Probation Officer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: January 10, 2022

A Probation Officer, or Parole Officer, is responsible for supervising and disciplining criminal offenders who are completing a probation program as one of the conditions of their sentencing. Their duties include recommending rehabilitation programs, conducting drug tests and monitoring the location of their clients.

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Probation Officer duties and responsibilities

A Probation Officer’s job description may contain the following duties and responsibilities: 

  • Interviewing parolees and probationers, their relatives and their friends to assess progress
  • Evaluating parolees and probationers to establish the best course of rehabilitation
  • Providing parolees and probationers with resources such as housing and job training
  • Testing parolees and probationers for alcohol and drugs and offering counseling for drugs and alcohol
  • Completing pre-hearing investigations and testifying in court about parolees and probationers
  • Writing reports and maintaining case files on parolees and probationers on their caseload
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Probation Officer Job Description Examples

What does a Probation Officer do? 

Probation Officers work at government agencies and social assistance organizations to make sure that people who’ve been convicted of a crime follow the terms of their probation and continue on track to complete their program successfully. Their role is primarily disciplinary but Probation Officers may also connect their clients with community resources that could help them avoid re-offending, build a new support structure, find employment or get sober. Probation Officers are in charge of ensuring that their clients complete court-mandated community service or classes, checking in with their clients regularly and reporting infractions to the state. 

Probation Officers manage the case files for their clients, carefully recording their legal history, court orders, release requirements, substance tests and other documentation that they collect as the client completes probation. They schedule services and manage tracking devices, breathalyzers and other monitoring tools that help them correct a client’s behavior.

Probation Officer skills and qualifications

A job description for a Probation Officer should contain the following skills and qualifications requirements: 

  • Communication skills for effectively interacting with parolees, probationers, their family and friends, lawyers, treatment providers, law enforcement and judges
  • Critical thinking skills for assessing the needs of parolees and probationers on their caseload before establishing the needed resources for assisting them
  • Decision-making skills for considering the best rehabilitation options and plan for parolees and probationers
  • Emotional stability for coping with upsetting circumstances of the job and hostile individuals
  • Organizational skills for managing multiple individuals at the same time

Probation Officer salary expectations

A Probation Officer makes an average of $48,921 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location. 

Probation Officer education and training requirements

Generally, Probation Officers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work or behavioral science. Although requirements may vary by jurisdiction, Probation Officers must be at least 21 years of age or older, must pass a drug screening and background check and hold a valid driver’s license. Probation officers that work exclusively with juveniles may be required to complete specialized training. 

Most Probation Officer positions include training programs sponsored by the federal government or their specific state and certification test. Typically, new Probation Officers work as trainees for up to one year before being considered for a permanent position.

Probation Officer experience requirements

There are several different kinds of specialized Probation Officer positions, including Pre-Trial Services Officers, Parole Officers and Correctional Treatment Officers. A Pre-Trial Services Officer role is responsible for investigating the background of an offender to determine if they can safely be in the community before their trial. 

A Parole Officer role works with individuals recently released from jail or prison and are serving parole to re-enter society. A Correctional Treatment Specialist role, commonly referred to as Correctional Counselors or Case Managers, provide counseling for offenders while developing rehabilitation plans for them to follow once they are no longer in prison or on parole.

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Frequently asked questions about Probation Officers

 

What is the difference between a Probation Officer and a Correctional Officer?

Probation Officers and Correctional Officers both serve important roles in the criminal justice system, but they work with different kinds of cases and in different environments. Correctional Officers work with people who are currently incarcerated, either while awaiting trial or as part of their sentence. They work in jails and prisons to supervise inmate behavior and accompany them to court hearings. 

Probation Officers work outside of a correctional facility to supervise people convicted of crimes while still allowing them to participate in general society and live in their community. Probation Officers may focus more on rehabilitating their clients while Correctional Officers work to maintain compliance and safety in a prison.

 

What are the daily duties of a Probation Officer?

Probation Officers spend their time in probation offices, visiting clients in their homes and attending court to make recommendations or testify to their clients’ character. Most Probation Officers manage several cases at once, meeting with multiple clients each day to confirm their compliance with the probation program. Probation Officers talk to clients and their families about the terms of their probation, specifying if they have any work or volunteer requirements, travel restrictions or social limitations. They schedule future meetings where they might conduct random drug screenings, recommend support groups or prepare an argument for modifying or ending the probationary period.

If a client violates probation, the Probation Officer uses electronic tracking devices or investigative methods to help find their client and administer consequences. They communicate with law enforcement and others involved in the client’s case to consider an appropriate response to different kinds of probation violations, carefully recording each incident.

 

What are the characteristics of a good Probation Officer?

Successful Probation Officers need to have the right characteristics and attitude to successfully motivate and support people from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. Good Probation Officers are able to build trust with their clients by displaying compassion and empathy to their situation while still upholding probation requirements. They’re good at judging someone’s character and intentions, which allows them to determine what kinds of resources would have the most positive impact on each client. People who are committed, helpful and organized can make great probation officers who help their clients become productive members of society.

 

What are the different types of Probation Officer?

There are two main types of Probation Officers: Adult Probation Officers and Juvenile Probation Officers. Adults and minors need different kinds of support and tend to experience different types of consequences. Juvenile Probation Officers may work with parents, schools and counselors in addition to meeting with the client to prevent the client from entering the criminal corrections system as an adult. Both Adult and Juvenile Probation Officers work to help their clients develop the skills to succeed in life without committing crimes.

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