How to Become a Probation Officer

Probation Officer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $50,070
Avg. Pay / hour $24.07
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 3%

Want to make a difference to the lives of those people who want a second chance? If so, then you might like to become a probation officer.

A probation officer, sometimes called a correctional treatment worker, works with those who have been recently released from prison assimilate into society.

They also work closely with them to make sure they stay out of trouble.

A probation officer often works with convicted criminals who did not receive a jail sentence but have been placed on probation or a suspended sentenced instead.

When you become a probation officer, you’ll need strong communication skills.

You’ll also need to have the kind of demeanor that your clients will respect.

You must have excellent attention to detail and be very thorough with paperwork.

Education Requirements to Become a Probation Officer

Probation officers are employed by federal and state branches of law enforcement agencies.

In most places you must be 21 years old and have a driver’s license.

You will also need to mass medical, psychological, and physical screening tests.

In federal branches you cannot be older than 37 to start working as a probation officer.

In most states, you will be required to have a bachelors degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology or a similar area to become a probation officer.

A few employers will require that you have a masters degree in criminal justice.

Some employers will accept work experience in the place of a college degree.

For instance, an applicant for the role of probation officer with experience as a police officer, corrections officer, or work within the legal system may be deemed eligible for the role.

To find out more about a career as a probation officer, take a look at the American Probation and Parole Association website.

Probation Officer Job Description

A probation officer supervises a person who has been released into society on the premise of parole or probation.

They have often been recently released from prison, or may have been found guilty of a crime but not given a sentence.

A person must meet the rules of their probation.

This means usually that they cannot leave the state, and may not be able to work in certain industries.

They will often need to live in specialized housing in some cases.

Sometimes they must wear an electronic monitoring device.

Those found guilty of particular crimes may need to have extra measures attached to their parole, for instance not be within proximity of a school.

It is the role of a probation officer to make sure a person on parole meets these conditions by meeting with their client on a regular basis.

It may be once a week, or even a few times a week.

Some probation officers work closely with the courts, and make recommendations on sentencing.

After a trial, they will communicate with the offender and their family and will write a sentencing report and submit this to the judge.

They will also provide counseling to the accused as per their sentencing.

Some probation officers also help prisoners released from jail assimilate back into society.

They will meet with them regularly, and help them to make goals for their new life, and action plans on how to achieve things.

They will help them to find work and housing, and stay with them through the process of adjustment.

In the correctional system, a probation officer often monitors the progress of a prisoner who may be having a parole hearing soon.

They will interview the prisoner and perform varied tests, and then make a recommendation to the parole board which will include their opinion on to whether the prisoner is ready to be released.

Probation Officer Salary and Career Path

Some probation officer work in other areas of law enforcement before they take on this role.

Others start after finishing a college degree.

Some go on to management positions within corrections while others go on to work in law enforcement or social welfare.

The average earnings for a probation officer is about $45,000 a year.

Employment is very secure, and growth is anticipated in this field.

Some similar roles to that of probation officer you might be interested in include:

  • Police officer
  • Corrections officer
  • Social Worker
  • Counselor
  • Life Coach

When you become a probation officer you are, no doubt, up for a challenging role.

However, you also have opportunity to give a second chance to someone that many people would turn their back on.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Hampshire$65,610
New Jersey$75,040
New Mexico$48,450
New York$77,270
North Carolina$46,420
North Dakota$64,630
South Carolina$44,420
South Dakota$49,820
West Virginia$46,640

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $94,650.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $94,650
Connecticut - $89,960
Massachusetts - $83,980
New York - $77,270
New Jersey - $75,040
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, OCC Code 21-1092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Probation Officer?

Probation officers, sometimes also called correctional treatment specialists, work with people who have been placed on probation to help them follow their restrictions.

Probation is an alternative to incarceration offered by the court and consists of placing restrictions on an offender’s rights and freedoms.

To ensure that the judge’s conditions are fulfilled each person sentenced to probation is assigned to a probation officer.

A probation officer’s job responsibilities include interviewing and evaluating the probationers to ensure that they get their life on track and are no longer a danger to society.

Probation officers need good communication, critical thinking, and organizational skills.

Most of them work exclusively either with adults or juvenile offenders.

Because they sometimes have to cope with hostile individuals, probation officers also need to be emotionally stable, and able to manage stressful circumstances.

Probation officers also have to write reports and maintain case files for offenders.

In order to fulfill their job responsibilities, probation officers may also have to travel.

How much does a Probation Officer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $53,020 per year, in May of 2018.

The median hourly rate earned by probation officers is $25.49.

In order to fulfill the demands of their profession, many probation officers work overtime.

How much does it cost to become a Probation Officer?

Employers usually require a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice or a related field.

The tuition cost varies depending on the institution and the chosen program.

The average tuition for a four-year bachelor’s degree in social work for in-state students who choose to enroll at a public institution is around $10,000 per year.

Most probation officers also have to complete a one-year training program sponsored by their state government or their local government.

Afterward, they must pass a certification test.

What is the demand for Probation Officers?

Employment for probation officers is expected to grow by 3% in the next 10 years.

The growth depends on government funding for corrections, however, probation officers will continue to be needed to supervise individuals who are sentenced to probation.

The demand for probation officers will continue to exist because community corrections are viewed as a less expensive alternative to incarceration.

Although the profession is expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations, additional openings are expected to result because many people are leaving this job each year due to workload and high level of stress.

How long does it take to become a Probation Officer?

Most probation officers need a bachelor’s degree.

After finishing a four-year college and getting your degree in social work, criminal justice or a related field, you may also have to complete a one-year training program.

Some probation officers who specialize in certain types of cases (eg. domestic violence cases) may also need specific training.

Officers who work with juvenile probationers may also need additional training.

A master’s degree may be also required if you want to advance to a supervisory position.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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