Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment
State and local governments employ most workers.
A bachelorís degree in social work, criminal justice, or a
related field usually is required.
Employment growth, which is projected to be about as fast
as average, depends on government funding.
Nature of the Work
Many people who are convicted of crimes are placed on probation
instead of being sent to prison. During probation, offenders must
stay out of trouble and meet various other requirements. Probation
officers, who are called community supervision officers in
some States, supervise people who have been placed on probation.
Correctional treatment specialists, who may also be known
as case managers, counsel and create rehabilitation plans for
offenders to follow when they are no longer in prison or on parole.
Parole officers and pretrial services officers
perform many of the same duties that probation officers perform.
The difference is that parole officers supervise offenders who
have been released from prison, whereas probation officers work
with those who are sentenced to probation instead of prison. In
some States, the jobs of parole and probation officers are combined.
Pretrial services officers conduct pretrial investigations, the
findings of which help determine whether suspects should be released
before their trial. When suspects are released before their trial,
pretrial services officers supervise them to make sure they adhere
to the terms of their release and that they show up for trial.
Occasionally, in the Federal courts system, probation officers
perform the functions of pretrial services officers.
Probation officers supervise offenders on probation or parole
through personal contact with the offenders and their families.
Instead of requiring offenders to meet officers in their offices,
many officers meet offenders in their homes and at their places
of employment or therapy. Probation and parole agencies also seek
the assistance of community organizations, such as religious institutions,
neighborhood groups, and local residents, to monitor the behavior
of many offenders. Some offenders are required to wear an electronic
device so that probation officers can monitor their location and
movements. Probation officers may arrange for offenders to get
substance abuse rehabilitation or job training. Probation officers
usually work with either adults or juveniles exclusively. Only
in small, usually rural, jurisdictions do probation officers counsel
both adults and juveniles.
Probation officers also spend much of their time working for
the courts. They investigate the backgrounds of the accused, write
presentence reports, and recommend sentences. They review sentencing
recommendations with offenders and their families before submitting
them to the court. Probation officers may be required to testify
in court as to their findings and recommendations. They also attend
hearings to update the court on offendersí efforts at rehabilitation
and compliance with the terms of their sentences.
Correctional treatment specialists work in jails, prisons, or
parole or probation agencies. In jails and prisons, they evaluate
the progress of inmates. They also work with inmates, probation
officers, and other agencies to develop parole and release plans.
Their case reports are provided to the appropriate parole board
when their clients are eligible for release. In addition, they
plan education and training programs to improve offendersí job
skills and provide them with coping, anger management, and drug
and sexual abuse counseling either individually or in groups.
They usually write treatment plans and summaries for each client.
Correctional treatment specialists working in parole and probation
agencies perform many of the same duties as their counterparts
who work in correctional institutions.
The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment
specialist handles at one time depends on the needs of offenders
and the risks they pose. Higher risk offenders and those who need
more counseling usually command more of the officerís time and
resources. Caseload size also varies by agency jurisdiction. Consequently,
officers may handle from 20 to more than 100 active cases at a
Computers, telephones, and fax machines enable the officers to
handle the caseload. Probation officers may telecommute from their
homes. Other technological advancements, such as electronic monitoring
devices and drug screening, also have assisted probation officers
and correctional treatment specialists in supervising and counseling
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work
with criminal offenders, some of whom may be dangerous. In the
course of supervising offenders, they usually interact with many
other individuals, such as family members and friends of their
clients, who may be angry, upset, or difficult to work with. Workers
may be assigned to fieldwork in high- crime areas or in institutions
where there is a risk of violence or communicable disease. Probation
officers and correctional treatment specialists are required to
meet many court-imposed deadlines, which contribute to heavy workloads.
In addition, extensive travel and fieldwork may be required to
meet with offenders who are on probation or parole. Workers may
be required to carry a firearm or other weapon for protection.
They generally work a 40-hour week, but some may work longer.
