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 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.
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.
Steps for Becoming a Parole Officer
Most state and federal parole agencies require that parole officer applicants hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, psychology, social work, or corrections. Some employers require a master’s degree in criminal justice or related field. In most states, parole officers must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. They are also required to attend training sessions and certification courses. Parole officers may be required to qualify to carry a firearm, depending on the agency. To become a parole officer, you should complete steps like the following:
- Acquire the necessary education and/or experience required.
- Apply for a parole officer job.
- Be interviewed.
- Submit to a background investigation.
- Take and pass a psychological exam.
- Take and pass a drug test.
- Be hired as a parole officer.
- Undergo on-the-job training once hired.
Parole Officer Job 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.
Possible Job Titles for This Career
- Community Supervision Officer
- Parole Officer
- Probation Officer
Parole Officer Salary and Job 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 2016.1 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What type of work schedule is typical for a parole officer?
Answer: 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.
Question: Is certification necessary to work as a parole officer?
Answer: 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.
Question: What is the difference between a probation officer and a parole officer?
Answer: 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.
- American Probation and Parole Association – A Resource for Parole and Probation Officers
- Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association – A Resource for Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers
- National Institute of Corrections – A Guide for Probation and Parole: Motivating Offenders to Change
- Virginia Jobs – Career Guide for Probation Officer
Featured Corrections and Criminal Justice Programs
1. 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