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How To Become A Probation Officer: Career & Salary Information
The law is a wonderfully operating machine. Criminals are served the justice that is deserved. And it is always believed that the punishment should fit the crime. It is for that reason that the criminal justice system has different severities for different crimes. One such punishment is probation.
After being incarcerated, or when facing charges of a misdemeanor, those charged may face probation. These individuals are overseen by a probation officer who needs to meet minimum requirements and have at least a degree in criminal justice, and who will help them integrate back into society.
Let us explore the role that probation officer's hold in society and why they play a significant role in ensuring that society remains safe and fully functional.
What Is A Probation Officer?
If you are starting a new job at a company, you may go through something called a probationary period. During this period, your performance is closely monitored. Your character, your development, and the way you operate in the role is closely watched. If your performance meets expectations, you will be offered a permanent role at the company.
Now, this also translates into real life. If a prisoner has been convicted of a crime, if they have served the sentence that was handed down during judgment, or if the crime they were convicted of wasn't severe, they are required to serve probation.
This period of probation is required for both the probationer to adjust to normal life, as well as for their family, and the rest of society to adjust to them being present in society. It is also required to ensure that the incarceration or the 'punishment' that has been enforced, whether it is imprisonment, community service, or any other kind of sentence, has succeeded in rehabilitating the criminal.
In order to closely assess if the probationer has been properly rehabilitated, a probation officer is put in charge to closely monitor them during the initial period of their release, or their sentence if it is not a severe sentence.
The parole officer will supervise, oversee, and report on the expected positive progress that an individual is expected to make when they are in their probationary period.
What Does A Probation Officer Do?
Probation officers become the closest person to the probationer, and they often develop a strong love-hate relationship with the probationer. This is because, while the probation officer aims to assist the probationer in establishing a healthy and normal life, they also need to make sure that the accused does not fall back into their old ways.
It is for this reason that a probation officer plays an integral role in closely monitoring the probationer's actions, serving as a medium of communication between other law enforcement agents and social workers for a smooth integration into society, and strictly adhering to and enforcing the probationary requirements for the probationer.
Working with multiple facets in the criminal justice system, the probation officer, who is an official law enforcement agent, needs to closely monitor the probationer's actions and compile detailed progress reports that are a true and accurate reflection of the probationer's progress.
The bitter part of this bitter-sweet relationship comes in when the probation officer needs to conduct random yet regular drug screenings and behavioral assessments on the probationer. Afterall, the main aim is to allow for a smooth and positive integration back into society and to have the probationer be fully rehabilitated.
With this aim in mind, the probation officer is also responsible for arranging housing, education, training, and employment for the probationer.
But prior to conducting any duties, the probation officer is required to extensively research the probationer and familiarize themselves with the case. Probation officers do more than just supervise probationers, but they also carry out extensive administrative roles, compiling reports and documents pertaining to the lives of those they oversee.
Additionally, probation officers oversee more than one probationer. Sometimes, probation officers can face extremely high caseloads which, more often than not, serves as the greatest challenge for this particular field of law enforcement.
Steps To Become A Probation Officer
Step One: Ensure That You Meet The Minimum Requirements
To be a probation officer, you must meet some basic minimum requirements such as being a U.S. citizen, having a college degree, having the relevant training for the role, being of sound moral standing, and passing a number of pre-assessments.
Additionally, given the health standards and agility that is required of a probation officer, such as standing for extended periods of time, and the ability to closely monitor and keep up with the probationer, prospective probation officers need to be under the age of 37 years old. However, some exceptions may be made depending on the experience they have.
In addition to completing written assignments and physical endurance tests, potential candidates must have at least a degree in either criminal justice, criminology, psychology, social work, or human services, to name a few.
Any criminal record, previous convictions, drug use, or gambling addiction will disqualify you immediately from consideration.
Step Two: Apply For The Role
From submitting your paperwork and resume, completing assessments, and being the subject of a panel interview, the application process is quite rigorous. If you're applying for a probation officer's role, the competition is high, and that makes the application process quite intense.
The way you submit your paperwork is scrutinized, as is your ability to communicate and pass the designated assessments.
Step Three: Begin Training
Once a candidate is considered successful in the application process, they will then move on to in-service training. This training can take up to a year to complete and requires the candidate to familiarize themselves with processes, court proceedings, and the detailed and intricate operations that a probation officer is required to fulfil.
Step Four: Get Sworn In
Being sworn in gives probation officers the right to actively execute and fulfil their role as a community-based operative that plays a linking role between society and the probationer.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Probation Officer?
A sure way to see yourself succeed in this career, or if this is a career you are hoping to pursue and you are trying to figure out what academic path you should follow, then a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, criminology, psychology, sociology, human sciences, social work, and public administration would be the most beneficial path to follow.
Within these degrees, relevant courses to the field would need to be pursued such as constitutional law, criminal law, ethics, and addiction counseling.
What Is The Average Salary For A Probation Officer?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for a probation officer or a correctional treatment specialist is $60,250 per year, as recorded in May 2021.
What Makes A Good Probation Officer?
Aside from meeting the minimum requirements for this role, probation officers need to have superior communication skills. They are required to interact not only with the probationer, but also with other law enforcement personnel, and they are required to provide statements to the court.
With overseeing many probationers, they are also required to possess superior time management skills.
But over and above these skills, they are required to possess high levels of empathy and understanding towards the probationer, while maintaining a stern front and providing support through the rehabilitation journey.
What Are The Greatest Challenges Faced By Probation Officers?
Being a probation officer is extremely taxing on the individual carrying out the role. As mentioned, the first challenge they face is the high caseload. But also, probation officers find themselves more stressed out and burnt out than individuals in other professions as their work often falls out of daily working hours.
From working overtime or being on call through the night and on weekends, probation officers face a lot of challenges. Throw in the fact that they are working with people who have previously been convicted of crimes that vary in severity, means that their safety is not guaranteed, and they are often placed in harm's way.
What Is The Difference Between A Parole Officer And A Probation Officer?
There is a fine line drawn between a parole officer and a probation officer. Both works closely as observation officers for convicted criminals, but a parole officer works with prisoners who have previously served a sentence being incarcerated at a prison and a probation officer works with those who have been granted probation.
Convicted criminals who are serving probation don't necessarily need to be incarcerated, but they need help integrating into society without returning to a life of crime.
What Can A Probation Officer Not Do?
While it may seem obvious and is something that all law enforcement agents or people in power are not allowed to do, at the forefront, is abuse probationers in any way. They are also not allowed to take any form of illegal drugs, on the job or recreationally.
Additionally, a probation officer may not have an intimate relationship with the probationer under any circumstances.
Are Probation Officers Police Officers?
Yes, they are. In many cases, probation officers would need to obtain training from a police academy, and they are sworn in officers.
How Much Do Probation Officers Make?
According to the BLS, in May 2021 probation officers earned an average annual salary of $60,250.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Probation Officer?
With completing a four-year degree and completing the required training that takes about a year to complete, it can be estimated that it would take about five to six years to become a probation officer provided you have completed all requirements successfully.
Being a probation officer requires a unique blend of skills that allows the individual to fulfil the role as a mediator or a buffer between the world and society, and the probationer who is expected to become fully integrated into society once again. It is a heavy weight that is best suited for strong shoulders.
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