How to Become a Parole Officer: Job Description, Training & Salary


The other day we had the theme song from that old show “Cops” stuck in our heads on what seemed to be repeat. Round and round the tune went…”Bad boys, bad boys…whatcha gonna do”. It was an ear worm that we just couldn’t shake, that is until we decided to start researching how to become a parole officer. Once we fell down the rabbit hole of all the ins and outs of a career as a parole officer, we were rid of our ear warm. Best of all, we were able to find a ton of helpful information for you guys as well! So grab some coffee and maybe some donuts because we are going to tell you all about what being cuffed to  a career in corrections!

How to Become a Probation Officer

You may be thinking of becoming a probation officer because you want to make a difference in the lives of your potential parolees or because you really like handcuffs. No matter what your motivations are,  you will need to have a minimum of a 4 year bachelor’s degree in a related field. If you are interested in specializing in a certain type of casework or offender type, there will be specialized courses and certifications that you can take as well.

Correctional officers are often required to enroll in training programs that are sponsored by state and federal governments. These programs must be completed and a certification test must be passed in order to gain employment in the field. On top of the additional training programs, some positions and facilities may require potential parole officers to work as trainees for up to a year. This extra year of hands on experience provides you with a solid learning ground before being offered a more permanent position.

There are some qualities that are going to be sought after and will be helpful for a locking in a position as a parole officer. There isn’t a rule book that states that you must have all of these, but having them will increase the odds of employment for you and will ultimately make your job a bit easier. Take a look at the suggested skills and see which ones you have:

  • Communication skills: parole officers will need and want to be able to effectively interact with many different offenders from all walks of life. Being a great communicator will be a huge help for all parties involved.
  • Critical thinking skills: Officers will need to be able to tap into the needs of each offender they are assigned to monitor. You will need to be able to determine what the best resources and options are for them to be the functioning members of society again.
  • Decision making skills: parole officers will need to be able to weigh the pros and cons of the potential reintegration plans and any actions taken by their parolee to help them choose the right path appropriately.
  • Emotional stability: It’s important to be able to cope with the stresses of a job like this as well as being able to deal with hostile or erratic personalities.
  • Organizational skills: You’ll have multiple cases going on at any given time. Organization is super important for you and your parolees. It will make everyone’s life a bit easier if you are organized.

Probation Officer Requirements

 

The probation officer requirements will likely vary per state, county and facility, but there are some standard requirements that it’s safe to assume are locked in. Most places will require that applicants be at least 21 years of age, but not older than 37 years old, for federal employment. The potential candidates are also going to need to have zero felony convictions and be able to pass a drug test. So stay out of the slammer, so you can get this job!

You will also need a valid driver’s license to become a parole officer. The reason this is a requirement is because you will have to do a bit of driving to and from parolee’s homes and work places to check up on them. You will also need to have your own set of wheels too. It would be a pretty big pain to have to ask your Mom for a ride to your parolee’s house every day, right?

Not all, but most positions will require that you have some previous work experience in corrections or the court system. It makes sense that employers would want someone that already has some familiarity with the type of work and people that you will encounter. Another helpful bit is having experience in counseling. This type of experience is super helpful if you have cases with offenders that have a history of drug use or emotional/anger problems. Not to mention how your knowledge will help you to understand how truly difficult it can be to get back into the swing of a normal lifestyle on a psychological level.

Parole Officer Description

Right now you may be asking yourself “what is the probation and parole officer job description?” and we think that’s an excellent question!

Parole officers do a lot and have a very busy, demanding job. These officers work with offenders to reintegrate them back into society and stable living. They attempt to keep them from committing new crimes and violating the terms of their probation.

Each case received will be evaluated thoroughly to allow you to get to know the offenders. After becoming super familiar with the offenders, you will need to determine what the best plan of attack is going to be to ensure that they have the most success during rehabilitation. You will be their point of contact for many things once they are back into the swing of things.

