How to Become a Probation Officer

How to Become a Probation 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 probation officer could be an appropriate career choice for you.


As a probation officer, you would be responsible for making sure that the probationers you supervise are adhering to the terms of their probation.


Probation officers typically earn good money, and receive very good health and dental benefits, as well as a strong pension. 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 criminal justice, psychology, social work, or a related field. You’ll also likely need work experience related to investigations, social services or corrections.



Work Experience Requirements for Probation Officers

To become a probation officer, employers invariably require you to have progressively responsible experience (gained after completion of a bachelor’s degree) in such fields as probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, or work in substance/addiction treatment. 


Please Note: Although relevant in some regards, employers might not always value experience as a police or security officer, other than any criminal investigative experience. 



Required Education for Probation Officers

Probation officers are generally required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a field of academic study that provides evidence of the capacity to understand and apply the legal requirements and human relations skills involved in the position. 


Such fields include criminal justice, criminology, psychology, sociology, social work or related fields.





Other Requirements 

Aside from relevant work experience and education, there are certain traits, skills and qualities that employers will require in order to consider hiring you on as a probation officer, such as:



Maximum Age Requirement: Some jurisdictions may require you to be under a certain age if you’re new to the field. The maximum age, when set, is typically somewhere around 35-39


Physical Fitness: The supervision, treatment, and control of offenders requires moderate to strenuous physical exercise, including prolonged periods of walking and standing. You will also need to be comfortable using a firearm, and self-defense tactics.


Clean Criminal Record: Most employers will require that you do not have any criminal convictions in your past if you’re applying to become a probation officer.


Clean Bill of Health: Any severe health problems, however, such as physical defects, disease, and deformities that constitute employment hazards to you and others, may disqualify you as an applicant.



Probation Officer Job Description

Probation officers are responsible for monitoring the behaviour and conduct of criminal offenders serving probation terms. They must ensure these offenders adhere to the conditions of their probation, and take appropriate action when they do not.



Probation Officer Job Duties

Generally, probation officers are responsible for the following:


• Preparing pre-sentence reports by interviewing the offender, the police, family, friends, employers and other individuals who can provide information related to the offender’s behaviour and character

• Assessing the offender’s chances of successfully reintegrating into the community

• Supervising the terms of a probation order

• Working with offenders to develop rehabilitation plan that establishes rules of conduct, goals and objectives

• Interviewing probationers regularly to evaluate their progress in accomplishing goals and maintaining the terms specified in their probation contracts and rehabilitation plans

• Initiating court action when the terms of probation are violated



Are You a Good Fit?

There’s no sense pursuing a career that you’re not a good fit for, as it can cost you a lot of wasted time and energy. To be well suited for a career as a probation officer, you need to have certain personal traits and characteristics, as well as professional interests, including:


• A commitment to working in a role that’s important to public safety

• A willingness to supervise and control people who pose a threat to public safety

• A willingness to endure unusual emotional and physical stress, and be subject to danger 

• Maturity and good judgment 

• Physical fitness and knowledge of self-defense tactics, or a willingness to learn them

• Interest in a career that offers good pay, and great financial and health benefits 

• An interest in having a dynamic work environment 

• An interest in working with other professionals, such as psychologists, correctional officers, social workers, mental health staff, and others

• You are free of serious health issues

• You thrive in work that involves clear rules and structured methods



Probation Officer Average Salary Level

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


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

• The budget and discretion of your employer 

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Probation 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.


Probation 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.


Please Note: As the government is the most common employer for probation officers, strong financial, health and dental benefits are also common in this field.



Who Creates Jobs for Probation Officers?

In Canada and the United States, probation officers are employed by justice departments of regional and federal governments, as well as by private agencies contracted by governments.



Probation Officer Jobs

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

Work Environment for Probation Officers

Work Schedule: Although many officers work full time, the demands of the job sometimes lead to working overtime and variable hours. For example, some probation officer might work 9-5, whereas others may work shift work, which may involve being on-call 24 hours a day.


Working Conditions: Probation officers work in offices and courthouses, and visit offenders' homes and workplaces. Officer may be assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas or in institutions where there is a risk of violence.



Careers Similar to Probation Officer

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


• Addictions Counsellor

Halfway House Supervisor

• Judge

• Lawyer

• Parole Officer

• Security Guard

• Social Worker



Scholarships for Becoming a Probation Officer

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



References for This Career Guide

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


• Occupational Outlook Handbook: "Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists.” (April 13, 2018). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 16, 2018.

• Careers: "Probation Officer.” (n.d.). Government of Alberta - Justice and Solicitor General. Retrieved May 16, 2018.

• Correctional Services: “Careers in Corrections.” (n.d.). Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Retrieved May 16, 2018.

• Occupational Profile: “Parole or Probation Officer.” (March 29, 2015). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved May 16, 2018.

• Probation & Pre-Trial Information: “Requirements for Probation and Pretrial Services Officers.” Honorable David Gregory Kays, Chief Judge; Paige Wymore-Wynn, Court Executive. (n.d.). United States Courts - Western District of • Missouri. Retrieved May 16, 2018.



Applicable Majors for This Career

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


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