Working for federal, state and local government agencies, probation officers are in charge of keeping ex-offenders on track and out of jail. They monitor clients' rehabilitation, arrange treatments and provide offenders with various services, including job placement. If you're itching to get started in a career in probation, you'll first have obtain the necessary education, training and credentials. Most states require probation officers to earn some form of certification before they can go to work.
Certification is generally required to protect the integrity of the profession. Since probation officers work one-on-one with a wide variety of criminals, it's essential that officers are well-versed in the law and capable of professionalism. Certification allows an aspiring officer to prove she has the know-how and skills to carry out her duties.
Most agencies and certification boards require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree – usually in criminal justice, social work or a related field. For higher positions or certification levels, a master's degree may be required. Criminal justice programs with an emphasis in corrections are available, and may be most beneficial for you as an aspiring probation officer. Some courses you might take include probation and parole sanctions, legal research and writing, special topics in corrections and juvenile justice. These classes will prepare you to pass a certification exam and start a successful career in probation.
Most states offer specialized training programs for probation officers. These programs will expand on what you learned in school while providing you with specialized training that will teach you how to work with real offenders. Completion of a training program is usually a prerequisite for certification, and you won't be eligible to get certified until you complete an approved program.
Certification exams are typically offered at the end of a training program, and to get certified, all you have to do is pass a test. Exam contents vary by state, but may consist of multiple choice and true/false questions, as well as a short answer and definitions section. You may also need to write an essay. Exams cover local, state and federal laws, as well as topics and ethics related to probation.
2016 Salary Information for Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a median annual salary of $50,160 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a 25th percentile salary of $39,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $67,420, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 91,300 people were employed in the U.S. as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Portland State University: What Certifications and Education Do You Need to be a Probation Officer?
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement: State Officer Certification Exam
- Virginia Jobs: Career Guide for Probation Officer
- University of Texas at San Antonio: Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice
- Indiana Judicial Center: Qualifications
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Career Trend: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists