When a person commits a crime, they are usually left with a number of possible consequences in court. Some criminals might receive a prison sentence, some might be sent to a rehabilitation clinic, and some might be placed under probation. If a criminal is given probation as the punishment, this usually means that he/she must follow a strict set of guidelines and be closely supervised by a probation officer. The main goal of the probation officer is to help keep the criminal out of trouble, and help him/her to reenter society as a productive individual.
In 2004, the standard probation officer could annually make anywhere from below $26,310 all the way up to $70,000+. In May of 2004, the annual median earnings sat just a few hundreds of dollars below $40,000. Those probation officers employed by State government made very similar numbers, whereas the only difference was a few hundreds of dollars. Individuals employed by local government earned a median annual probation officer salary of more than $40,500.*
As with most jobs, the probation officer salary grows as he/she gains more experience. For example, a probation officer that has just jumped into the field might annually gross between $28,000 and $39,000. Probation officers that have worked in the field for more than 20 years have been known to earn over $70,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Geographically, the probation officer salary might differ as well. Probation officers that work in more rural areas might earn significantly less than probation officers that work in metropolitan or urban areas.
Job Description and Outlook
As previously stated, the probation officer’s main responsibility is to supervise and help offenders that are on probation, as well as their families. In most cases, the probation officer will either work strictly with adults or with juveniles. In very rare cases, a probation officer will specialize and work with both age groups. Some probation officers might strictly meet in the officer’s office, while other probation officers might have many of the meetings take place in the criminals’ homes or even in their places of employment. In some cases, the probation officer might have to monitor the criminal at all times through the use of an electronic device that the criminal must wear.
Sometimes, the probation officer will help the criminal out by arranging rehabilitation or even helping him/her out with finding a job. While working closely with the individual, the officer works with the courts as well to report progress and give his/her recommendations according to how well the offender is doing in their probation program. When the offender must appear in court, the probation officer might testify and disclose the criminal’s progress and recommendations.
This is one of the jobs that is predicted to become more and more in demand all the way through the year of 2016. However, this is completely dependent on funding by the government as well as the trends in the way consequences are given to criminals in court. However, the job growth is also a result of many probation officers that are on the verge of retiring.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
When a person is interested in becoming a probation officer, he/she must first understand that a minimum of a four year degree is typically required. The degree must specialize in a field such as social work, criminal justice, or a similar area. Some employers might even require a master’s degree in any of the aforementioned fields, as well as the field of psychology.
In addition to the education requirements, people aspiring to be probation officers have to undergo and pass a variety of exams and tests. Psychological exams are also common. Some of these might be physical or oral, and some of these might be strictly written. In addition to these requirements, some employers and agencies might require that the applicant go through a training period that typically lasts around a year.
In most cases, agencies that hire probation officers require that applicants be at least 21. If the applicant is applying for a Federal job, he/she normally cannot be over the age of 37. A clean record is also very important when applying to become a probation officer. Skills in computers and writing are preferable, and the applicant must have a strong knowledge of the law.
Once training programs come to a close, the soon-to-be probation officer must undergo and pass a certification test. This test is liable to include various parts including physical, psychological, written and oral. Certification requirements are typically different from state to state, but the standard certification test is universal across the board.
For the prospective probation officer, there are multiple associations available for help and resources.
The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) offers resources and all sorts of training to probation officers including anti-gang training, cognitive facilitator certification, preventing staff sexual misconduct certification training, and more.
The Federal Probation & Pretrial Officers Association (FPPOA) helps probations officers to improve their service to the public. This association offers awards to outstanding members, as well as scholarships for those who are passionate about this field.