There are typically age, education, and work experience requirements to become a probation officer. In many cases, you will need to be at least 21 years old before you apply for the position, and some agencies also have a maximum age for new hires. Most agencies require that you have at least a four year degree, though in some locations you may also need relevant work experience or a graduate degree. College degrees that can help you become a probation officer include criminal justice, psychology, and social work. Relevant work experience that is often taken into account includes substance abuse programs and other human services fields.
Many areas require that you are older than 21 when you apply to become a probation officer, which typically gives you enough time to attend college after graduating high school. Some agencies also have upper age limits unless certain requirements are met. In the United States, the federal courts system will only hire probation officers over the age of 37 if they have experience in another sector of law enforcement.
The educational requirements to become a probation officer can vary from one place to another. In the United States, each state has its own requirements, and local areas may have different prerequisites as well. A four year degree in a relevant field, such as criminal justice or psychology, is typically the minimum requirement. Some areas require a four year degree and one or two years of work in a related field or an advanced degree, such as a master of criminal justice (MCJ).
Even if work experience or advanced degrees are not required by a specific agency, you may find that they can give you an advantage over other applicants. One way to make it easier to become a probation officer is to work in a related field while you are still in school. An internship or a job at a rehabilitation center or counseling program can provide you with valuable experience and also make you a more attractive hire.
After you have graduated from college and obtained relevant work experience, you will typically need to pass a number of different tests. Each hiring agency has its own process, though you can expect to take tests on both general knowledge and specific departmental procedure. These tests may include both written and oral components. You may also face rigorous physical and mental testing to ensure that you are fit for the job.