The causes of crime are as varied as criminals. However, there are key moments when intervention can prevent future crime. For those seeking a career that can make a true difference in others' lives, becoming a probation officer may be the rewarding path you have been looking for.
Probation officers get their start in the classroom. Most positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Many future probation officers choose to make their resumes more competitive by majoring in criminal justice, behavioral science or social work. Some colleges offer these degrees with online options, so that working students can pursue such a career.
Beyond college, most probation officers must "complete a training program sponsored by their state government or the federal government, after which they may have to pass a certification test." Some institutions require candidates to undergo a probationary period of employment, whereby they serve for up to a year as trainees.
For example, in the state of Louisiana, in addition to a "baccalaureate degree OR six years of full-time work experience in any field or a combination of college hours and work experience," probation officers:
- Must be U.S. citizens or meet standards of U.S. Naturalization and Immigration Services for employment.
- Must have no felony convictions.
- Must have no misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence.
- Must be able and willing to carry firearms.
- Must not be a candidate for or hold a political office.
- Must have a valid Louisiana driver's license.
- Must achieve an acceptable score on the Civil Service Professional Level Exam (PLE).
- Must have a willingness and ability to complete 14 weeks of a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) academy and attain POST certification.
- Must pass a physical assessment in accordance with Cooper Fitness Standards (Must run 1.5 miles and do sit ups and pushups; required scores vary by age and gender of the applicant).
- Must undergo a pre-hire assessment and law enforcement suitability assessment.
While the above requirements may seem like a high bar to reach, probation officers are competitively compensated for their efforts. In Louisiana, pay can range from $30,000 to $62,000, with full health and retirement benefits on top of that.
Probation officers have dynamic jobs: their day-to-day work varies. Officers may make rounds to parolees' residences, checking for compliance to court-ordered conditions. But beyond just checking for compliance, probation officers look out for the welfare of their parolees, steering them away from paths that may cause them to become repeat offenders.
In this way, probation officers are in a prime position to make a difference in their communities. They are often the last line of defense to guide offenders toward a lawful life. The requirements for this job are stringent because it is such an important part of the correctional system. Probation officers are rewarded not only monetarily, but also by knowing they have helped people turn their lives around.
Learn more about the LSUA online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program.
Sources:Louisiana Department of Corrections Services: Probation and Parole Officer Information
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.