Once someone has been incarcerated, transitioning back into life outside prison can be difficult. Human services workers can aid released offenders with their rehabilitation and assimilation back into day-to-day life. In particular, probation officers, sometimes called community supervision officers, work with and monitor the progress of released prisoners.
Online human services degree programs prepare students for various careers including becoming a probation officer.
What They Do
Probation officers provide a service to the community and to released convicts. It is their job to ensure that offenders on probation abide by the terms of their release and do not commit more crimes. Probation officers first evaluate offenders in their care to determine the best course of treatment. They provide offenders with resources they may need, such as counseling services or government housing, in order to follow their treatment plan. They may also help offenders fill out any necessary paperwork.
In addition to this human services work, probation officers meet with offenders and their friends and family to monitor progress. They are also responsible for developing written reports on offenders.
Typically, probation officers work with either juveniles or adults. Only in small, mostly rural jurisdictions do probation officers counsel both adults and juveniles.
How to Become One
A bachelor’s degree in human services, social work or a related field is required to become a probation officer. In most states, probation officers undergo a government-sponsored training program and must pass a certification test to work in the field. They may also be required to work on a probationary period for up to one year prior to holding a permanent position. Most departments require that candidates have a felony-free record, submit to drug testing and hold a valid driver’s license.
In addition to education and training stipulations, probation officers should possess strong written and verbal communication skills, critical thinking skills, emotional stability and organizational skills.
Human services degree programs offer courses to help with communication and understanding human behavior.
As of May 2010, the median salary for probation officers was $47,200. Job growth is projected to increase by 18 percent over the next decade. As laws are revisited and alternative forms of punishment emerge to combat overcrowded prisons, probation officers will become more instrumental to administering rehabilitation for those found guilty of committing crimes.
A degree in human services can prepare graduates for many exciting careers. Check out a related career path that may be open to you: