Probation officers have the complicated job of managing numerous criminals and cases of individuals who were sentenced to probation and/or community service by a judge. Their job is a mix of social work and criminal justice, and they need to be extremely organized and patient in order to manage so many cases. On a daily basis, a probation officer will have to fill out and submit forms, question individuals on probation as well as their families and friends, make phone calls and house calls, check electronic monitoring devices, consult with attorneys and judges, investigate cases and try to rehabilitate the individuals they monitor. While probation officers do have a lot of paperwork to do, they also pay visits to therapy and rehab centers, courtrooms, law offices, the homes and businesses of those on probation and more. Probation officers may sometimes find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation, and they often have to deal with unpleasant, uncooperative people. Some probation officers handle adult cases while others handle only juvenile probation cases. They need to have an infallible understanding of the criminal justice system and legal system, as well as a lot of patience, good judgment and an understanding of their own authority.
Most probation officers are employed by state or local governments. The median salary range for probation officers in 2006 was between $33,880 and $56,280, and the highest 10% earned over $71,000. Years of experience, the type of government agency you work for and your geographic location all play a part in determining your salary. As government employees, probation officers are eligible for full benefits packages that usually feature life and health insurance, paid time off and sick leave, training and access to a retirement savings account.
Probation officers need to have at least an undergraduate degree in an area like social work or criminal justice. If you expect to break into a competitive job market, you might want to consider getting a master’s degree in one of these areas. A master’s degree will give you more training and education, and it can help propel you to a higher salary level, better cases and a more satisfying job all around.