Your role as a PO will be to help the offender along their process and monitor them as set forth in the agreed upon plan that is within the guidelines of their release. You will need to conduct routine meetings in person and over the phone with the parolee and their family and friends. You’ll also have to write progress reports and submit them to the appropriate channels for review. This is an important part of the job as a parole officer that will help to ensure that the offender is within the terms of their release and not committing any parole violations.

Parole officers will be a source of resources for job training, therapies needed as well as housing options. You will often have to perform random drug screenings and offer substance abuse counseling options if they are needed as well.

Juvenile Parole Officer Job Descriptions

Another offshoot of a job as a parole officer is to work in juvenile corrections. This can be a rewarding position, but challenging at the same time. The main goal as a juvenile probation officer is to assist young offenders with the transition from being institutionalized back into a community setting.

Your main duties are similar to that of a parole officer with adult offenders. You will work very closely with the juvenile offender his  or her parents, teachers, counselors and/or medical advisers.  A close relationship is necessary to help in the process and lots of communication will need to be had to ensure their success. Much like parole officers to adult offenders, juvenile probation officers keep in continual contact. As a probation officer, you will need to keep an eye on the paroled juvenile to ensure that their compliance with the plan and any terms of release are abided by.

How Much Do Parole Officers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics a parole officer has an average median yearly salary of $52,910 and that translates into $25.44 an hour. These are the most accurate figures as of May 2013 and likely haven’t fluctuated much because there isn’t a whole lot of growth in this field.

There is bit of a range here for the probation officer salary, but not a huge leap in either direction. The parole officer pay scale ranges from the lower 10th percent of officers making an annual wage of $32,010 or $15.39 an hour. The upper 10th percent are pulling in about $84,160 which again translates into $40.46 an hour. We like to break it down by both figures because it gives you a better idea of the take home per pay period no matter which way you slice it – meaning weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

There are going to be variations due to state, city and counties of employment. There will also be different rates of pay based upon the facility type that you are employed at. For example: state and local government employees seem to have a higher annual salary that those that are employed as probation officers through residential care facilities.

PO graph

How Long Does it Take to Become a Parole Officer

To become a parole office, you will need to complete 4 years of schooling alone to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. There are a few different degree options available and each will get you where you need to go. Some of the degree directions may even be better suited to different parolee types as well, so you may want to keep that in mind when you are trying to decide which direction to go in. You can go the distance for a master’s degree if you’d like the extra experience and perhaps have further aspirations, but it’s certainly not required.

Take a quick peek at the degree directions you can head in to become a probation officer:

There will be additional time required for the internships programs that are often required for graduations. Sometimes you can squeeze this last bit in during your last semester or two. It’s not a bad idea to find that out so that you have a clear idea of when you can get into the job market.

Let’s Take a Look at Some Degree Program Options

Here is a brief look at some viable schooling options that will help you on your path to becoming a parole officer. We were able to find examples each program type supported by this career at various schools around the country. Take a look and get a feel for what type of interesting classes and degree formatting is available.

Indian River State College

Indian River State College offers a Bachelor’s Science degree in Human Services. This is a possible degree avenue that you could pursue if you are interested in working as a juvenile parole officer. Much of the course work is loaded with classes that will help you to work with difficult cases and parolees that may have difficult backgrounds. Some of the classes you can expect to take during your time at Indian River State College are introduction to human services, introduction to ethics in human services and trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wilmington University

Wilmington University offers a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science degree program that will help you score a sweet job in corrections as a probation officer. One of the cool things about this degree program is that it is offered in traditional and online classroom formats. You may also take a mix of on-site classes and online as well.

You’ll take different courses depending what will help you during your time as a corrections officer. Some of the classes you can expect to take are: contemporary social problems, crisis communications and social deviance. These classes are really just the tip of the ice burg and you’ll be learning loads of other awesome stuff during your classes. We kind of wish we could sit in on some of these classes with you because it sounds like some interesting stuff is going to be covered!

Arizona State University Online

Arizona State University Online has a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice program that will be more than suitable for a future career in corrections. This program may be completed conveniently online, which can be super helpful if you have a busy schedule and are unable to attend regular classes.

