Throughout the United States probation officers regularly meet with parolees, people who have recently been released from prison and received probation at the end of their prison term. Probation officers also supervise offenders whose sole sentencing involves a term of court-ordered officer supervision. In addition to assessing a convicted individual's progress and behavior, as a probation officer you will offer advice, encouragement and support to your clients.
Top Ten Percent
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that the top ten percent of probation officers earn approximately $72,000 or more a year. Probation officers who work in urban areas typically earn more than officers who work in areas with fewer criminal convictions. Workloads in these areas are increasing and might require overtime.
Bottom Ten Percent
According to the BLS the bottom ten percent of probation officers earned below $28,000 a year. Recurring convictions of their clients, frequently missed probation meetings with clients and generally overall low on-the-job performance are items that can impact a probation officers success and salary levels. Part-time, full-time and temporary positions are available. Some cities like San Francisco have separate adult and juvenile probation departments. Federal probation officers typically work only with adult offenders.
Annual Salary Statistics
The average annual salary for probation officers is about $42,500. The range for the middle earnings in the field is approximately $34,000 to $56,000. The longer you have been at the job, the greater the chances of increasing your salary. As a probation officer you might be supervised by a program manager, operations supervisor or a deputy chief. Pay is generally on a bi-weekly cycle. Agencies like the Florida Department of Corrections and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention review probation officer performance and salary annually.
Probation officers have direct access to vocational training and community-based assistance initiatives like Oregon's Work Crew program, Pennsylvania's No Longer Bound, New York's Sledge Group and the national Weed and Seed programs. Knowledge gained through these programs equips the officers to connect their clients with tools and professional relationships that will help them to succeed and remain out of the courts. In many areas you can begin to work as a probation officer after you turn 21 years old or soon after you complete educational training. The age cap for beginning work as a probation officer with a federal agency is 37 years old. Prior to starting your work you will be adequately tested to ensure that the job is a good fit for you. Typically applicants must complete a written, oral, physical and psychological test. The work can be rewarding, especially if probation officers see a direct link between their efforts and a client's personal, vocational, family and professional successes. State associations like the New York, Ohio and Arizona Probation Officer Associations provide updates on legal rulings affecting the industry, training, conferences and sentencing reforms.
Probation officers work with state, county and federal courts. As a probation officer you also might work at a prison or jail or at an office in the community where your clients reside. Typically the job requires that you work 40 hours a week. However, you might be required to work weekends and overtime as you investigate a client's questionable activities or work with local law enforcement officials to determine whether a client has violated the terms of his probation. Postsecondary education at an accredited school that offers strong criminal justice training, like Ashford University, Boston University, Northwestern College and Saint Joseph's University, is preferred for this position. Typically you will need a four-year degree before you begin work as a probation officer. However, some employers may require you to have a Master's degree. Probation officers work with people who might be experiencing emotional, mental or physical challenges, so if you are interested in this line of work, it is important that you have ample training in psychology, correctional counseling, criminal justice and sociology.