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Juvenile Probation Counselor: Career Guide

Juvenile probation counselors, or intake counselors, evaluate complaints filed by law enforcement agencies, parents, educators, or others in the community who allege a juvenile has committed a criminal or status (one that only a minor can be charged with) offense. Their goal is to determine whether additional court interventions are necessary or if the matter can be diverted from court. They work closely with law enforcement, social services, schools, and parents to help juveniles become successful.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

The juvenile probation counselor (JPC) evaluates complaints filed against the juvenile. The process begins with the JPC scheduling an appointment to meet with the juvenile and his/her family to gather additional information and to explain the juvenile court process. The JPC may also schedule an appointment with the complainant to discuss the process and to gather more information. The first appointment with the juvenile and his/her family is called the intake appointment. The JPC will explain the charges, diversions to court that may be available, and the court process if the case is to be forwarded to court for further interventions. If the case is referred to court, the counselor prepares the initial court report that includes a summary of the charges, information gathered at intake, and recommendations for interventions. Probation counselors typically work for the state or local governments.

Steps for Becoming a Juvenile Probation Counselor

Juvenile probation counselors generally work for the state and most states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology, education, or human services or a combination of college coursework and experience. Those counselors who accrue experience and/or who earn an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree, may advance to supervisory or management positions. To become a juvenile probation counselor, you will follow steps similar to the ones below:

  1. Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in criminal justice or a related field.*
  2. Apply for an open position as a juvenile probation counselor.
  3. Attend an interview.
  4. Successfully complete a physical examination, drug test, polygraph exam, and background investigation.
  5. Get hired as a juvenile probation counselor.
  6. Receive training on the job after you are hired.

*Check with the agency you are applying for to see the specific educational requirements for the job.

Juvenile Probation Counselor Job Training

Training for probation counselors generally depends on the hiring organization. However, many counselors may complete on-the-job training with a mentor before being assigned to work alone with clients.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Prospective juvenile probation counselors with previous counseling experience or experience with juveniles in a correctional setting or in law enforcement may have an advantage during the hiring process. Counselors must possess sound judgment and must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in written form. Successful JPCs must also be familiar with community resources and how to develop a plan of action that will address the needs of the individual child. Juvenile probation counselors must be able to work with various government and social agencies.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Youth Corrections Counselor
  • Youth Correctional Counselor
  • Youth Probation Counselor

Juvenile Probation Counselor Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn a median salary of $49,360 per year.1 Individual salary depends on the location of the position, the types of cases processed, and education and experience levels. The lowest 10% of counselors earned $32,900 while the highest-earning 10% earned over $86,140 per year.1 The BLS estimates that employment for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists will grow by 4% during the decade from 2014-2024.1 Positions will also become available due to retirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What type of hours do probation counselors generally work?

Answer: Counselors typically work a full-time schedule, although hours may be irregular, including nights, weekends, and holidays.

Question: How old are the juveniles with whom counselors generally work?

Answer: Youths are typically 18 years or younger. However, a juvenile may be charged as an adult and proceedings may occur in the adult court system.

Question: What is the minimum age requirement for probation counselors?

Answer: While all agencies have their own rules, counselors who work with the state generally must be at least 21 years of age.

Additional Resources

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References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm