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One of the main concerns aspiring probation officers often have is if they need a criminal justice degree. Like most criminal justice careers, probation officers are required to have training and education. In most cases, the education should be a degree from an accredited college. Probation officers have an important role in the legal system because their main goal is ensuring that convicted offenders follow a set of rules and become law-abiding citizens to avoid going to jail or prison. Here is an overview of probation officers and their careers.

See our ranking of the  50 Best Value Colleges for a Criminal Justice Degree .

What Are Probation Officers?

Probation officers, also referred to as community supervision officers, are trained professionals who work at providing social services to individuals who have been put on probation as opposed to going to jail or prison. The criminals are generally on probation for a designated amount of time. During this time, the criminal must meet with the probation officer on a regular basis. They communicate about what the offender is doing with his or her life.

The parole officer’s job is also to provide counseling, evaluate the best type of rehabilitation, provide alcohol and drug testing, testify in court regarding the offender’s behavior and assist the offender in attending school or finding a job. Probation officers are often confused with parole officers. Probation officers work with offenders who were to sentenced to jail or prison while parole officers work with offenders after they return from prison.

Do Probation Officers Need a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Probation officers are generally required to have a bachelor’s degree. They may be hired with only an associate’s degree if they have experience, but a bachelor’s degree is the norm. Some agencies may require a master’s degree. The degree does not need to be a criminal justice degree, according to the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  (BLS). Aspiring probation officers may choose to major in criminal justice, social work, law, psychology, behavioral sciences or a related field.

Depending on the agency, the candidate may also be required to complete a one-year training program prior to being hired. Every state has its own requirements regarding training, education, and certification. Obtaining certification generally requires passing a Civil Service Examination that is specific to that particular city or state. According to  ProbationOfficerEDU.org , most states also require their probation officers meet these requirements.

  • Be between 20 and 38 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Possess excellent emotional, mental and physical health
  • Have a valid driver’s license in good standing
  • Have no felony convictions

Career Outlook & Wage Potential

The job growth for probation officers relies a lot on local and state government funding for both the parole and probation systems. The more funding that’s allotted, the better the career outlook for probation officers. The BLS reports that probation officers could expect a job growth of 6% from 2016-2026. As of May 2017, probation officers earned wages ranging from $33,920 to $90,880 or more with the average wage at $56,630. Wages can vary by training, education, and location.

Working as a probation officer may seem stressful and challenging at times, but few things can be more rewarding than helping offenders see the error of their ways and turn their lives around. Anyone interested in making a change in another’s life may find a probation officer’s career the perfect fit.

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