Becoming a Juvenile Parole Officer: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a juvenile parole officer's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a juvenile parole officer career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Juvenile Parole Officer

As a juvenile parole officer, you may find satisfaction in helping young offenders get their lives back on track while also helping to keep society safer. Read the pros and cons of this career to decide if becoming a juvenile parole officer is right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Juvenile Parole Officer
Help young offenders transition back into society*
Provide a degree of safety and security to society*
Above-average annual salary (median salary was about $49,000 in 2014)**
Personal satisfaction and gratitude from parolee and family**

Cons of a Career as a Juvenile Parole Officer
Some states require that you also do the job of probation officer**
Potentially stressful situations in dealing with parolee and family**
Some positions, especially advanced ones, could require a master's degree**
Long and irregular work hours, including 24-hour on-call shifts**

Sources: *American Probation and Parole Association, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

Juvenile parole officers work with youthful offenders, typically individuals under the age of 18, who have recently been released from a period of incarceration. Parole lengths may vary and the courts may restrict the activities of the parolee. Parole officers monitor and guide these young offenders through a process of reintegration into society. They may direct the parolees to substance abuse counseling centers and help them secure jobs. Through regularly scheduled personal visits and telephone contact with the parolees, their employers and their families, parole officers seek to modify the parolee's behavior in order to reduce the risk of recidivism.

In some cases, the duties of parole and probation officers may be combined into one position. Probation officers perform duties similar to those of a parole officer, but their cases involve offenders who have been sentenced to a term of probation rather than incarceration. With a minimal amount of intervention, probation officers, also known as community supervision officers, monitor and report on the activities of offenders to ensure law-abiding behavior of the individual on probation.

Salary Info and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, which includes parole officers, is expected to experience little or no change with a 1% decline from 2012-2022. Limited state and local government funding is expected to stall growth in employment for this career over the next decade; however, the need for parole officers to supervise offenders released from prison will maintain demand for this profession. In 2014, the BLS reported that the median annual wage for these professionals was about $49,000.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education Requirements

You typically need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college in order to become a juvenile parole officer. Some common undergraduate majors for parole officers include corrections, criminal justice, psychology, social work, criminology, sociology or political science. If you don't have any relevant experience or are seeking an advanced position, you may be required to have a master's degree. Relevant work experience, or a combination of work experience and some postsecondary education, could qualify you to become a parole officer without a bachelor's degree in some cases.

Once you obtain employment, you may be required to complete a training program and an examination, which could be sponsored by the state or federal government. Following the training program, you are often required to complete a probationary period, which can last up to a year. Additionally, you may be required to complete a specialized training program through your employer that prepares you for dealing with juvenile offenders.

Useful Skills

In addition to education and experience requirements, potential juvenile parole officers should possess some important qualities. The following skills can be to your advantage in the field of juvenile parole work:

  • An affinity to work with young people
  • An ability to effectively communicate verbally and in writing
  • Computer literacy
  • Good deductive and clinical reasoning abilities
  • Emotional stability
  • Good organizational abilities
  • An ability to work under stressful conditions

What Employers Are Looking for

In most cases, employers require you to submit to a criminal background check, drug screening and a psychological test to determine your suitability for the position. You may be required to have completed Red Cross training in first aid and hold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Typically, employers are looking for a candidate with a bachelor's degree and some work experience. Below are examples of some job postings open in May 2012:

  • A government department in Texas is looking to fill several parole officer positions. For two positions, an applicant with a bachelor's degree is preferred, but a high school diploma and sufficient work experience is also acceptable. Another position calls for at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree in a subject like criminal justice, social work or clinical psychology is preferred. Applicants must already hold or must be willing to earn a certificate of completion for the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System policy and procedures training.
  • A Georgia juvenile government department is hiring a juvenile probation parole specialist. The applicant must hold a bachelor's degree or must have completed at least two years of work experience as a criminal records researcher or police officer. Preference will be given to individuals who have direct work experience as case management officers in social work environments or in working with youthful offenders.
  • A Louisiana government organization is looking for a probation and parole supervisor. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree and have at least five years of professional-level experience in probation and parole. Applicants must have sat for professional supervisor civil service examination, since duties include overseeing the operations of journeyman parole and probation officers.
  • Various openings are available in West Virginia for parole and probation officers. An applicant should hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and be willing to carry a firearm. Duties include counseling and supervision of adults and juveniles.
  • A government department in Ohio is looking for a parole officer who holds a bachelor's degree and has studied subjects such as criminology, criminal justice, social work and sociology at the undergraduate level. Applicants must also have at least six months of work experience in probation and parole case or crisis management, a valid driver's license, CPR certification and unarmed self-defense training.

How Can I Stand Out?

The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) offers a number of online training courses, workshops and seminars that can enhance your professional profile. You can also advance to a supervisory position by virtue of accumulated work experience or by completing a master's degree program in a subject like criminology or sociology. A master's degree may be mandatory for some positions and could supplement work experience in others.

Alternative Career Paths

Social Worker

If you like the idea of helping youthful offenders re-enter society and to help ensure that they follow a safe, effective path in doing so, but would like a position with a better career outlook and higher pay, you may consider becoming a social worker. As a social worker, you may be called upon to provide assistance to adults as well as juveniles. Clients are not limited to those on parole. Your duties can include identifying clients in need, determining what those needs are, directing clients to appropriate government and community services, helping clients adjust to changes and following up on clients to monitor their progress.

In order to practice as a clinical social worker or to work in schools or healthcare facilities, you'll need to complete a master's degree program in social work. While the job can be rewarding and gratifying, the hours involved can be stressful and frustrating. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for social workers are expected to increase 25% from 2010-2020. The figure represents an overall demand, but may vary by specialty areas, which include child and family, mental health, school and healthcare social work. In 2011, the BLS determined that the median annual salary for social workers working outside of healthcare was about $54,000. Healthcare social workers earned a median annual salary of about $49,000 that year.

School and Career Counselor

If you're interested in helping youths, but don't way to become a parole officer, you might consider become a counselor. A school and career counselor can guide students in the development of social and academic behavior and in making appropriate career choices. Counselors can teach individuals about time management, effective study habits and how to set a path toward the achievement of realistic goals. Working with teachers, school administrators, parents and students, counselors conduct interviews and assessments that can determine strategies and plans of action.

Working at all education levels, school and career counselors are most often required to hold a master's degree. In most states and most employment settings, you'll be required to hold a license to practice as a school and career counselor. Specific licensure requirements can vary by state. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for school and career counselors would increase 19% from 2010-2020. This is about the same as the national average for all occupations. In 2011, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors was about $54,000.

Popular Schools

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    1. Kaplan University

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Kaplan University

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Regent University

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Colorado State University Global

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CDI College

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