation officers earn around $47K and some go as high as $80K. This depends on your educational background and whether you have some graduate work behind you. Salary also depends on your employer, location and what experience you have.
Education for Probation Officer
You’ll need a high school diploma or GED and have passed a college entrance exam (SAT/ACT). This allows you to apply to a university so you can take college coursework. You’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree (4-year degree) preferably in social work and criminal justice. Other areas you might want to study include criminology, sociology and/or psychology. If you are currently working and/or have family, you’ll appreciate the fact that you can acquire online degrees. This allows you to study at home and set up your own schedule. This also means you don’t have to commute and waste time on the road and waste money on gas.
Each university has it’s own programs in terms of acquiring coursework for becoming a probation officer so you need to check with a university counselor and/or curriculum catalog to see what is available and determine what coursework is in your best interest. Your university counselor will help you set up a 4 year program. They pretty much take care of things for you and make it easy. No worries.
Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need some training in the field. Training in the field can be acquired when working on your bachelor’s degree and in reality probably the best way. This saves time. What training you need depends on who you will be working for, however in general most places require their probation officers to have law enforcement training before they apply for a position. There are a number of options to getting training depending on your particular background. Some students will have law enforcement coursework so they will seek training experience as a corrections officer or some similar enforcement agent. Talk with your local law enforcement agency and university counselor to find out what is available. Sometimes internships are available and provided with your coursework particularly in counseling and possibly social work. You’ll want to take advantage of this as these positions will enhance your communication skills and demonstrate to you what your field of work is like from day to day. An internship also looks good on your resume when you apply for that first position.