This degree program really gets you rearing and ready to go for an exciting career in corrections with some super interesting courses. Some classes that will be taken are personal growth in human relationships, introduction to criminology and social change. Seeing these interesting courses makes us want to sign up right along with you!

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Day in the Life of a Parole Officer

As we have already said, you will have a lot to do as a parole officer and your job doesn’t end at 5 o’clock like most of ours do. We thought that you might like to take an inside look at what an actual parole officer really has to say about the job. That’s why we would like you to meet Allison Stahl. She is a parole and probation officer that was awesome enough to post a video on YouTube about her job. You can see what Allison has to say here. If you’re a busy little and don’t have the time to spend watching her video, have no fear because we’re going to give you a quick little summary of what she’s got to say.

Meet Allison Stahl – Probation and Parole Officer Extraordinaire

In this awesome and informative video, probation/parole officer Allison Stahl gives us the low down on what it is that she days on a daily basis and what exactly her job entails.

Allison didn’t always want to become a probation and parole officer. She actually had aspirations of becoming a teacher, but was always interested in criminal justice. Her passion for the criminal justice field led her to take an internship with a federal parole officer. This was enough to really fuel Allison’s fire because she went on to achieve her bachelor’s in criminal justice administration. Allison later went on to receive her masters too. Talk about a real go getter, right!

Allison explains the role as a parole and probation officer perfectly and gives us a really excellent idea of what to expect from a job like this. We were able to glean that there truly is no “typical” day and that each day will present new and exciting challenges. We gather that this job will surely make you reach for a can of red bull every now and then too.

As a probation and parole officer, she is charge of supervising a case load of offenders that she has to keep close tabs on. Her main goal is to rehabilitate the offenders and really help them to get established into regular life that is free of crime. It definitely seems like a lot to handle, but Allison seems like a rock star and totally able to roll with the punches.

As we’ve said, Allison tells us that there isn’t really a typical day for her. She spends a good amount of time out of her office too and will often meet her parolees for home and work place visits. As part of her case management duties she spends a good amount of time verifying information and just talking with her parolees to keep herself in the loop.

It can definitely be a difficult job, especially when you have appointments scheduled all day or when you are stuck in a court room for hours (that makes us feel like nodding off just typing it). Allison does tell us that she feels that this is a pretty rewarding job as well. She even seems to get a little choked up at one point, which goes to show how truly passionate she is about her job. She says that she finds it rewarding when she sees her parolees make a change and complete their time successfully. We are thinking about starting an Allison Stahl fan club because it’s parole and probation officers like her that really give offenders a chance at success.

Final Grade

Pencils down, folks because it’s time for the final grade! Here are the nitty gritty details of a career as a probation officer.

  • Degree vs Debt: B

To become a parole officer you need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. This will cost you a bit, but the salary isn’t too bad. You will earn a salary that’s almost smack in the middle of the national median, so your degree vs debt ratio isn’t too bad.

  • Degree Difficulty: B+

One of the good things about this career path is that you only need a bachelor’s degree to get into the field. It’s not a technically intensive degree at all. It is also exploding with some really interesting course work. You’ll likely get a bit of writer’s cramp here and there, so prepare to feel the burn from all the note taking you are bound to do.

  • Happiness Quotient: B+

To be totally candid…this job can be intense and sometimes even a little dangerous. Despite those factors, most people do find it really rewarding. We can imagine that there is something really amazing about guiding someone towards a life free of crime. You will be an integral part of that offenders reintegration process and we think that is pretty cool.

  • Job Outlook: C-

There really isn’t a change projected and that a real bummer. It is fairly bad considering the economy as a whole is growing. You can try to look at it as a glass half full kind of situation though. Just think about the fact that it’s safe to say that there will likely always be criminals, thus ensuring that you won’t be out of a job anytime soon.

Sources and Recommended Reading

We wouldn’t be anywhere without our awesome sources and owe them for all of the information provided. We know that we have linked these guys throughout this little ditty, but here are the links again in case you want them. We’d also like to take a quick second to wish you luck on your pursuit of a career as a parole officer. We know that you will be aces!

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