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How to Become a Probation Officer in Illinois

When an individual is released from incarceration on probation, a probation officer monitors compliance with the court-ordered conditions of that release. To become a probation officer in Illinois you must meet age and physical requirements and hold a criminal justice or human services degree. You must also have experience working with a substance abuse program, counseling or another human service, pass a battery of exams, and withstand an intensive criminal background investigation. Applicants must also complete a probation officer training program.

Meet the age requirement of 21 years old, but not yet have reached 37 years-of-age by the time of appointment as a probation officer.

Earn a degree in criminal justice or human services. Colleges and universities offering these degrees include Kaplan University, University of Phoenix and University of Illinois, among others.

Gain experience by working in fields of probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigation or substance/addiction treatment. Experience as a police officer, custodial officer or security officer is not creditable toward this requirement.

Pass physical requirements covering the ability to perform prolonged periods of walking and standing, physical dexterity and coordination necessary to operate a firearm. Probation officers must possess, with or without corrective lenses, good distance vision and the ability to read normal size print. Normal hearing with or without a hearing aid is also required. Any severe health problems such as physical defects, heart disease, mental or nervous conditions and others, may constitute an employment hazard and may disqualify an applicant.

Pass exams demonstrating written and oral communication skills and covering basic knowledge of the criminal justice system.

Pass criminal background investigation. Applicant must have an absolutely clean record with no felony convictions. Probation officers are also drug tested.

Go to the website listed for either Southern Illinois or Northern Illinois employment opportunities and download and fill out the six-page form AO 78, Federal Judicial Branch Application for Employment. You will also see possible vacancies for a Probation Officer at this site.

Complete government-sponsored training program including classroom instruction and basic peace officer and firearms training. The length of these training programs may vary depending upon the agencies and jurisdiction involved. At the end of the training, applicants must pass a certification test which can include physical, psychological, written and oral sections. Most first-time Probation Officers will be required to work as a trainee before being offered full-time unsupervised jobs.


Nancy Hardin began writing professionally in 1980. She has written for the "Las Vegas Sun" and eHow, published a family memoir and short stories, as well as co-edited a book, "Las Vegas ... The Way It Was." Hardin studied English at the College of Southern Nevada.