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Parole Officer Career Guide

Parole officers work with those who have served time in prison for criminal convictions, supervising offenders who have been released from prison and remanded to parole. A parole officer’s supervision serves to help offenders rejoin the community, ensure that offenders are complying with the terms of their release, and most importantly, prevent recidivism from the offenders on their caseload. Parole officers visit offenders in their homes and places of work and cooperate with government and community organizations to help offenders gain access to job services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and education.

Parole Officer Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Parole officers help offenders enter substance abuse programs and assist them with vocational retraining so that they can obtain employment. They attend parole hearings and report on the offender’s progress to the parole board. Individual parole officers commonly are assigned numerous active cases; it is not unusual for an officer to have 100 cases on his or her docket. Some cases may require minimal supervision with occasional contact, while others require heavy supervision with daily check-ins. Parole officers encounter dangerous situations in the course of employment as they work with offenders convicted of serious crimes and may also be working with offenders living in disadvantaged areas that have high rates of crime.

How to Become a Parole Officer: Requirements and Qualifications

Most state and federal parole agencies require that parole officer applicants hold a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in an area such as criminal justice, psychology, social work, or corrections is an advantage when applying for work in this field. Federal parole officers usually have an additional requirement of one year of graduate work in social work, counseling, or psychology. In most states, parole officers must be at least 21 years old. They must have a valid driver’s license and must attend required training sessions and certification courses. Parole officers may be required to qualify to carry a firearm, depending on the agency. All corrections agencies require applicants to undergo a background investigation and psychological exam, as well as drug screening prior to and during employment. Tattoos may disqualify prospective officers, especially tattoos that are visible or have banned symbolism.

Parole Officer Training

New parole officers go through agency training upon being hired. After successfully completing initial training, the rookie parole officer will typically team up and work with a parole supervisor up to a year before being assigned to work cases independently. Additional training is often necessary for officers who specialize in a particular population, such as sex offenders or juveniles.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Parole officers will work with a variety of people – offenders, law enforcement, and the community – and must be able to effectively communicate, actively listen, teach others, and effectively manage their time.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Community supervision officer
  • Parole officer
  • Probation officer

Career Opportunities and Employers

Parole officers work for state and federal corrections agencies. Promotions to higher positions are generally based on an officer’s professional experience and often require a master’s degree.

Parole Officer Salary and Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median pay for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists at $49,360 per year in 2015.1 The BLS projects slow employment growth for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, at 4% through 2024.1 However, although overall employment growth will be slow, employment opportunities will be numerous as officers retire or leave corrections agencies due to other reasons, particularly job-related stress.1 The significant stress associated with parole work results in a high turnover rate for the profession overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of work schedule is typical for a parole officer?

Parole officers typically work a 40 hour work week but they must be prepared to be on call and to work overtime as necessary. Working evenings and weekends to keep in contact with offenders is expected.

Is certification necessary to work as a parole officer?

Generally, you do not need special certification to work as a parole officer, aside from firearms qualifications in agencies that require it. However, nearly all corrections agencies require parole officer candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree.

What is the difference between a probation officer and a parole officer?

Probation officers work with offenders who have been sentenced to probation rather than prison. Parole officers work with offenders who have served time in prison and were released on parole in lieu of time served, or in serious cases after time served.

Additional Resources

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References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm