Probation officer qualifications typically include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and successfully passing standardized exams to become certified. Qualifications vary by region and the size of a community, with probation officer qualifications in some areas requiring prior experience in a related field. Training programs might be mandatory in some regions, along with physical and psychological evaluations to determine fitness for the job. Basic probation officer qualifications typically include minimum and maximum age limits and a clean criminal record.
Experience to qualify for a job as a probation officer might come from work as a law enforcement investigator. Applicants with experience working in a jail or prison, or as a counselor, might meet probation officer qualifications in some areas. In other regions, experience as a social worker or pretrial investigator for the courts might be sufficient.
Probation officers typically hold a degree in criminal justice, social services, or psychology. Smaller probation offices usually accept a bachelor’s degree to meet probation officer qualifications before sending applicants to a training program. In larger cities, candidates without prior experience might need a master’s degree before employment is offered.
After meeting probation officer qualifications, a new officer typically serves a probationary period before he or she is granted permanent employee status. During this period, a supervisor typically evaluates the officer’s performance with criminal offenders and expertise completing other duties. He or she might receive performance reports that suggest improvements during the probationary period, which usually covers a year.
Probation officers work with juvenile or adult offenders released into the community by judges in lieu of jail time. Judges usually add conditions the offender must follow in order to remain free. These commonly include no further trouble with the law, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and regular employment. Drug testing and attendance at substance abuse programs represent other common conditions of probation.
Probation officers monitor and supervise offenders to ensure they follow orders of the court. The officers might visit the offender’s home and place of employment, or require the probationer to make regular office visits. They may take urine samples from offenders to test for illegal drugs, or monitor electronic tracking devices when a probationer’s activity is restricted.
Other qualifications include knowledge of laws in the area and good written communication skills. Officers keep detailed records of the offender’s progress that might be used in court. They also commonly write pre-investigation reports outlining the offender’s family, medical, and criminal history. Recommendations for the disposition of criminal cases usually appear in the document.