What You Should Know About This Degree
As there are no specific probation officer degrees, most students prepare for a career as a probation officer by earning a degree in criminal justice. This degree will give you a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system in the U.S., and it will help you develop the critical-thinking, decision-making, and communications skills necessary for a probation officer career. A degree in social work, sociology, or behavioral science can also prepare you to work as a probation officer.
Job growth for probation officers is expected to be slower than average in the coming decade, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 3,000 new jobs will be added by 2028. As most probation officers are employed at the state and local levels, the number of positions available will depend on funding from these governments.
Job prospects will be better for those who are fluent in a second language, particularly Spanish. This is something to consider when choosing electives or a minor as part of your degree program.
Even if you have a degree, most probation officers must complete a government-sponsored training program and pass a test to become certified. Probation officers must also be able to pass background and drug tests.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Probation Officer programs:
- Do I meet the qualifications for this program? Each program sets its own eligibility requirements. For example, some bachelor’s degree programs are specifically designed for transfer students who have already completed most or all of their general education requirements. At the master’s level, some programs may seek students who have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or professional experience. Review the program’s requirements to make sure you meet the minimum qualifications for admission.
- Are there any in-person requirements? Some online programs may have in-person components for internships or residencies. Individuals who are already working in criminal justice settings may be able to fulfill their internship hours at their job. Check with the program to find out what, if any, internship requirements they have, and make sure you can accommodate them in your schedule.
Look up the program’s application requirements and deadlines online, or contact the school’s admissions department for this information. Being aware of deadlines and staying organized will facilitate a smooth admissions process.
Now is also a good time to think about paying for your degree. Talk to a financial aid counselor about loans, scholarships, and assistantships. If you are currently employed, find out if your job offers tuition assistance benefits.