Occupation Profile for Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Provide social services to assist in rehabilitation of law offenders in custody or on probation or parole. Make recommendations for actions involving formulation of rehabilitation plan and treatment of offender, including conditional release and education and employment stipulations.

 
 

Significant Points

  • State and local governments employ most of these workers.
  • A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, or a related field usually is required.
  • Employment growth, which is projected to be as fast as the average, depends on government funding.
  • Job opportunities are expected to be excellent.

 

 
 
Overview
$42,500.00 Median Annual Wage 2,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
3.8 Average Unemployment Percentage 15.6 Percentage That Completed High School
94,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 26.3 Percentage That Had Some College
105,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 58.1 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Attendance Officer
Certified Juvenile Probation Officer
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer (CJPO)
Correctional Casework Specialist
Correctional Counselor
Correctional Probation Officer
Court Worker
Crime Prevention Worker
Deputy Juvenile Officer
Detention Attendant
Detention Officer
Detention Worker
Drill Instructor
Juvenile Correctional Officer
Juvenile Detention Officer
Juvenile Probation Officer
Parole Agent
Parole Officer
Pre-Parole Counseling Aide
Prisoner Classification Interviewer
Probation and Parole Officer
Probation and Patrol Agent
Probation Counselor
Probation Officer
Probation Worker
Supervisor, Parole
Truant Officer

Training
  • Many of these occupations involve coordinating, supervising, managing, or training others. Examples include accountants, human resource managers, computer programmers, teachers, chemists, and police detectives.
  • Most of these occupations require a four - year bachelor's degree, but some do not.
  • A minimum of two to four years of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an accountant must complete four years of college and work for several years in accounting to be considered qualified.
  • Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Qualifications vary by agency, but a bachelor’s degree is usually required. Most employers require candidates to pass oral, written, and psychological examinations.

Education and training. A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, or a related field is usually required. Some employers require a master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or a related field for candidates who do not have previous related experience. Different employers have different requirements for what counts as related experience. It may include work in probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, substance abuse treatment, social work, or counseling.

Most probation officers and some correctional treatment specialists are required to complete a training program sponsored by their State government or the Federal Government, after which a certification test may be required. Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work as trainees or on a probationary period for up to a year before being offered a permanent position.

Other qualifications. Applicants usually take written, oral, psychological, and physical examinations. Prospective probation officers or correctional treatment specialists should be in good physical and emotional condition. Most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old and, for Federal employment, not older than 37. Those convicted of felonies may not be eligible for employment in this occupation.

Familiarity with the use of computers often is required due to the increasing use of computer technology in probation and parole work. Candidates also should be knowledgeable about laws and regulations pertaining to corrections. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists should have strong writing skills because they are required to prepare many reports. They should also have excellent listening and interpersonal skills to work effectively with offenders.

Advancement. A typical agency has several levels of probation and parole officers and correctional treatment specialists, as well as supervisors. Advancement is primarily based on length of experience and performance. A graduate degree, such as a master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology, may be helpful for advancement.

Nature of Work

Many people who are convicted of crimes are placed on probation instead of being sent to prison. People who have served time in prison are often released on parole. During probation and parole, offenders must stay out of trouble and meet various other requirements. Probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes.

Probation officers, who are called community supervision officers in some States, supervise people who have been placed on probation. Correctional treatment specialists, who may also be known as case managers, counsel offenders and create rehabilitation plans for them to follow when they are no longer in prison or on parole. Parole officers perform many of the same duties that probation officers perform. The difference is that parole officers supervise offenders who have been released from prison, whereas probation officers work with those who are sentenced to probation instead of prison. Pretrial services officers conduct pretrial investigations, the findings of which help determine whether suspects should be released before their trial.

Probation and parole officers supervise offenders on probation or parole through personal contact with the offenders and their families. Instead of requiring offenders to meet officers in their offices, many officers meet offenders in their homes and at their places of employment or therapy. Probation and parole agencies also seek the assistance of community organizations, such as religious institutions, neighborhood groups, and local residents, to monitor the behavior of many offenders. Some offenders are required to wear an electronic device so that probation officers can monitor their location and movements. Probation and parole officers may arrange for offenders to get substance abuse rehabilitation or job training. Probation officers usually work with either adults or juveniles exclusively. Only in small, usually rural, jurisdictions do probation officers counsel both adults and juveniles. In some States, the jobs of parole and probation officers are combined.

Probation officers also spend much of their time working for the courts. They investigate the backgrounds of the accused, write presentence reports, and recommend sentences. They review sentencing recommendations with offenders and their families before submitting them to the court. Probation officers may be required to testify in court as to their findings and recommendations. They also attend hearings to update the court on offenders’ efforts at rehabilitation and compliance with the terms of their sentences.

