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Learn About Probation Officer Careers Read about the job of probation officer, including education, certification, and probation officer salary.

Probation Officer At a Glance

What you’ll do: Both parole and probation officers supervise offenders, either those placed on probation (people who serve their sentences outside of prison) or parolees (people who are released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentences among the general public—with certain restrictions).

Degree you’ll need: Bachelor’s degree

Certification: Some states require that parole and probation officers take certification tests during or after the completion of training. You’ll need to be a U.S. citizen over 20 years old, not be a convicted felon, and pass several competitive written, oral, psychological, and physical exams.

Median annual salary: $60,250

Job Description

probation officer meeting with client

In the U.S., there are probation officer careers at the city, county, state, or federal level.

Depending on the jurisdiction, probation officers may or may not also be parole officers. Although they don’t wear uniforms, probation officers are usually issued a badge and may carry concealed weapons and pepper spray for protection.

Serving as the link to a variety of social services, probation and parole officers perform the following duties:

  • They help their clients find the counseling, education, jobs, and housing necessary to become fully rehabilitated
  • They strive to keep offenders drug- and alcohol-free, and prevent them from recommitting crimes
  • They write reports to provide judges with important information to pronounce an appropriate sentence for each offender
  • Testify at pretrial and parole board hearings to help explain their reports
  • Responsible for investigating any violations of court-ordered sentences

To get a probation officer job, you’ll need excellent oral and written communication skills, and a broad knowledge of the criminal justice system. You’ll gain these skills in all accredited criminal justice degree programs. Officers must also be able to work with an extremely diverse population and wide variety of government agencies and community organizations, and accept the potential hazards of working closely with a criminal population.

Probation Officer Salaries Across the U.S.

Here are the top-paying cities and metro areas for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists:

Metro Area Median Annual Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $126,650
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $118,410
Bakersfield, CA $112,630
Salinas, CA $101,950
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $99,090
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA $99,090
Rochester, MN $98,480
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH $97,760
El Centro, CA $94,760
Stockton-Lodi, CA $91,680

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics.

Probation Officer Education

To become a probation officer, you’ll need a 4-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or a related area. Many parole and probation officers have a master’s degree in criminal justice. In addition to their training, federal officers must also have at least two years of work experience.

The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.