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
2015 Median Pay $49,360 per year
$23.73 per hour
Typical 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, 2014 91,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 3,300

What Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Do

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

Work Environment

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers and parolees, 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 $49,360 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. 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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists.

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 About this section

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 monitor and work with probationers to prevent them from committing new crimes.

Duties

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists typically do the following:

  • Meet with probationers in an office or at the probationer’s residence
  • Evaluate probationers to determine the best course of rehabilitation
  • Provide probationers with resources, such as job training
  • Test probationers for drugs and offer substance abuse counseling 
  • Monitor probationers’ contact with law enforcement
  • Conduct meetings with probationers and their family and friends
  • Write reports and maintain case files on probationers

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers 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 sometimes referred to as community supervision officers, supervise people who have been placed on probation instead of sent to prison. They work to ensure that the probationer is not a danger to the community and to help in their rehabilitation through frequent visits with the probationer. Probation officers write reports that detail each probationer’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, helping them re-enter society. Parole officers monitor post-release parolees 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 parolee’s behavior and thus reduce the risk of that person committing another crime and having to return to prison.

Both probation and parole officers supervise those under community supervision through personal contact with the probationers and their families. Probation and parole officers require regularly scheduled contact with supervisees by telephone or through office visits, and they also check on them at their homes or places of work. When making home visits, probation and parole officers take into account the safety of the neighborhood in which the probationers and parolees live and any mental health considerations that may be pertinent. Probation and parole officers also oversee drug testing and electronic monitoring of those under supervision. In some states, officers do the jobs of both probation and parole officers.

Pretrial services officers investigate a pretrial defendant’s background to determine if the defendant 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 pretrial defendants 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 probationers 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 probationers’ 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 inmates are eligible for release, the case reports are given to the appropriate parole board. The specialist may help set up counseling for the parolees 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 parolee’s progress.

The number of cases a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist handles at one time depends on the needs of individuals under supervision and the risks associated with each individual. Higher risk probationers usually command more of an 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 probationers.

Work Environment About this section

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must meet many court-imposed deadlines, which contributes to heavy workloads and extensive paperwork.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists held about 91,700 jobs in 2014. Nearly all worked for state or local governments.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers and parolees, some of whom may be dangerous. While supervising individuals, 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 they may encounter, some may carry a firearm or pepper spray for protection.

All of these factors, in addition to the frustration some officers experience in dealing with probationers and parolees 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 overtime. For example, many agencies rotate an on-call officer position. When these workers are on-call, they must respond to any issues with probationers 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 About this section

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 competency exams, drug testing, and a criminal background check.

A valid driver’s license is often required, and most agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years old.

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. Exact requirements will vary by jurisdiction.

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 and correctional treatment specialists specialize in a certain type of casework. For example, an officer may work only with domestic violence probationers or deal only with substance abuse cases. Some may work only cases involving juvenile offenders. Officers receive the appropriate specific training so that they are better prepared to help that type of probationer. Training may include site visits to probationers’ homes under the watch of a probation officer supervisor.

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 courthouses or with probationers 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, such as probationers and their family members, lawyers, judges, treatment providers, and law enforcement.

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

Decisionmaking 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 About this section

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2015

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

$49,360

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

$42,030

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $49,360 in May 2015. 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 $32,900, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,140.

Although many officers and specialists work full time, the demands of the job often lead to working overtime. For example, many agencies rotate an on-call officer position. When these workers are on-call, they must respond to any issues with probationers 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 2014.

Job Outlook About this section

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

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

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

4%

 

Employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

Employment growth depends primarily on the amount of state and local government funding for corrections, especially the amount allocated to probation and parole systems.

However, because community corrections is viewed as an economically viable alternative to incarceration in some cases, demand for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists should continue. Parole officers will continue to 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 due to the heavy workloads and high job-related stress. Job opportunities should be plentiful for those who qualify.

Employment projections data for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

21-1092 91,700 95,000 4 3,300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

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 Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Correctional officers

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms.

High school diploma or equivalent $40,580
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.

See How to Become One $60,270
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,830
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 $45,900
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.

Bachelor's degree $39,980
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 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 August 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

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State & Area Data

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.