What You Should Know About This Degree
When considering a probation officer degree program, it’s important to understand the difference between a probation officer and a parole officer. The two occupations are similar, but a parole officer specializes in helping people re-enter society after being released from prison. A probation officer (also called a community supervision officer) works with people who are serving their sentences outside of prison. About three-quarters of probationers have been convicted of non-violent crimes.
As a probation officer, you’ll ensure your probationers stay out of trouble and assist them with rehabilitation, education, job training, or substance abuse counseling. The best probation officer degree programs provide broad knowledge of America’s criminal justice system and help you develop the crucial interpersonal and problem solving skills required to help your clients reform.
Foundation courses in criminal justice might include constitutional law, ethics, court systems and practices, and crime technology. Look for degree programs that offer field work and internship opportunities in addition to classroom training. These practical, hands-on learning experiences could take place at a local law enforcement agency, courthouse, correctional facility, or social service organization.
Here are some questions to ask when researching probation officer degree programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? Each school sets its own standards for admissions depending on the level of degree. For associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs, students must have a high school diploma or GED. At the master’s level, programs might require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or relevant work experience. Also, you must be a U.S. citizen aged 21 to 37 with a clean background at the time of application.
- What licensing or certifications are required? After earning your degree, many employers require you to complete a state or federally-sponsored training program and pass competency or certification exams. You might also have to work as a trainee for up to a year before being offered a permanent position.
To learn more about application and certification requirements, visit the websites of your prospective universities. Keep track of all deadlines and materials, and consider contacting the admissions office with your questions. This is a great way to show your interest and also determine your eligibility for financial aid.
Most schools offer access to flexible, low-interest federal loans, as well as grants and scholarships. If you’re already working in the field, ask your employer if you qualify for tuition reimbursement for courses related to advancing your career.