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How do I become a Probation Officer?

Law Enforcement, Policing & Investigation

The field of law enforcement, particular corrections and probationary services, has grown increasingly over the past number of years. Their involvement in everything from court proceedings to criminal behavioral analysis has proven to be a very important aspect of the judicial system and how it operates to rehabilitate and assist former lawbreakers who have served their debt to society. It is the role of the probation officer to supervise, implement and enforce court-ordered probation given to a convicted offender. They are sometimes confused with correctional officers whose role is to maintain order and prevent disturbances, assaults and escapes by supervising the activities and work assignments of criminal offenders still serving their time in a correctional facility. 

How Do I Become a Probation Officer? - Probation Officer Schools

Probation officers also play a very important role in helping to ensure the public is safe by managing the offender’s sentence(s). Although that is these are the main functions of a probation officer, their roles do encompass many other tasks. Prior to seeking out the steps to acquiring the education and training to become a probation officer, do your research as to what traits and characteristics are ideal for this position. For example, an individual who wishes to become a probation officer should be aware that their role serves unofficially as a counselor, disciplinarian, social worker and sometimes enforcer.

In many scenarios a probation officer must complete the following traditional and untraditional tasks:

• Make recommendations based on behavior 
• Interact with diverse communities and groups when assisting in rehabilitating a former offender
• Enforce court-ordered community service, restitution and fines
• attend court hearings and give testimony
• Submit regular reports and analysis on offender behavior
• Investigating compliance and non-compliance

There are many colleges and universities that offer training in becoming a probation officer, but the requirements will definitely vary by region, country or agency. For most though, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice, social work or psychology is  a requirement. Some agencies may accept work experience in corrections or court services; but those situations every case and experience is evaluated on an individual basis with no clearly outlined requirement.

Once you have chosen a course and have completed it, there are two different specialties you can enter, youth probation or adult probation. The main difference between the two fields is that Youth Probation Officers supervise young offenders under the age of 18, and focus on addressing their needs to reduce the risk of re-offending.

Upon completion of the program many agencies also require potential probation officers to take a certification examination and must pass a series of written and oral tests – some may even require a firearms test or exercise of some sort. Once hired, in many cases new hires must also complete a basic training program that teaches the requirements of that particular agency. These classes usually focus on the principles of effective correctional intervention and programming. They are given ongoing training in subjects that will help them perform their duties in a professional and effective manner.The training may also includecounseling and assessment skills, to be able to establish and maintain client and stakeholder relationships.

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