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Truant officers are an important part of the social safety net. They make sure that kids are in school so they can stay on track educationally and also access other resources. These are hard jobs, but rewarding ones too. Does working with vulnerable kids and families sound appealing to you? If so, there are a few different paths you can take to become a truant officer.
What Truant Officers Do
A truant officer, who may also be called a truancy officer or attendance officer, typically works for a school district. This person keeps track of all students who are guilty of truancy, meaning they're missing too much school without a valid reason like illness. (Many states have laws that are intended to prevent truancy, so parents, students and schools may all face truancy charges if kids are absent too often.)
A truant officer may work for one single school or serve multiple schools in the district. He keeps records about all the students who are nearing or surpassing the school's truancy threshold and does whatever he can to get those students into their classrooms each day. That might mean calling parents, meeting with students and even escorting truant students to school in the morning. This person may also escort kids home after school and make scheduled or unannounced home visits to try to figure out what's happening at home that's contributing to truancy.
Truant officers work early mornings and sometimes into the evenings during school days. It's a small industry – many districts don't employ any truancy officers, and those that do may only employ one officer – so there's little data about salary. These aren't typically highly-paid jobs. An hourly rate of $12 to $18 is common.
Education Requirements for Truant Officers
The educational requirements for this role vary by district. Some truant officer job postings require only a high school diploma or equivalent. Others require an associate's degree at minimum, and still others require a bachelor's degree. Pursuing at least an associate's degree in a field like criminal justice, education or human services is a good way to make yourself a viable candidate for this type of work, and to prepare for its unique challenges.
Other Requirements for Truant Officers
Because truant officers have to escort kids and make a lot of home visits, having a valid driver's license is typically a requirement for this type of job. Being adequately able-bodied to crouch, walk, bend and lift are also requirements. And because some students may be aggressive and unpredictable, a truant officer should be physically strong enough to protect himself if necessary.
Experience with the local court system is a plus, although it may not be required. Truant officers have to understand local and state regulations regarding juveniles and truancy, and may need to appear in court as part of any proceedings related to a student's attendance.
Fluency with a second language may also be a requirement if the district has a large immigrant population. Willingness to be fingerprinted and submit to background checks is also essential.
Next Steps to Become a Truant Officer
There are two common paths that truant officers take. The first option is to complete school, get some relevant experience and apply directly to a school district. This is not a field in which internship programs are common, so a candidate should find some other way to get work experience that's related to the population he'll serve as a truant officer. Working in the local court system, with a local school district or in some capacity with vulnerable students are good options. Alternately, volunteering with a local counseling program, as a mentor or as a court-appointed special advocate are some ways to get valuable experience.
The second path is to go through the police academy and become an officer. Some districts prefer to hire truant officers who have police training.
- Newport News Public School: Attendance Officer Job Description
- Texas City Independent School District: Job Title: Truancy Officer
- Socorro Independent School District: Job Description: Juvenile Truancy Case Manager
- St. Louis Public Radio: Truancy officers work with families, schools to get absent students back to class
- A truant officer, especially one who is also a sheriff or police officer, has the power to arrest a child and take him to his parents or to the school he is supposed to attend. Make sure you relate well with children as a disciplinarian, but also one who can show compassion.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.