A probation officer is responsible for supervising people that have been placed on probation. This professional has personal interaction with those on probation. Oftentimes, these professionals visit the probationer in their home. The probation officer also partners with organizations in the community to help rehabilitate the offender. These organizations are also asked to assist in monitoring the behavior of the probationer. Additionally, these professionals often assist in getting the person job training and drug rehabilitation. Most officers focus on either adults or young offenders exclusively.
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Probation Officer Job Responsibilities
In addition, the probation officer spends a great deal of time performing work for the courts. They are tasked with performing thorough background research on the offender; after compiling their findings, they write a pre-sentence document and recommend a feasible sentence. The probation officer is also responsible for keeping the court current on the compliance of the offender with the court issued mandates. Case loads are dependent upon the seriousness of the offenders that the probation officer supervises. Offenders that need heavy supervision are assigned to probation officers with smaller case loads. Also, caseload does vary by the jurisdiction of the agency. Probation officers can handle anywhere from 20 to 100 cases at any given time.
Computers, phones, and other technological equipment allows the probation officers to manage their cases. Many also perform work from their home office. Some officers focus on pre-trial proceedings; they recommend whether an offender can be released before the trial. If an offender is not held before the trial, this probation officer will supervise the offender and assist in making sure the offender is present for trial.
Also, the probation officer has work related hazards. The job of this professional is to supervise those that can be dangerous. They frequently interact with other persons involved with the offender. The situations can be quite volatile. Many of the individuals are angry and upset; thus, the probation officer must be skilled in calming flared tempers. The work environment may be that of high crime and communicable disease. Deadlines are also a constant pressure from the courts. Probation officers are expected to travel extensively to meet with offenders they supervise. Offenders also have to sometimes carry a weapon to defend against possible violence. The work environment is often stressful and difficult. Many probation officers are motivated by the reward of helping someone to improve their life. Some probation officers experience the thrill of seeing someone truly turn their life around. This leads to satisfaction with the work they are doing.
In conclusion, a probation officer will typically work a 40 hour week; however, it may be necessary at times to work over time. Sometimes it may be necessary to be on call 24 hours per day to assist people. Most probation officers are employed by the federal or state government. There are also private firms that provide supervision of offenders in the community. Jobs for probation officers are more available in urban, high crime areas. The higher the crime rate in an area, the more likely that probation officers will be needed.
Probation Officer Training and Education Requirements
Employers require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in some type of behavioral science discipline. Social work, psychology, sociology, or criminal justice are some of the disciplines that are generally accepted. Previous experience in probation will influence some employers not to focus on the discipline as much. Probation officers are usually required to go through a vigorous training program. This training is given by the state or federal government.
Many of these professionals must work up to a year as a trainee before being offered a permanent position. Advancement opportunities are sometimes available to those with a master’s education. Experience in probation and parole can also lead to supervisory or higher positions in the field.
Probation Officer Salary and Wages
In 2008, the median salary for a probation officer was $45,000. Those that were in the middle 50% earned between $35,000 and $60,000 per year. The low earners made $29,490 or less per year. This represented the lowest paid ten percent of probation officers. The probation officers that earned the most made an average of $78,000 per year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Probation Officer Certifications
The federal and state government provide training to probation officers. This training must be completed before the officers will be considered certified. After certification, the probation officer will usually still work for up to a year as a trainee before becoming a permanent probation officer.
Probation Officer Associations
The American Probation and Parole Association is an organization made up of people from the U.S., Canada, and other nations around the world. The primary purpose of this group is to bring professionals together that work in community supervision of offenders. This group is composed of all levels of government. This includes federal, state, local, county, and all branches of government also. This organization is committed to presenting a strong standard for the probation and correction community. The Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association is an organization devoted primarily to probation officers that work in the federal sector. This organization is committed to giving the members a strong voice in the probation and parole profession. This organization is committed to upholding a high standard for the profession.