Probation Officer Training Online
One of the most interesting jobs in the field is that of probation officer. Probation officers, also known as parole officers, are tasked with supervising people released from imprisonment or who have been sentenced to non-custodial punishments such as community service. They can also have a role in the sentencing process, compiling reports and making recommendations.
Training for probation officers is widely available. Generally, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, justice administration or a related field is required, and a master’s degree is encouraged. These degrees are offered by many colleges and universities, both in person and online, and are typically four-year programs. Adding a master’s degree extends the learning process by a year or two. Some community and online colleges offer an associate’s degree, which would allow the student to enter the field and gain experience while continuing their education.
Most of these programs have an internship component as well, which gives the student exposure to actual working conditions during their training period. Many states have licensing and certification programs that must be completed prior to starting work as a probation officer. These programs are sponsored by the state and generally include a combination of class study and practical work in self-defense, human relations and the various aspects of the law. Once the certification examination is taken and passed, the graduate may then work in the field, sometimes under the supervision of an experienced probation officer for the first year or so.
Graduated probation officers typically work on the city, county or state level. There is no probation at the federal courts level, although a few officers are required to supervise long-term parolees and court-martialed military personnel. The typical work for a probation officer involves managing a portfolio of several offenders, staying in regular contact with them and assuring that they are meeting the terms of their probation. This could include random visits and searches, testing for alcohol and drug use and ensuring compliance with all court orders.
The position requires the ability to deal with a highly diverse population, patience, and high level communication and decision-making skills. Crisis management is a key skill for probation officers, who must be able to decide and act quickly when dealing with sometimes-volatile people.