To become a parole officer, first obtain a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology or a related area. Depending on the employer and whether you have any previous experience in the field, a master's degree in one of these areas might be required. Professional certification is often required, and background checks for prospective parole officers are often performed. Some hiring agencies have minimum and maximum age restrictions for someone who wants to become a parole officer, so it's a good idea to research the agencies you are interested in working for before applying. It can be helpful to have prior experience in social work as a probation officer, corrections officer or police officer or in a similar field.
When deciding whether to become a parole officer, think about whether you will be able to handle the physical and emotional stresses of the job. Parole officers might work a regular 40-hour week or longer; sometimes they are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Strict deadlines can be a part of the job, including having to meet those imposed by judges and courts.
Being physically fit is required. Having a patient and empathetic personality while also being assertive and emotionally strong are good personal qualities for this job. People seeking this position often must undergo physical, psychological and other exams.
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A person who wants to become a parole officer needs strong communication and interpersonal skills to work with offenders who were just released from prison. Sometimes parole officers also must interact with the families and associates of offenders, and people in these environments might be hostile, agitated or even physically dangerous. Parole officers often carry guns for protection, so they must undergo firearms training. People who have been convicted of felonies are often not eligible to work as parole officers.
You often need a valid driver's license to work as a parole officer. Many parole officers meet with and monitor parolees at their homes, their jobs and other places. They go to correctional facilities, courts and perform fieldwork. Parole officers might have to ensure that offenders are drug free, which means issuing drug tests and transporting urine.
Good writing skills are beneficial to those who work in this field. Parole officers produce many reports during the course of their work. Strong computer skills are helpful, because the criminal justice system often uses computer technology. Some parole officers work from home offices, so having the requisite computer skills will be beneficial.
Other careers that require similar qualifications are those of probation officer and correctional counselor. Probation officers work with people who have received probation, rather than jail time, for their offenses. Correctional counselors work with people who are incarcerated, evaluating progress and planning for their eventual return to society.