They may be on call 24 hours a day to supervise and assist offenders
at any time. They also may be required to collect and transport
urine samples of offenders for drug testing. All of these factors
make for a stressful work environment. Although the high stress
levels can make these jobs very difficult at times, this work
also can be very rewarding. Many workers obtain personal satisfaction
from counseling members of their community and helping them become
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Background qualifications for probation officers and correctional
treatment specialists vary by State, but a bachelorís degree in
social work, criminal justice, or a related field is usually required.
Some employers require previous experience or a masterís degree
in criminal justice, social work, psychology, or a related field.
Applicants usually are administered written, oral, psychological,
and physical examinations. Most probation officers and some correctional
treatment specialists are required to complete a training program
sponsored by their State government or the Federal Government,
after which a certification test may be required.
Prospective probation officers or correctional treatment specialists
should be in good physical and emotional condition. Most agencies
require applicants to be at least 21 years old and, for Federal
employment, not older than 37. Those convicted of felonies may
not be eligible for employment in this occupation. Familiarity
with the use of computers often is required due to the increasing
use of computer technology in probation and parole work. Candidates
also should be knowledgeable about laws and regulations pertaining
to corrections. Probation officers and correctional treatment
specialists should have strong writing skills because they are
required to prepare many reports.
Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
work as trainees or on a probationary period for up to a year
before being offered a permanent position. A typical agency has
several levels of probation and parole officers and correctional
treatment specialists, as well as supervisors. A graduate degree,
such as a masterís degree in criminal justice, social work, or
psychology, may be helpful for advancement.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists held
about 93,000 jobs in 2004. Most jobs are in State or local governments.
In some States, the State government employs all probation officers
and correctional treatment specialists; in other States, local
governments are the only employers. In still other States, both
levels of government employ these workers. Jobs are more plentiful
in urban areas. Probation officers and correctional treatment
specialists who work for the Federal Government are employed by
the U.S. courts and by the U.S. Department of Justiceís Bureau
Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations
through 2014. In addition to openings due to growth, many openings
will be created by replacement needs, especially openings due
to the large number of these workers who are expected to retire.
This occupation is not attractive to some potential entrants due
to relatively low earnings, heavy workloads, and high stress.
Mandatory sentencing guidelines calling for longer sentences
and reduced parole for inmates have resulted in a large increase
in the prison population. However, mandatory sentencing guidelines
are being reconsidered in many States because of budgetary constraints,
court decisions, and doubts about the guidelinesí effectiveness.
Instead, there may be more emphasis in many States on rehabilitation
and alternate forms of punishment, such as probation, spurring
demand for probation and parole officers and correctional treatment
specialists. However, the job outlook depends primarily on the
amount of government funding that is allocated to corrections,
and especially to probation systems. Although community supervision
is far less expensive than keeping offenders in prison, a change
in political trends toward more imprisonment and away from community
supervision could result in reduced employment opportunities.
Median annual earnings of probation officers and correctional
treatment specialists in May 2004 were $39,600. The middle 50
percent earned between $31,500 and $52,100. The lowest 10 percent
earned less than $26,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more
than $66,660. In May 2004, median annual earnings for probation
officers and correctional treatment specialists employed in State
government were $39,810; those employed in local government earned
$40,560. Higher wages tend to be found in urban areas.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists counsel
criminal offenders while they are in prison or on parole. Other
occupations that involve similar responsibilities include social
workers, social and human service assistants, and counselors.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists also
play a major role in maintaining public safety. Other occupations
related to corrections and law enforcement include police and
detectives, correctional officers, and firefighting occupations.
Sources of Additional Information
For information about criminal justice job opportunities in your
area, contact your Stateís department of corrections, criminal
justice, or probation.
Further information about probation officers and correctional
treatment specialists is available from:
Suggested citation: Bureau
of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Probation
Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos265.htm
(visited February 01, 2006).
Last Modified Date: December 20,
Source: Bureau of
Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,