6 Pros and Cons of Being a Probation Officer (With Examples of Each)

Updated March 10, 2023

Probation officers provide great value to the criminal justice sector and are in charge of supervising an individual who was initially sentenced to probation, usually following or in place of incarceration. Working as a probation officer can be rewarding and involves assisting the person through the societal readjustment period. Understanding the key aspects of the role of a probation officer can assist you in determining if the career path is right for you. In this article, we explore the job requirements of a probation officer and the advantages and potential disadvantages of working in the field.

Related: 16 Alternative Careers for Police Officers

What does a probation officer do?

Probation officers are essential in the justice system and help individuals re-enter society after a period of incarceration. Probation is an alternative to incarceration. The role of probation is to help them through recovery and rehabilitation, guide them through finding a job and ensuring they follow the legal guidelines of probation. Common duties of a probation officer may include:

  • Administering random drug and alcohol tests to ensure that clients are staying in compliance with any drug or alcohol programs

  • Scheduling regular meetings to speak to the person and evaluate their progress

  • Providing help or recommendations to maintain the terms of their rehabilitation plans

  • Rigorous case documentation throughout the time of probation served

Related: How To Become a Probation Officer

Pros of being a probation officer

There are many advantages to becoming a probation officer. Becoming a probation officer is a type of social work specialty, and many consider entering the profession because they wish to help others. Below are four of the key pros to being a probation officer:

Higher average rate of pay

The average rate of pay for being a parole officer is $55,690 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This starting salary can be attractive, especially because the role allows you to gain valuable work experience with minimal risk. Probation officers enjoy the benefits of administrative-style work combined with the ability to help those in need in the community and earn a higher average rate of pay than other entry-level roles.

Flexible work locations

Enjoy the flexibility of location choice. Where your primary work location is depends on if you choose to work from home or from the office space. You may choose to go into the office to conduct any interviewers with new members on your caseload. Several companies offer hybrid work solutions that allow you to benefit from both work settings.

Helping others is rewarding

Doing this type of work and assisting in the rehabilitation process can be rewarding. In this type of job, you play an active role in helping others rejoin society and find value and motivation to live a healthier lifestyle. This type of work can give you a deep sense of accomplishment in your job, and lead to higher rates of job satisfaction.

Your job is essential in the community

As a probation officer, you likely see higher caseload numbers due to fluctuating rates of incarceration and probation rulings. There is often no shortage of jobs, as the justice system works to accommodate the growing population of those in need. A union system often protects this position as well, in order to defend employees' rights.

Related: 13 Jobs You Can Do With a Legal Studies Degree

Cons of being a probation officer

As with any role, it's important to consider potential cons alongside the pros to ensure that you're making your career choice in confidence. Below is a list of three major disadvantages of pursuing this career:

Situations may be risky

Being a probation officer allows you to work with those in need in your community. You may also interface with past offenders or incarcerated individuals. Because of this, you may experience a certain amount of risk in your role. However, you can reduce this risk if you're able to work remotely from home.

Caseloads are heavy

They strained the system because of the higher numbers of individuals sentenced to probation pre or post-incarceration. Because of this, your work as a probation officer may become overwhelming. You'll often create rigorous notes and administrative tracking for each case. However, employers are looking for more streamlined reporting methods to combat burnout and heavy caseloads.

Schedules can be unpredictable

Becoming a probation officer may have you on-call for assisting individuals at all points in the workday. This may include night shifts or overnight shifts. Most places require you to be available to help your cases at all times of the day because you never know when they might struggle with their rehabilitation.

Tips for becoming a probation officer

Being a probation officer can be a rewarding profession. Considering the pros and cons of being a probation officer helps you to choose your career in confidence. Below is a list of three tips to help you become a probation officer:

Pursue higher education

One of the first steps to becoming a probation officer is to gain a bachelor's degree in a field related to assisting people and criminal justice. Consider completing internships with an approved agency, or finding alternative work experience. This can help you enter the field prepared and orient you on necessary course work such as criminal justice system management, psychology and more.

Related: 5 Popular Law Enforcement Jobs

Prepare for the interview process

Prepare for your interview well ahead of time. To successfully get a career as a probation officer, most states require a rigorous interview process to ensure that you'll feel strong enough in the role. Employers often look for more advanced education or people with work experience in a similar field. Consider reviewing your resume prior to the interview to highlight your relevant work experience examples to mention in the interview.

Prepare for examination

The requirements to apply to become a probation officer vary by state, and can include age limits, moral evaluations or other forms of psychological evaluation. Depending on the laws of your state, you may undergo a background check and a drug screening test. Ensure that you're prepared for the potential of assessments, written exams or endurance tests and rigorous check process.

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