Am I a Good Fit for a Career in Probation and Parole?

Probation officer interviewing individual under supervision

Are you interested in a career in pretrial, probation and parole, but not sure if you have what it takes? We would like to thank DiscoverCorrections.com user Irena S. for presenting this blog post topic to us. She wanted to find out what characteristics, qualities, and skills are needed for probation.

We’re going to discuss what you need to be a good pretrial, probation and parole professional. Once you find out what is needed, you can determine if you have what it takes.

Education

Positions within pretrial, probation and parole can be competitive. There are a lot of interested candidates trying to obtain a position within the field. Due to this, educational requirements have increased in recent years. Although there are still some departments that allow candidates to have a high school diploma or Associate’s degree, most prefer that job candidates have at least a Bachelor’s. To gain the advantage, consider getting a Master’s degree. Your degree should be in a field related to corrections, including criminal justice, criminology, psychology, social services or similar. Those with degrees targeted to the field will have a better chance than someone with a generic liberal arts or unrelated degree.

Age

Pretrial, probation and parole agencies have people working within their departments of all ages. Some departments may require you to be at least 18, others at least 21 years of age. Since many require you to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, that means that many job candidates will be 21 and older. Although age itself may not be a determining factor in many situations, age can play a role when it comes to passing any required physical agility testing. In some departments, pretrial, probation and parole officers are required to attend an academy, which may involve strenuous physical activity. If you are interested in federal probation and parole, you must be younger than 37 at the time of your appointment, so it’s important to be aware of that age restriction.

Experience

Experience in the field is not always required, but it does increase the likelihood of getting hired, especially when you consider the competition for probation and parole officer positions. You may have gained experience working in a correctional institution, halfway house, rehabilitation/counseling center, social services office or court setting. Or maybe you volunteered or interned at one of these locations—once again, your hands-on experience can prove valuable. It also helps you to confirm that pretrial, probation and parole is the career for you.

Desirable Characteristics and Qualities

• Strong moral/ ethical character and integrity
• Organization and attention to detail
• Flexibility and adaptability
• Demonstrates leadership by example
• Timeliness and punctuality
• Exhibits fairness
• Patience
• Realistically optimistic
• Demonstrates insight about others and their actions
• Knows how to be firm without being harsh
• Emotional maturity and psychological soundness
• Team player
• Accepts personal responsibility
• Interest in being a mentor, advisor and authority figure that assists in the reentry process
• Willingness to go the extra mile to make a situation work out
• Motivates others to do the right thing

Desirable Skills

• Basic knowledge of computer and office skills
• Case management skills, including being able to handle a heavy workload as required and keep files up-to-date and documented as required
• Ability to network and work with others, including family members, law enforcement, institutional staff, halfway houses, rehabilitation centers, and court officials
• Ability to learn and follow the rules
• Ability to travel locally for home contacts, court proceedings, and to transport individuals under community supervision
• Ability to meet deadlines
• Basic knowledge of the criminal and/or juvenile justice system with willingness to learn more on the job
• Basic understanding of evidence-based practice as it relates to community supervision
• Ability to multi-task
• Ability to follow-up and keep all files current
• Excellent verbal and written communication skills
• Ability to make informed and logical decisions
• Some agencies require probation and parole officers to become certified peace officers. Click here to find out more about what this certification involves.

Although each individual employer determines the ideal traits and requirements that they look for in potential pretrial, probation and parole officers, this is a compilation of some of the most common.

More Tips to Make Yourself a Good Fit for Probation and Parole

Even if you are not ready to apply for a position now, it is helpful to review job listings for pretrial, probation and parole officers to get an idea of what employers are looking for. Network with agency administrators and supervisors to determine what they look for in a quality job candidate.

Read up on what is going on in the field of community supervision and become a member of related professional organizations, like the American Probation and Parole Association. Attend both in-person and virtual training events to build your knowledge of industry terms and concepts, including conferences, webinars, and online classes. APPA has some excellent options for site-based conferences and trainings, as well as online classes, including free courses. Staying informed can certainly increase your chances of getting hired.

So, is pretrial, probation and parole the career for you? Are YOU a good fit for a career in community supervision? Know someone who is contemplating a career in corrections? Make their decision easier by sharing this blog post with them.

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