Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Summary

probation officers and correctional treatment specialists image
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes.
Quick Facts: Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
2012 Median Pay $48,190 per year
$23.17 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 90,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 -1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2012-22 -900

What Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Do

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes.

Work Environment

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with criminal offenders, some of whom may be dangerous. Workers may be assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas or in institutions where there is a risk of violence or communicable disease. As a result, the work can be stressful and dangerous.

How to Become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists usually need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, most employers require candidates to pass oral, written, and psychological exams.

Pay

The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $48,190 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. Limited state and local government funding for corrections will temper employment growth. However, job openings should be plentiful because many people leave the occupation each year.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about probation officers and correctional treatment specialists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Do

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Correctional treatment specialists counsel offenders and create rehabilitation plans for them to follow when they are no longer in prison.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes.

Duties

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate offenders to determine the best course of rehabilitation
  • Provide offenders with resources, such as job training
  • Test offenders for drugs and offer substance-abuse counseling 
  • Monitor offenders and help with their progress
  • Conduct meetings with offenders and their family and friends
  • Write reports on the progress of offenders

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with offenders who are given probation instead of jail time, who are still in prison, or who have been released from prison.

The following are examples of types of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists:

Probation officers, who are called community supervision officers in some states, supervise people who have been placed on probation instead of being sent to prison. They work to ensure that the offender is not a danger to the community and to help in their rehabilitation. Probation officers write reports that detail each offender’s treatment plan and their progress since being put on probation. Most work exclusively with either adults or juveniles.

Parole officers work with people who have been released from jail and are serving parole, to help them re-enter society. Parole officers monitor post-release offenders and provide them with information on various resources, such as substance-abuse counseling or job training, to aid in their rehabilitation. By doing so, the officers try to change the offenders’ behavior and thus reduce the risk of that person committing another crime and having to return to prison.

Both probation and parole officers supervise offenders through personal contact with the offenders and their families. Probation and parole officers require regularly scheduled contact with offenders by telephone or through office visits, and they also may check on offenders at their homes or places of work. Probation and parole officers also oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of offenders. In some states, officers do the jobs of both probation and parole officers.

Pretrial services officers investigate an offender’s background to determine if the offender can be safely allowed back into the community before his or her trial date. Officers must assess the risk and make a recommendation to a judge who decides on the appropriate sentencing or bond amount. When offenders are allowed back into the community, pretrial officers supervise them to make sure that they stay within the terms of their release and appear at their trials.

Correctional treatment specialists, also known as case managers or correctional counselors, advise offenders and develop rehabilitation plans for them to follow when they are no longer in prison or on parole. They may evaluate inmates using questionnaires and psychological tests. They also work with inmates, probation officers, and staff of other agencies to develop parole and release plans. For example, they may plan education and training programs to improve offenders’ job skills.

Correctional treatment specialists write case reports that cover the inmate’s history and the likelihood that he or she will commit another crime. When offenders are eligible for release, the case reports are given to the appropriate parole board. The specialist may help set up counseling for the offenders and their families, find substance-abuse or mental health treatment options, aid in job placement, and find housing. Correctional treatment specialists also explain the terms and conditions of the prisoner’s release and keep detailed written accounts of each offender’s progress.

The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist handles at one time depends on the needs of offenders and the risks associated with each individual. Higher-risk offenders usually command more of the officer’s time and resources. Caseload size also varies by agency.

Technological advancements—such as improved tests for drug screening and electronic devices to monitor clients—help probation officers and correctional treatment specialists supervise and counsel offenders.

Work Environment

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Although work as a probation officer can be stressful, the work may also be rewarding.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists held about 90,300 jobs in 2012. Nearly all worked for state or local governments.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with criminal offenders, some of whom may be dangerous. While supervising offenders, they may interact with others, such as family members and friends of their clients, who may be upset or difficult to work with. Workers may be assigned to fieldwork in high-crime areas or in institutions where there is a risk of violence or communicable disease.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must meet many court-imposed deadlines, which contributes to heavy workloads and extensive paperwork. Many officers travel to perform home and employment checks and property searches. Because of the hostile environments probation officers may encounter, some may carry a firearm or pepper spray for protection.

All of these factors, as well as the frustration some officers experience in dealing with offenders who violate the terms of their release, contribute to a stressful work environment. Although the high stress levels can make the job difficult at times, this work can also be rewarding. Many officers and specialists receive personal satisfaction from counseling members of their community and helping them become productive citizens.

Work Schedules

Although many officers and specialists work full time, the demands of the job often lead to working long hours. For example, many agencies rotate an on-call officer position. When these workers are on-call, they must respond to any issues with offenders or law enforcement 24 hours a day. Extensive travel and paperwork can also contribute to more hours of work.

How to Become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Probation officers may go on to specialize in a certain type of casework, such as working with juvenile offenders.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists usually need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, most employers require candidates to pass oral, written, and psychological exams.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, behavioral sciences, or a related field is usually required. Some employers require a master’s degree in a related field.

Training

Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must complete a training program sponsored by their state government or the federal government, after which they may have to pass a certification test. In addition, they may be required to work as trainees for up to 1 year before being offered a permanent position.

Some probation officers specialize in a certain type of casework. For example, an officer may work only with domestic violence offenders or deal only with substance-abuse cases. Officers receive training specific to the group that they are working with so that they are better prepared to help that type of offender.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old and, for federal employment, not older than 37 years of age. In addition, most departments require candidates to have a record free of felony convictions and to submit to drug testing.

A valid driver’s license is often required.

Other Experience

Although job requirements vary, previous work experience in probation, pretrial services, parole, corrections, criminal investigations, substance abuse treatment, social work, or counseling can be helpful in the hiring process.

Previous experience working in court houses or with offenders in the criminal justice field can also be useful for some positions.

Advancement

Advancement to supervisory positions is primarily based on experience and performance. A master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology may be required for advancement.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to effectively interact with many different people.

Critical-thinking skills. Workers must be able to assess the needs of individual offenders before determining the best resources for helping them.

Decision-making skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must consider the relative costs and benefits of potential actions and be able to choose appropriately.

Emotional stability. Workers must cope with hostile individuals or otherwise upsetting circumstances on the job.

Organizational skills. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must be able to manage multiple cases at the same time.

Pay

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2012

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

$48,190

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$40,400

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $48,190 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,590, and the top 10 percent earned more than $83,410.

Although many officers and specialists work full time, the demands of the job often lead to working long hours. For example, many agencies rotate an on-call officer position. When these workers are on-call, they must respond to any issues with offenders or law enforcement 24 hours a day.

Extensive travel and paperwork can also contribute to more hours of work.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

19%

Total, all occupations

11%

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

-1%

 

Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022.

Employment growth depends primarily on the amount of state and local government funding for corrections, especially the amount allocated to probation and parole systems. Limited state and local government funding for corrections over the coming decade will stall employment growth.

However, as alternative forms of punishment, such as probation, continue to be used, some demand for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists should continue. Parole officers will be needed to supervise individuals who will be released from prison in the future.

Job Prospects

Many job openings will result from the need to replace those who leave the occupation each year. Competition for jobs should be lessened as heavy workloads and high job-related stress deter some from seeking this kind of work. For these reasons, job opportunities should be plentiful for those who qualify.

Employment projections data for Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

21-1092 90,300 89,300 -1 -900 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Correctional officers

Correctional Officers

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in a jail or prison.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,970
Police and detectives

Police and Detectives

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

High school diploma or equivalent $56,980
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,850
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers, clinical social workers, also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $44,200
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,520
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm (visited October 31, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014