Probation Officer, Parole Officer, and Correctional Treatment Specialist Careers, Training, and Jobs

Probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists all play an essential role in our country’s legal system. These community servants help with the betterment of our society through the rehabilitation and reintroduction into society of individuals convicted of a crime or accused of one.

This article will explain the essential job responsibilities for probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists, as well as outline the necessary education and other requirements needed to work in this field. Information about the 10-year employment outlook, as well as expected yearly earnings, for these jobs is also listed.

Job Descriptions

  • Probation officer: Sometimes called a community supervision officer, a probation officer supervises individuals who have been put on probation or under house arrest rather than being sent to jail. These individuals often wear a tracking device that alerts authorities to a violation of their house arrest or any substance abuse restrictions they have been put under as part of their sentence.
  • Parole officer: Parole officers are responsible for individuals who have been released from jail early under certain conditional terms. Parole officers ensure that the individual abides by the terms of his or her parole for the length of the remaining sentence.
  • Correctional treatment specialist (CTS): Correctional treatment specialists work within jails, correctional facilities, and parole or probation agencies to guide convicted criminals toward becoming functioning members of society. They monitor their clients’ progress and evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They develop treatment and release plans through their work with the inmates, probation officers, and other agencies involved with the case. One type of CTS, a vocational teacher, is responsible for documenting the convicted person’s progress during his or her incarceration.

Education and Other Requirements

Education and Experience
Usually a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, psychology, or a related field is required to work in this field. For some higher-level positions, a master’s degree in one of these subjects may be required. Employers also look for relevant work experience, which could be in probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, substance abuse treatment, social work, or counseling.

Certification, Assessments, and Other Requirements
Some states require probation officers, parole officers, and CTSs to complete a training program and/or pass a certification test. For just about every position in this field, you will need to pass written, oral, psychological, and physical examinations to ensure you are mentally and physically fit for the job.

Since much of the job involves meeting with clients and writing reports about them, strong interpersonal and writing skills are necessary to be an effective probation officer, parole officer, or CTS.

It should be noted that many states will not consider applicants who are under the age of 21 or over the age of 37. Also, being convicted of a felony will usually disqualify a candidate from working as a probation officer, parole officer, or CTS.

10-Year Employment Outlook
The available job outlook is excellent for any qualified individual seeking work in this field for the next 10 years. Employment rates for these jobs are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. Some of this job availability will come from current workers retiring, as well as the high turnover rate due to the high level of stress and comparatively low wages these workers receive.

A growing prison population caused by mandatory sentences, longer sentences, and reduced parole has led to job growth for CTSs and probation officers. Also, as many states shift focus from mandatory sentencing to rehabilitation and probation as more cost-effective means of punishment, many job opportunities are being created for parole officers.

The median annual wage of probation officers, parole officers, and correctional treatment specialists is $46,000. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,000 and $60,000, with an overall salary range from $30,000 to $78,000.

The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists employed in state government is $46,500; those employed in local government earned a median of $46,000. Individuals working in urban areas tend to earn more, because the workload and job stress tend to be greater in these areas.