Work as a probation officer, whether juvenile, adult, local or federal, can offer many advantages to the employee. In most jurisdictions, a probation officer must have a minimum of a four-year college degree, preferably in a related field such as social work; however, the federal government requires a master's degree prior to hiring probation officers. Experience for both local and federal agencies such as a background in case work is also desirable.
Most probation officers have the opportunity to advance within their respective departments. There may be regular promotions based on performance evaluations and time on the job. In addition, advanced education will be considered during job reviews. First line probation officer supervisors are almost always promoted from within the department as well. Middle management, such as division heads or even the chief probation officer, may be promoted from within or recruited and hired from outside sources.
Flexibility and Variety
A probation officer's job offers a great amount of flexibility and variety, depending on the specific position. Some positions require officer availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Warrants officers, who look for probation absconders, or intensive probation officers would be examples of these. Other positions, such as presentence writers, allow telecommuting. Probation officers who supervise a standard caseload have more regular hours although some flexibility is given. Finally, officers who work in such positions as training or court liaison work standard hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week.
A probation officer can transfer laterally between positions depending on her interests. Personal family needs are often a high priority for mothers who are also probation officers. Flexible schedules and the ability to telecommute are two attractive draws for them. The variety of available positions helps prevent boredom, or worse yet, burn out.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage of a probation officer in May 2008 was $45,910; however, the BLS found that the lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,490, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,210. Grade promotions occur every two to three years, possibly more often if the attainment of an advanced degree is considered. Cost of living increases and across-the-board pay increases may or may not be granted, in part, depending upon economic considerations.
Probation officers, like police officers, exert influence on the community. This does not only include the offenders the probation officer supervises but the family members of the defendant, especially children. While some probationers continue with criminal activities, others are motivated to become productive members of society. This intrinsic feeling is similar to that received in other helping careers such as teaching, nursing or counseling.
Work for a probation officer is stable, and there are rarely lay-offs, according to BLS. The job outlook is positive, and experienced probation officers often have their pick of jurisdictions.
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