Correctional treatment specialists work in jails, prisons, or parole or probation agencies. In jails and prisons, they evaluate the progress of inmates. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They also work with inmates, probation officers, and other agencies to develop parole and release plans. Their case reports, which discuss the inmate’s history and likelihood of committing another crime, are provided to the appropriate parole board when their clients are eligible for release. In addition, they plan education and training programs to improve offenders’ job skills and provide them with coping, anger management, and drug and sexual abuse counseling either individually or in groups. They usually write treatment plans and summaries for each client. Correctional treatment specialists working in parole and probation agencies perform many of the same duties as their counterparts who work in correctional institutions.

The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist handles at one time depends on the needs of offenders and the risks they pose. Higher risk offenders and those who need more counseling usually command more of the officer’s time and resources. Caseload size also varies by agency jurisdiction. Consequently, officers may handle from 20 to more than 100 active cases at a time.

Computers, telephones, and fax machines enable the officers to handle the caseload. Probation officers may telecommute from their homes. Other technological advancements, such as electronic monitoring devices and drug screening, also have assisted probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in supervising and counseling offenders.

Pretrial services officers conduct pretrial investigations, the findings of which help determine whether suspects should be released before their trial. When suspects are released before their trial, pretrial services officers supervise them to make sure they adhere to the terms of their release and that they show up for trial. In the Federal courts system, probation officers perform the functions of pretrial services officers.

Work environment. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with criminal offenders, some of whom may be dangerous. In the course of supervising offenders, they usually interact with many other individuals, such as family members and friends of their clients, who may be angry, upset, or difficult to work with. Workers may be assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas or in institutions where there is a risk of violence or communicable disease.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are required to meet many court-imposed deadlines, which contribute to heavy workloads. In addition, extensive travel and fieldwork may be required to meet with offenders who are on probation or parole. Workers may be required to carry a firearm or other weapon for protection. They also may be required to collect and transport urine samples of offenders for drug testing. All of these factors make for a stressful work environment. Although the high stress levels can make these jobs very difficult at times, this work also can be very rewarding. Many workers obtain personal satisfaction from counseling members of their community and helping them become productive citizens.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists generally work a 40-hour week, but some may work longer. They may be on call 24 hours a day to supervise and assist offenders at any time.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)
Earnings

Median annual earnings of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in May 2006 were $42,500. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,880 and $56,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $71,160. In May 2006, median annual earnings for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists employed in State government were $42,970; those employed in local government earned $43,100. Higher wages tend to be found in urban areas.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
  • Job Outlook

    Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2016. Job opportunities are expected to be excellent.

    Employment change. Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to grow 11 percent between 2006 and 2016, as fast as the average for all occupations. Mandatory sentencing guidelines calling for longer sentences and reduced parole for inmates have resulted in a large increase in the prison population. However, mandatory sentencing guidelines are being reconsidered in many States because of budgetary constraints, court decisions, and doubts about the guidelines’ effectiveness. Instead, there may be more emphasis in many States on rehabilitation and alternate forms of punishment, such as probation, spurring demand for probation and parole officers and correctional treatment specialists. Additionally, there will be a need for parole officers to supervise the large numbers of people who are currently incarcerated and will be released from prison.

    However, the job outlook depends primarily on the amount of government funding that is allocated to corrections, and especially to probation systems. Although community supervision is far less expensive than keeping offenders in prison, a change in political trends toward more imprisonment and away from community supervision could result in reduced employment opportunities.

    Job prospects. In addition to openings due to growth, many openings will be created by replacement needs, especially openings due to the large number of these workers who are expected to retire. This occupation is not attractive to some potential entrants due to relatively low earnings, heavy workloads, and high stress. For these reasons, job opportunities are expected to be excellent.

    Employment

    Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists held about 94,000 jobs in 2006. Most jobs are in State or local governments. In some States, the State government employs all probation officers and correctional treatment specialists; in other States, local governments are the only employers. In still other States, both levels of government employ these workers. Jobs are more plentiful in urban areas. In the Federal Government, probation officers are employed by the U.S. courts, and correctional treatment specialists are employed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons.

    Knowledge
    • Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
    • Therapy and Counseling — Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
    • Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
    • Law and Government — Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
    • Sociology and Anthropology — Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
    Skills
    • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
    • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
    • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
    Abilities
    • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
    • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
    • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
    Tasks
    • Core — Write reports describing offenders' progress.
    • Core — Discuss with offenders how such issues as drug and alcohol abuse and anger management problems might have played roles in their criminal behavior.
    • Core — Prepare and maintain case folder for each assigned inmate or offender.
    • Core — Inform offenders or inmates of requirements of conditional release, such as office visits, restitution payments, or educational and employment stipulations.
    • Core — Arrange for medical, mental health, or substance abuse treatment services according to individual needs or court orders.
    Activities
    • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
    • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
    • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
    • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
    • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
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