Becoming an Adult Probation Officer: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of an adult probation officer career? Get real job descriptions, career outlooks and salary info to see if becoming an adult probation officer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an Adult Probation Officer

As an adult probation officer, you'll work with criminal offenders as they leave the corrections system and enter back into the free world. Check out these pros and cons to see if being an adult probation officer is a good fit for you.

Pros of Being an Adult Probation Officer
Opportunity to keep communities safe and crime-free*
Ability to serve as a positive role model for offenders*
Less competition for jobs*
Well-paying career (mean annual wage of about $53,000 in May 2014 for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)*

Cons of Being an Adult Probation Officer
Potential for danger in working with criminal offenders*
Long hours, demanding schedule and paperwork are common*
Pressure to make sure adult offenders stay out of trouble*
May be stressful and emotionally draining*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description

Adult probation officers work with criminal offenders who have been placed on probation. You'll be responsible for monitoring adult probationers through interviews, meetings, community visits and curfew checks. Based on the needs of the probationers, you'll figure out what sort of treatment and resources the offenders need to prevent them from getting into trouble. It's common for adult probation officers to administer drug and alcohol tests and organize meetings so that offenders with substance abuse problems can find treatment options once they leave jail.

Along with working with the probationers, you may also regularly meet with family and friends of the former inmates to get an understanding of the person's challenges, habits and needs. You may also be called upon to testify in court about a former inmate's progress and make recommendations on the probation status. A large part of your job will involve writing reports about your offenders and tracking their progress through detailed statements. This information may be then used by counselors and the corrections and judicial system to better understand the probationers' behavior and likelihood of committing a future crime.

Career Growth and Salary Stats

From 2012-2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a 1% decline in employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists as government funding for corrections becomes more limited. The BLS reports that there will be a greater need for probation officers who can work with the large population of inmates when they are released from prison.

The BLS reports that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a mean annual salary of around $53,000 in May 2014. For the most part, adult probation officers are hired by state, federal and local governments. However, there are certain types of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists who work in community support services and agencies.

Education Requirements

In general, you'll need to hold at least a bachelor's degree that relates to psychology, criminal justice or social work to find work as a probation officer. There are many colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, many which are designed especially for students who want to enter into law enforcement. As part of this degree program, which usually lasts about four years, you'll learn about the theory and practice of the criminal justice system, including the concepts of corrections, rehabilitation, policing and criminology. You'll learn about the connection between crime and society and how to develop strategies and solutions to keep communities safe. Many of these degree programs also provide students with the opportunity to engage in criminal justice research and take part in internships as a way to gain professional experience.

Certification

Once you earn your bachelor's degree, you will need to undergo specialized training to become an adult probation officer. The training programs are administered by either a state or the federal government and focus on training future adult probation officers on how to do their jobs and interact with criminal offenders. Oftentimes, a core aspect of the training is passing examinations that test your abilities to become a probation officer.

Real Job Postings from Employers

Adult probation officers are needed in all states as criminal offenders leave the corrections system. The requirements will vary by state, but for the most part, employers are looking for experience, a bachelor's degree and proper certification. To succeed in the position, you'll need to be organized in order to handle your caseload, diplomatic when dealing with offenders and their families, and emotionally balanced even in high-stress situations. Check out these real job openings posted in May 2012:

  • A county in Texas is looking for an adult probation officer who can supervise adult probationers. You'll need to help connect the probationers to counseling and resources while reporting on their progress. The job requires a bachelor's degree and professional experience.
  • A court system in Virginia is hiring for a probation officer who can work with recently released criminal offenders who have been assigned to probation. The employer is looking for candidates with a bachelor's degree and two years of experience.
  • A county in California seeks a full-time probation officer who can make investigations and recommendations on behalf of the court system involving probationers. You'll need to pass a series of examinations, hold a bachelor's degree and have past experience.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

If you are looking to get ahead in your field, then consider joining an organization like the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA). The group brings together probation officers and members of law enforcement frequently to take part in conferences, workshops and networking. You'll be able to learn about new strategies and developments and gain leadership skills that will help you further your career. At the same time, the APPA hosts a national training institute to learn about new theories and technologies related to corrections.

Alternative Career Paths

Police and Detectives

If you aren't ready to become an adult probation officer, but still have an interest in fighting crime, consider becoming a police officer or a detective. Much like a probation officer, you'll need to go through a good amount of training to become a police officer; this often means earning a bachelor's degree and spending time at a police academy for specialized training. From 2010-2020, there is an anticipated seven percent growth in the employment of police officers and detectives, according to the BLS.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

If you want to help guide others through rehabilitation, then you can become a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. As a counselor, you'll work with individuals of all backgrounds and ages as they look for treatment options to help overcome emotional and behavioral challenges. The job requires a minimum of a high school diploma, and the job growth is positive. The BLS reports that the employment of these types of counselors should grow by 27% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Another option that relates to rehabilitation is becoming a social and human service assistant. In this role, you'll get people the help they need to address their struggles by connecting them to community and government resources, like counseling. You'll need at least a high school diploma to become a social and human service assistant. In addition, the BLS finds that the employment of social and human services assistants should grow by 28% from 2010-2020; this is considered faster than the average rate.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • Master: Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Corrections
      • BSCJ: Juvenile Justice
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
      • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
      • Master of Public Administration - Emergency Management and Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Corrections
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
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      • Bachelor of Arts in Law and National Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
  • Campus Locations:
    5. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma in Law Enforcement Foundations
  • Richmond, KY

    Eastern Kentucky University

  • Chula Vista, CA

    Southwestern College

  • Iowa City, IA

    University of Iowa

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • BS in Corrections
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Corrections
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Diploma in Law Enforcement Foundations

What year did you graduate high school?

Southwestern College