Not everyone who commits a crime stays in prison for the entirety of their sentence. Some of these people will end up on probation for part of the sentence. A probation officer is a professional who works with these people monitoring their behavior, enforcing any regulations, and verifying that they are working.

This probation officer job description summarizes the overall responsibilities and tasks, essential skills that make for a good probation officer, the required education and experience, a typical working schedule, and the projected job outlook.

What Does a Probation Officer Do?

There are two main categories of probation officers. Those who work with youth and those who work with adults. A youth probation officer job description demonstrates their focus is on getting the child necessary supports in place in an attempt to break the cycle of breaking the law prior to them becoming an adult. Often, this means they work closely with the school and family of the child. A regular probation officer job description focuses less on collaboration with others and more on monitoring their probationers’ behavior and compliance. For example, the person could have restrictions on drug or alcohol and the probation officer could show up at their house for compliance checks.

probation officer

All probation officers need to have a bachelor’s degree and some possess a master’s degree. There is no required experience to become a probation officer, but there is often a training period. The average probation officer salary is $50,160.

Probation Officer Job Description for Resume – Responsibilities

Probation officers all have similar job responsibilities in that they help to rehabilitate people who have committed crimes. The following bullets should help you customize your resume.

  • Establish relationships and expectations for probationers when they are assigned to you.
  • Set-up regular meetings in order to track progress and behavior.
  • Use the social support network in order to identify counseling or job training that would be helpful to someone on probation.
  • Administer regular drug and alcohol checks for someone on probation.
  • Keep accurate records of the probationer’s performance and compliance.
  • Communicate effectively with other probation officers in the event that the probationer gets moved between the two.
  • Meet with the family and friends of the probationer in order to identify positive and negative influences and establish a support system.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics posted a similar list.

Probation Officer Essential Skills

  • Communication skills. Probation officers will regularly communicate with people who have different education levels and abilities. They need to address their communication structure for these different people.
  • Decision-making skills. Someone who was released from prison will have a transition time to successfully integrate with society. They will be dependent on their probation officer to help them make decisions.
  • Organizational skills. There is a lot of paperwork for people who are on probation. Probation officers must keep files separate, organized, and easy to find information when necessary.
  • Emotional maturity skills. Some probationers could be in difficult life circumstances, make repeated bad decisions, or have children that are impacted by their sentence. A probation officer must maintain their wits and not let emotions affect their professional relationships.

The blog, Human Services 101, inspired this list.

How to Become a Probation Officer

Probation officers need their bachelor’s degree. Those who want to advance to a management role also need their master’s degree.  A probation officer job description does not require previous experience, but there is normally a probationary and training period.

Education & Training Requirements

Probation officers need their bachelor’s degree. They do not necessarily need a degree in criminal justice, but it is recommended. Related degrees are social services, psychology, or criminology. In addition, students should show excellent behavior and minimal illegal activity on their record. For example, a student who has gotten a DUI or summary offense will have a red flag when they go to apply for a job as a probation officer.

The state sponsors the required trainings so there is no demand for alternative certification. These trainings require a test at the end. Just like in the medical field, probation officers can specialize in a certain field. This requires additional training.

Work Experience

Probation officers do not need any prior work experience, but new employees will spend a period of time training. This is called a probationary period and it typically takes a year. After this time, the local office can decide to hire full-time.

Probation officers who do have prior or related experience will be more competitive than those who do not. Related experience involves working in corrections or on pretrial services. A similar line of work that shows the ability to handle difficult cases professionally and with authority is that of social services.

An internship in a related field and job shadow is a wise step for students who want to become a probation officer.

Work Schedules

There are limitations for the work environment for probation officers as they will mostly work for the government. There were around 91,000 probation officers in 2014. Although not as dangerous a job as police officers, these professionals could still work in high-risk environments.

Most of them work full-time and a typical office schedule. The first task for many of these professionals is to check the record every day and see the status of the probationers. They have to complete a lot of paperwork and keep track of multiple records. Organization skills are a must at this point. They will have to go to various meetings, especially when a probationer is going to be released from prison.

Career Prospects

The job outlook for probation officers is slightly positive. There is a potential growth at 4 percent through the year 2024. Probation officers might have to take on more and more clients in order to save money. There will be a balance between the number of officers and projected job growth. It is a field with high turnover due to the nature of the job.

The states with the highest concentration of probation officers are West Virginia, South Dakota, New Mexico, Idaho, and Colorado. This is different than the greatest number of the size of the state.

The median pay for these professionals is $50,160 with a range from $33,630 for the 10th percentile and $88,930 for the 90th percentile. It is pretty typical for a probation officer to belong to a union.


Probation officers have a high-stress job and are very important to society. They significantly help with the rehabilitating and transition of inmates back into society. A probation officer job description as explained in this article shows that these professionals almost exclusively work for the government, will experience slight career growth, and work in potentially dangerous situations. Another similar position with a risk for danger and that involves asserting authority is that of a correctional officer.