What is a Probation Officer?

If you’re a student of criminology or law, you may be wondering what exactly a probation officer is and their role within the criminal justice system. These skilled men and women work in a field that is growing on par with other related industries, meaning that there is a need for more trained probation officers. Here is a quick primer on the definition of the role and what a student can expect when training to become an officer.


A probation officer is an individual who is licensed by the criminal justice system and the government to supervisor offenders who have been sentenced to probation by the courts. Their primary goal is to help ease offenders back into civilian life after their jail sentence has ended. They aid their clients in finding employment, completing rehabilitation programs, finding housing, and more. They are also the officers who report a client’s violation of the terms of their probation to the court and the judge who handed down the sentence, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Probation officers work with clients that are assigned to them; these are most likely people who are remanded to court and awaiting trial or who have finished their sentence and are transitioning back to civilian life. These professionals are responsible for preparing reports for court, inform the court about an offender’s background and past history with the criminal justice system, and investigate offenders if they should violate the conditions of their probation. They must also conduct drug tests, monitor their clients’ movements, and interview their client’s family and employers to ensure that their clients are in compliance with the court order that gave them probation.

Education And Work Experience

Candidates for the position of probation officer must either have an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, psychology, or a related field.  Degrees in these areas must be conferred from an accredited college or university. A master’s degree could also be helpful. A graduate degree can make it easier for probation officers to find work at the federal level or be eligible for a position supervising other probation officers. Alternatively, work experience can take the place of educational experience. Candidates must have at least two to five years of relevant work experience in order to obtain the job of probation officer.  Law enforcement is the most preferred option for career experience.

On The Job Training

Every probation officer will find themselves undergoing on-the-job training. Depending on the agency or level of the government that an official is employed by, the on-the-job training may be immediate and may also be long-standing. In fact, newly employed federal government probation officers are required to undergo a six-week training camp at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center that is located in South Carolina. Most of these officers also go through continuing education throughout the course of their careers as well.

Related Resource: Top 40 Best Associates in Criminal Justice Online

Probation is a lenient alternative to prison. It is what gives most people a second chance. But without understanding what a probation officer does, individuals will have no idea what to expect from this very important official within the criminal justice system. Now that we’ve covered what a probation officer is, you can go on to learn more about probation.