Two officers in a discussion

How to Become a
Probation Officer

Gabriela Bercenas
By Gabriela Bercenas - Content Strategist
|
Last Updated: May 08, 2023
Rate This Article:

Would you like to serve your community? Help current probationers and probationary offenders transition back to civilian life? Probation officers see steady job rates and consistent opportunities — our how to become a probation officer guide covers what physical, legal and academic training you need to apply for a job.

You’ll also find salary estimates and career insights from an experienced professional, of probation officer resume examples and an AI-powered Resume Builder to help kickstart your career.

If you are having writers block, our resume examples can help. Choose from hundreds of job titles to find the right example for your needs.

Boost your resume with an extra click. Our cover letter templates match our resume templates’ designs for a cohesive application. Use a template in our builder to help you quantify and expand upon the experience from your resume and impress employers.

brands image

What Does a Probation Officer Do?

A probation officer serves as an intermediary between judges and probationers convicted of crimes and offers probation instead of incarceration. Probation officers must know the probation terms and rules for each offender. Still, they must also have the interpersonal skills to deal with offenders, victims, family members and the local community.

Common responsibilities of a probation officer include:

  • Monitor offenders on probation by home visits, GPS trackers and informal supervision.

  • Work in courts and in communities to make sure offenders follow the rules of their probation.

  • Meet court-appointed deadlines, such as court dates.

  • Complete clerical tasks, such as violation records.

  • Provide drug tests to offenders.

  • Work within the community to help offenders find work and shelter.

  • Conduct pre-hearing investigations and testify before parole boards regarding their clients’ probationary progress.

How Do You Become a Probation Officer?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t foresee a growing demand for probation officers in the next decade. However, they also don’t predict a decline in opportunities throughout 2031, predicting a steady number of 8,000 job openings yearly. Most of these job openings are to replace aging or retiring officers, indicating long-term job stability.

If potential job security appeals to you, these steps cover how to become a probation officer:

1

Step 1: Earn your bachelor’s degree.

Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree. We recommend completing an undergraduate program in the following specialties:

  • Criminal justice
  • Security
  • Protective service
  • Social science
  • Psychology
2

Step 2: Consider an internship.

Many employers require prior law enforcement training, counseling or social work internships for potential probation officers. Look for city or country internship opportunities or volunteer with local social service organizations.

3

Step 3: Get certified.

Most states and local governments require proof of certification before you can pursue probation officer jobs. Although most states include different requirements and certification processes, you must pass a criminal check and drug test. For additional certification information, you can use Learn.org to find local classes and testing sites.

4

Step 4: Apply for a job.

Most employers offer additional on-the-job training. To help your application stand out, emphasize your education and professional experience related to criminal justice. Study our probation officer resume samples to learn how your fellow job seekers describe their experience.

It’s also smart to write a cover letter to accompany your resume. Visit our cover letter examples to learn how to express interest and describe your most vital qualifications professionally.

Probation Officer Skills

Working as a probation officer requires interacting with recently released convicts with potentially violent pasts. Probation officers must be authoritative to command authority and respect; otherwise, they cannot enforce the law.

As a probation officer, you’ll counsel probationers, listen to their problems, advise on the best solutions, and warn against harmful decisions.

Hard skills:

1Oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of probationers.
2Research and collaborate with local resource administrators to provide probationers access to substance abuse counseling or job training.
3Knowledge of federal, county or parish, and city court procedures.
4Familiarity with the criminal justice field.

Soft skills:

1Active listening skills to work with parolees and community members.
2Strong empathy that enables the ability to work and relate to probationers, victims and family members.
3Time management skills to accurately track on- and off-site appointments.

Insights from a Probation Officer

If you're interested in learning more about what its like to be a Probation Officer, read on. Here is some insight for you to better understand what a Probation Officer really does.

What should someone consider before becoming a Probation Officer?

As you will have to constantly deal with convicted felons, you will more than likely find yourself in dangerous situations. Don't expect to make many friends in this line of work. There is also a tedious and boring side to this job, and it's the paper work. As a representative of the legal system, you will be required to fill out reports constantly. There is also a generally negative attitude towards probation departments. You will have to deal with that as well.

What is the common career path for a Probation Officer?

Generally, Probation Officers have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, sociology, psychology, or a related field. In some cases, you may be required to attain additional education or certifications to apply for federal positions or any other position of higher responsibility. Some higher-level education could be a master's degree in social work, or in counseling. It just depends on what you are trying to achieve.

What type of person excels in this job?

Strong character, disciplined, organized and respectful individuals can excel in this profession. People with experience in law enforcement have a great advantage when hiring for this job.

What are some of the most important skills for Probation Officers to have?

Probation Officers need good communication skills and the patience to discipline and instruct others. Theay also need to have the ability to identify and solve problems and great time management skills.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Probation Officer?

Probation Officer is a good and steady job with good benefits. But the most rewarding aspect is being part of an organization that is making a real change in people's lives and in society.

How Much Do Probation Officers Get Paid?

A Probation Officer typically gets paid hourly, with the median hourly rate in the U.S. being $23.73. The highest paid Probation Officers make $41.41 per hour, while the lowest paid earn $15.82 per hour.

Top 10 States for Probation Officer Salary

Probation Officers in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    California

    $40.56

    New Jersey

    $35.48

    Iowa

    $33.26

    District of Columbia

    $32.78

    New York

    $32.37

    Illinois

    $31.68

    Alaska

    $29.41

    Michigan

    $29.09

    Minnesota

    $28.90

    New Hampshire

    $28.62

    Probation Officer Resources

    Additional resources are available to help you learn more about becoming a Probation Officer.

    On the Web

    ProbationOfficerEdu.org
    Information about required education and job listings for Probation Officers.

    National Institute of Corrections
    Training, technical assistance, information services and policy/program development assistance for federal, state, and local corrections agencies.

    Professional Groups

    American Probation and Parole Association
    International organization with members in pretrial, probation, parole and community-based corrections, in both criminal and juvenile justice arenas.

    American Correctional Association

    Information about certification, accreditation and professional development for Probation Officers.

    Books

    Survival Guide for New Probation Officers
    Information about job responsibilities and challenges of a Probation Officer.

    Officer Survival for Probation and Parole Officers
    Information to improve safety procedures for Probation Officers.

    Sources for this article include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, online job postings and other online sources.