Probation Officer Requirements

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Probation officers monitor criminal offenders sentenced to a period of probation rather than incarceration. They also perform a great deal of work for the court system, such as background investigations, report writing, and sentencing recommendations. Requirements for being a probation officer vary somewhat from state to state, but are generally similar.


A bachelor's degree is nearly always required. The degree should be in criminal justice or criminology, although psychology, sociology and social work may be considered.

Additional Education

Many employers look for a minor or second major in psychology, sociology, counseling, alcohol and drug studies, or Spanish.

State Exams

Most states require probation officer candidates to successfully complete oral, written and psychological examinations.

Criminal Record

Some states require probation officers to have no felonies. Others require no adult criminal record whatsoever and no serious juvenile offenses.

Previous Experience

Probation officer requirements usually include an internship in a probation agency, or volunteer or part-time work in a group home or detention center. Related experience may be accepted instead, such as a job in pretrial investigations, corrections, substance abuse rehabilitation, social work or counseling.

Job Requirements

Once a probation officer is hired, the employee must effectively deal with a heavy workload which may involve travel, on-call hours, stress and frustration. A probation officer must be in good physical condition and emotionally stable, and very knowledgeable about pertinent laws and regulations.