How to Become a Parole Officer

How to Become a Parole Officer

If you’re interested in work that involves protecting society from criminal offenders, while helping those same offenders turn their lives around for the better, becoming a parole officer could be an appropriate ate career choice for you.


As a parole officer, you would be responsible for making sure that the parolees you supervise are adhering to the terms of their parole, as well as making positive steps towards re-integrating into the community.


Parole officers can make pretty good money, and have room for career advancement. They also have the opportunity to work in a team environment, as they often work closely with other correctional professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, correctional staff, and many others.


To get into this field, you’ll likely need an undergraduate degree in a field related to criminology, social work, or a related field. You’ll also likely need work experience related to social services or corrections.



Experience Required to Become a Parole Officer

Although the requirements can vary by jurisdiction, you will typically need experience in a social services or correctional role, preferably one that involves the formal assessment of human behaviour, and the application of structured interventions aimed at supporting the changing of human behaviour. The experience you will need can vary, based on the discretion of the employer. 


Success Tip: Taking some initiative to gain relevant work and volunteer experience early on can go a long way. For example, you can submit an expression of general interest through the area manager of a local probation and parole office, or approach your local probation and parole office about volunteer opportunities in order to gain some experience in parole services and related roles.



Formal Education You’ll Need

To become a parole officer in Canada or the United States, you must  hold a degree, from an institution authorized by the province to grant degrees, typically in one of the following disciplines: 


• Social work

• Psychology

• Sociology

• Criminology

• Or a related field 


Other Qualifications that Might be Needed

To become a probation officer, candidates must usually also have to pass extensive background investigations. Other oral, written, physical and psychological exams may also be required.



Additional Training Required

Canada: Once hired on, new parole officers must complete a comprehensive basic training program, sponsored by the government.


United States: Prior to assuming their role, future probation officers must also attend a government-sponsored parole academy, similar to a police academy.



Parole Officer Job Description

Parole officers are responsible for managing the conditional release of regional or federal criminal offenders. They serve two primary functions; helping offenders integrate into the community and, at the same time, protecting the community by supervising the offenders.



Parole Officer Job Duties

Although this list can not be considered comprehensive by any means, it does provide a brief overview of general tasks that you may be responsible for as a parole officer:


• Making recommendations regarding the initial placement of an offender in an appropriate federal penitentiary

• Interviewing other inmates, institutional authorities, police, family and friends of the inmate in order to gain a thorough understanding of the inmate’s past and present behaviours

• Planning rehabilitation programs for the offender during their imprisonment

• Assessing the suitability of penitentiary inmates for release under parole and statutory release, and submitting recommendations to the Parole Board

• Supervising individuals who have been released on parole or statutory release

• Offering support and guidance to parolees with regards to finding employment  

• Using policies and professional judgment to provide written reports and recommendations to the Parole Board about offenders under their supervision

• Recommending remedial action or initiating court action when parolees violate the terms of rehabilitation programs

• Establishing and maintaining positive relationships with various stakeholders, such as the offender, their family, the case management team, social welfare community agencies, and the community at large



Are You a Good Fit?

In order to survive the ups and downs of working as a parole officer, you need to have certain personal traits and characteristics, as well as professional interests, including:


• You are committed to working in a role that’s important to public safety

• You have mature and good judgment 

• You enjoy the prospect of working with people and supervising others

• You are interested in working in a collaborative field that involves working with other professionals, such as psychologists, correctional officers, social workers, mental health staff, and others

• You thrive in a working environment that involves clear rules and established methods

• You’re interested in a job that involves assessing an offender's behaviour, accountability and potential risk to society

• Your’e interested in the challenge of working with people that are difficult to work with



Parole Officer Average Salary Level

As with any other career field, the salary level you could earn as a parole officer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your professional qualifications (education, experience, etc.)

• The size and budget of the organization that employs you

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Parole Officer Salary - Canada: According to the 2015 Wage and Salary Survey of the Government of Alberta, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Probation and Parole Officers and Related Occupations occupational group is $80,043 per year.


Parole Officer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists occupational group is $51,410 per year.



Who Creates Jobs for Parole Officers?

In Canada and the United States, parole officers are employed by correctional services departments of regional and federal governments, as well as by private agencies contracted by governments. They might work within a correctional facility, or within the community.



Parole Officer Jobs

Our job board has "Parole Officer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Career Advancement as a Parole Officer


A common form of career advancement for parole officers is moving into supervisory positions. This is primarily based on experience and job performance. A master’s degree in a related field, such as criminology, social work or others, may be required for advancement.


Parole officers can also leverage their experience in the correctional systems and human behaviour fields into positions both inside and outside of these areas. For example, parole officers can become police detectives, social workers or correctional officers.


With specialized education, parole officers can go on to become lawyers, psychologists or pursue a variety of other professions.  



Careers Similar to Parole Officer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Parole Officer, as they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


Border Services Officer

• Correctional Counselor

• Criminologist

• Paralegal 

• Police Officer

• Police Detective

• Probation Officer 

• Social Worker



Scholarships for Becoming a Parole Officer

The “Applicable Majors” section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a parole officer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you qualify for, even if you think you just barely qualify for them. You’d be surprised how much potential scholarship money goes to waste every year due solely to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources* to learn more about what it takes to become a parole officer in Canada or the United States:


• Correctional Services: “Careers in Corrections.” (n.d.). Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Retrieved May 15, 2018.

• Occupational Profile: “Parole or Probation Officer.” (March 29, 2015). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved May 15, 2018.

• Correctional Services Canada: “Parole Officer.” (June 23, 2013). Government of Canada. Retrieved May 15, 2018.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: "Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists.” (April 13, 2018). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 15, 2018.



*Some of the information for this career guide was compiled from actual job listings online, which, due to their brief existence online, are not listed here as references. 



Becoming a Parole Officer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful for becoming a parole officer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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