Human Services Guide

Occupation Overview for a Probation Officer Career

Probation officers supervise offenders (clients) who are sentenced to probation and those on parole from prison. The probation officer helps empower the clients to make the necessary life changes to enter back into civil society. At the same time the probation officer acts to protect the public by making sure clients are obeying the relevant laws around probation and parole in their jurisdiction. Probation officers work closely with judges to make pre-trial assessments of the criminal background of their clients so judges can make informed decisions. As a probation officer you will be asked to investigate failures to comply with court-ordered sentences. In addition to working with those in the Justice system, the probation officer works with social service agencies to make sure that their clients are receiving necessary help they need to rejoin the workforce. This help can be in areas such as: housing, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, counseling, education, vocational rehabilitation and finding employers who will work with their client.

Responsibilities can include tasks such as:

  • Writing pre-sentence reports for judges
  • Assisting the client in connecting with community resources
  • Helping the client with educational opportunities
  • Connecting the client with vocational rehab agencies
  • Helping the client find employment
  • Investigation of client backgrounds
  • Giving testimony at pretrial and parole board hearings
  • Investigation of failures to comply with court-ordered sentences

The probation officer helps their client to succeed by making sure they have a concrete understanding of their court-ordered sentences and relevant regulations. By working with the client, they help reduce recidivism in the justice system by empowering the client to overcome barriers to employment. The client benefits greatly by working with their probation officer and is often able to find a way out of chronic criminal behavior through a combination of stabilizing their home environment, counseling, rehabilitation, education and job placements. By complying with court ordered sentencing the client can begin to make their way towards leaving the justice system and becoming successful in their lives.

How Probation Officers are a Service to Society

The impact on the individual of having a skilled probation officer can be nothing short of life changing. A client can feel for the first time in their lives that they are given a second chance to make different choices and feel empowered to follow their dreams. At the level of the family, a client will often be able to reunite with their family and through finding employment and counseling be able to have a safe and happy home environment. Children have been shown to perform better in school and have less disciplinary problems when they have both parents in the home. One really can’t overstate the importance of bringing families back together. Society also benefits tremendously from the hard work of the probation officer.

Some benefits to society include:

  • Cutting down on recidivism within the Justice system
  • Reduced strain on state and local budgets
  • Reduced crime rates
  • Increased number of skilled workers
  • Decreased prison populations

Education For Probation Officers

In most cases, becoming a probation officer requires a Bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university with major course work preferably in Criminal Justice, Sociology, Psychology, Social Work or a related field.
Probation officers have a wide range in salary scale across the nation earning from: $30,830 to $77,2301 (Bachelor’s degree required)

To start pursuing your career as a probation officer you will need to get a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, Correctional Counseling or a Social Sciences (e.g. Psychology, sociology, social work) related field. In addition, as is the case in most Human Services fields, being bilingual or multilingual always makes your resume stand out. Here are some local schools that have educational tracks that can help you become a probation officer: