How to Become a Probation Officer

If working within the community and helping offenders fulfill their probation obligations sounds like something you would like to do, you may consider a career as a Probation Officer. In this article, you can find out the training you will need, job prospects and pay averages across the country.


What Does a Probation Officer Do?

A Probation Officer serves as an intermediary between judges and offenders who were convicted of crimes and offered probation instead of incarceration. They work in courts and in communities to make sure offenders follow the rules of their probation.

Probation Officers must be knowledgeable in the probation terms and rules as they apply to each offender, but 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:

  • Monitoring offenders who are on probation by home visits, GPS trackers and informal supervision
  • 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

Probation Officer Skills

It can be challenging to work as a Probation Officer, as this position requires interacting with violent criminals and people who have broken the law. Probation Officers must be authoritative to command power and respect; otherwise they will not be able to enforce the law. However, they must also be empathetic and sensitive when dealing with victims and family members, being able to deal with people that are grieving and may be frustrated with the legal system. Furthermore, Probation Officers must be able to act as counselors to offenders, listening to their problems, advising on the best solutions and warning against making wrong decisions.

Other key Probation Officer skills include:

  • Active listening skills
  • Ability to relate to all types of people
  • Time management skills
  • Stress management skills
  • Ability to follow procedures


How Do You Become a Probation Officer?

Education and Training

Although the minimum requirement for becoming a Probation Officer is a high school diploma or equivalent, while searching for Probation Officer jobs throughout the country, we found that most job openings require a bachelor’s degree in a field in human service, such as criminal justice, psychology or sociology. Many jobs asked for prior law enforcement training or internships in counseling or social work. Some positions offered on-the-job-training after candidates passed a criminal check and a drug test, in addition to psychological and endurance testing.

Finding a job

A growing United States population will result in an increase in crimes, which will lead to more job openings for Probation Officers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be a 4 percent increase in job vacancies for Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, resulting in 2,130 new jobs in the next eight years.

To make your application stand out, you need to detail your education and professional experience as related to criminal justice. Viewing Probation Officer resume samples with help with editing your resume.

View Probation Officer job openings to find jobs in your area. It may be advantageous to network with individuals who work in law enforcement or in the judicial system to inquire about possible job openings.

JobHero’s cover letter examples will guide you as to how to express interest in a Probation Officer position, and explain why you will be the best candidate for the job.


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.

  1. California – $40.56
  2. New Jersey – $35.48
  3. Iowa – $33.26
  4. District of Columbia – $32.78
  5. New York – $32.37
  6. Illinois – $31.68
  7. Alaska – $29.41
  8. Michigan – $29.09
  9. Minnesota – $28.90
  10. New Hampshire – $28.62


Probation Officer Resources

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

On the Web – 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.


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.

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